Open mic

Open mic: What’s the roughest daily driver you’ve ever had?

sf-honda-accord-8I photographed the first-gen Honda Accord you see here in San Francisco, California, a couple of years ago, and I haven’t seen a more run-down daily driver since. Just about every body panel was rusty (including the roof, which had a huge hole right above the windshield) but it was still registered so it somehow got through the Golden State’s strict safety and emissions inspections.

How about you, what’s the roughest daily driver you’ve ever owned?  Can you beat this Accord?

I’ve come pretty damn close, I drove the 1980 Renault 14 TL pictured below every day for about a year. If memory serves it had about 333,000 kilometers (206,000 miles) on the clock but the previous owner – a good friend of mine who purchased the 14 in 1982 – told me he drove it with the odometer cable unplugged for over five years.

The car was on its third engine, and I’ve been told the engine was in its third car. It ran surprisingly well and it turned more heads on the freeway than a new Lamborghini. The attention it attracted wasn’t always positive (actually, it rarely was) and I once had to convince a scrap metal guy that it wasn’t abandoned.

I quit driving the 14 a little over two years ago when it failed inspections for a number of reasons including a leaky brake master cylinder, which I knew about and planned on replacing, and, of course, rust. I couldn’t talk myself into parting with it so it’s been parked since.

19 thoughts on “Open mic: What’s the roughest daily driver you’ve ever had?

  1. bought/drove some back lot specials that had a good inspection sticker, tires and not much else. kept the title in the glove box. had a ford truck or two that look so bad that no one would park next to them. if the rust on the 14 is that bad maybe it is time to part it out which might keep others on the road.

  2. Still own it, daily drove until a year or so ago:

    ’61 Volvo PV210/Duett. Mechanically it was in good shape until it wasn’t – Cooling system started going first, then ignition, then brakes. So it’s down for that stuff. Floor was license plates until recently when I tore them out, and am now cleaning it up for a real floor. The doors I still have, but were replaced. Replaced the fenders as well – the ones pictured were so corroded I literally tore them off with my gloved hands.

      • A little, but not due to the condition. It was currently registered when I bought it, and in WA state classic car registration is for the life of the vehicle. We moved down to CA not long after, and as long as the car is currently registered in the origin state you don’t trip additional inspections. Only one is a VIN inspection, and that was an issue only because WA state had messed up and read the VIN incorrectly. The CA DMV inspectors couldn’t find a VIN that matched the title, so I either had to go to the CHP or a private but licensed VIN inspector. I went with the latter, and for $75 they just did a VIN correction and all was well.

        Oh yeah, other things that don’t work – the heater, because it’s California and who needs that. The windshield wipers for same reason. I pulled those out completely because the PO tried to run 6v wipers on a 12v system and the inner arm wedged against the body when I tried to use them once up in WA.

        Funny story – I had given the guy I bought it from a ’71 145 for parts in exchange for the use of his lift to do an auto to manual conversion on my ’72 145. I was going to swap the trans from the 71 into the 72, but upon inspection saw that it had a big patch of JB weld on the side. It all was for the good though, I ended up finding an unobtainium M410 with the correct bellhousing for the B20 (volvo stuff) so I got an extra gear.

        Anyways, years later I find out he used that transmission when he resurrected the Duett. I found out because it exploded on me on the way home one day. I limped it home with only 3rd gear. Thankfully it only took a half day to swap in the backup trans I had.

      • JB Weld on a transmission is never a good sign, ha.

        I didn’t know Washington’s classic registration was for the life of the car – that’s awesome, sounds like I should move out there!

  3. It must be my current car (since 10 years soon). It’s not a classic, but a really rare car in western Europe. A 2003 Lada 111 1,5 16V GTE. It’s getting more and more scruffy, but I think it still has a lot of km left in it in my service. (currently 204.000 km).

    • Wow, a 111 – I think I’ve only seen one in western Europe, it was in the Ardeche department of France a couple of weeks ago. It wasn’t yours by any chance, was it?

      • Nope, It’s situated in Norway. It’s the only one of its kind here, came from Denmark as a new car in the automn of 2003. The first owner was a guy in the north of Norway who decided to check out if it was as bad a car as the rumour said. He kept it for two years, and drove 62.000 km. It was immaculately kept when I bought from him.

  4. I ran a ’72 Dyane 6 who’s floor was mostly glass fibre ( as evidenced when the passenger seat just pulled straight through it !! ) for about 11 months until the MOT ran out and I scrapped it. It was beige but had a red drivers door and a blue tail gate so I brush painted it desert cam and stenciled a tricolour on the tail and bonnet and a camel in white on the front doors – a whip aerial screwed thru the rear bumper and dragged across the roof completed the desert jeep look ha ha – I must look out my photos of that – it was fun – you could get away with a lot in the UK in the early 80’s !!!

      • Not a chance Ronan – the floor was just glass fibre as I say and the chassis was rotten – at 90k miles with a tatty interior to be honest it was beyond redemption – and £600 was about to secure me a lovely GS that was 4 years younger and in much better condition so off it went and my voyage of Citroen discovery continued

      • I’ve heard the MOT in the UK is quite strict, too?

        The GS is a wonderful car, but it can be a real pain to work on. I’ve had a few GSAs over the years.

  5. At the moment I’m driving a ’97 VW Transporter (T4) that had 260.000 km on the clock when I bought it a few months ago, it was maintained just so so but after a couple of fixes it runs like a charm with its 1.9 TD (68CV) engine. And I hope reaching 400.000 km with it in a few years 🙂

  6. Well, I had a Skoda Felicia that had kind of a see-through driver’s door like the one on your 14. Eventually I didn’t have the nerve to even try to pass inspections (the brakes didn’t work quite well anymore either), so it went straight to scrap.

  7. I remember my father’s Corsa A Sedan of 1987 being a total clunker. My grandpa’s Volga and Zastava 850 AK van were kinda rough too. Opel Rekord C of my boyfriend and me is a kinda rough car, but it’s complete and all original with just a bit of lost shine….

  8. I don’t know if the R14 story is known over french boards?
    Born in ’76, the design was totally at odds with mid-70s trends and in advance, prefiguring a softer and aerodynamical style from the 80s.
    For the launch, Publicis created an advertising underlining this flow & natural design, called 20y later ’biodesign’. The shape analogy was simple with this slogan «La poire » (the pear). I really don’t know in english but in french the expression ‘être une poire’ means ‘be screwed ‘. The campaign was totally rejected, becoming later a study case.
    Here the ads:

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