These muscle cars and trucks that won’t last 100,000 miles
While muscle cars are best known for their speed, looks and raw power, they have also developed a reputation for reliability. The purpose of muscle cars was to please the common man, so they couldn’t be temperamental or unreliable. Muscle car design features such as pushrod engines, rear-wheel drive, and heavy-duty auxiliaries are likely to credit the good reliability of muscle cars as a whole.
However, some manufacturers have strayed from these characteristics, or simply made bad cars; damage the reputation of reliability of muscle cars. While you could say that any old car is unreliable due to the wear and tear a car goes through over the years, some rolled out of the factory decades ago. Get a notepad and check your Craigslist bookmarks, here are 10 muscle cars that won’t last 100,000 miles!
ten 1989 Ford Thunderbird SC
The Ford Thunderbird is one of America’s most iconic cars, embodying luxury, comfort and performance for 11 generations. The tenth generation Thunderbird is generally considered a reliable vehicle, especially when equipped with either the 5.0L or 4.6L V8. Ford’s build quality was solid and buyers were generally satisfied in the together… in addition to a defect at the start of the production of the cars.
Early 3.8L supercharged V6s were notorious for blowing the head gasket at around 90,000 miles. Ford eventually fixed the problem, but the damage was done and hurt sales of the car early on. Newer cars tend to run better and longer, and even early ones can run fine if the head gasket problem is fixed early.
9 1991 Chevy Lumina Z34
The Lumina Z34 was a special Lumina edition meant to compete with cars like the Thunderbird, Dodge Daytona, and even GM’s Gran Prix. Chevy stuffed a 3.4L V6 and sent the power to the front wheels. The Lumina Z34 performed well, hitting 60 in under 8 seconds, and came at a reasonable price.
What was the Achilles heel? The Chevrolet 60° V6 was notorious for its head gasket failure. The 4T60E drivetrain wasn’t quite what we’d call bulletproof either. To top it all off, the Lumina Z34 wasn’t immune to GM’s poor quality control in the 1990s. We advise you to run if you see one for sale.
8 1999 Cadillac Seville STS
Cadillac released the STS version for the midsize Seville to compete with cars like the Lexus LS400 and BMW 5 Series. The Seville received “sporty suspension”, body-color accents and a more powerful version of the V8 Northstar 4.6L … sending power to the front wheels. Yes… a front-wheel-drive V8.
You probably know what the next step is. The Northstar 4.6L was infamous for head gasket failure, but not because of the head gasket. The head bolts would actually come loose, not strong enough to hold the cast head to the aluminum block. Cadillacs of the era also had problems with power steering pumps, window regulators, and oil leaks.
seven 1980 Plymouth Volare Roadrunner
The Volare replaced the popular Duster in 1976. Chrysler believed this new line would fit the personal luxury trend of the 1970s, and the engines were detuned to 125 horsepower. High horsepower muscle cars were out of fashion and Chrysler was following the trend. The Volare was mechanically simple; a pushrod V8 and 3-speed automatic powered the little Plymouth.
So how could such a simple car not be reliable? Rust. Even when the cars were new, the rusting issues made the cars nearly undriveable. After a winter, you might expect your Volare to collapse. Lee Iacocca went so far as to say that the Volare was one of the reasons Chrysler went bankrupt in the 1970s and tarnished the brand’s reputation for reliability.
6 2006 Dodge Charger SE
Dodge relaunched the Charger in 2006, using a range of V6 and V8 engines to power the retro muscle car. The 3.5L V6 and 5.7L HEMI V8 proved to be the most popular engines, with the 5.7L HEMI being notoriously reliable. Law enforcement agencies have even used HEMI mags as evidence of the abuse they can handle. Although they had some problems, some turned out to be worse than others.
Now, V6 engines did not enjoy the same longevity as HEMIs. Worst of all was the 2.7-liter V6. The 2.7 was notorious for oil sludge, which killed the engine. The fault was probably a bad head gasket design. 5-speed automatic transmissions were also inferior in reliability.
5 2008 Ford Falcon XR8
The Ford Falcon is an Australian legend, powered by an American V8 and using a tuned Australian chassis. The Falcon was offered in both saloon and Ute form, as most Australian muscle cars should be. The Falcon XR8 used Ford’s Triton 5.4 V8, specifically the three-valve.
Ford’s Triton V8 line is often considered the most unreliable engine ever produced. The coil-on-plug design has caused a host of ignition problems. Often on the 3 valves, the spark plugs broke when changing, creating a headache for owners and mechanics.
4 2004 Ford SVT Lightning
Again, another Ford entry…with a Triton. SVT built the F150 to be a “muscle truck”, equipped with a tuned V8, big brakes and modified suspension. Along with the performance goodies, SVT changed the exterior appearance to match the performance. Unfortunately, the use of the Triton V8 caused problems for the Ford Lightning.
This time Ford used the 2-valve version of the Triton, which was even worse than the 3-valve version. The 2-valve was infamous for “eating and spitting” spark plugs. What was actually happening was that the aluminum head was wearing out and couldn’t hold the spark plugs, sending through the engine head…yuck.
3 1997 Plymouth Prowler
The Prowler was Plymouth’s last attempt at performance cars and failed miserably. The Prowler was modeled after 1930s hot rods…but had none of the performance. The Prowler was only offered with a 4-speed automatic and a 3.5-liter V6.
The 3.5L V6 was notorious for head gasket failure and oil sludge like its smaller sibling. The 4-speed automatic transmission didn’t have the best reputation either, notorious for grinding gears. To top it off, the poor build quality of 90s Chryslers made the interior an unwelcoming place.
2 2000 Chevy Monte Carlo SS
Chevrolet’s Monte Carlo is a NASCAR icon, used as a lookalike car for Chevy NASCARs throughout the 70s, 80s and 00s. The latest generation Monte Carlo, however, was a far cry from the performance machines that destroyed the oval in the 2000s.
The front-wheel-drive system forced engineers to cram the V6 engine to the side, which made it difficult to maintain the rear bank. The 4T60E transmission is also unreliable, often grinding gears and suffering electronic failures.
1 Pontiac Turbo Trans Am 1980
Pontiac was in a bind, with lower compression and displacement sizes killing Trans-Ams performance. In an attempt to alleviate this problem, Pontiac threw a Garrett turbo on the outdated 301 cubic inch V8. the boosted V8 was mated to a 3-speed automatic and took 9 seconds to hit 60 mph.
The turbo engine was hard to work with and hard to get parts for…even in 1980. The engines were also structurally weak, with cracks and holes in the block not being uncommon. If the car has survived until now, it is almost impossible to find the correct parts to make it work. We would stay away no matter how rare or collectible they were.