Do Americans cling to bad cars?

May 7, 2008

obama-cars.jpgDETROIT – No stranger to criticism of the U.S. auto industry, Barack Obama made it personal this week when he singled out his candidate for Detroit’s “worst car” ever: the 1970s-era Ford Granada.

The cutting comment came in an interview with an Indiana radio station and then was picked up by the Detroit News, seized on as a talking point for Detroit radio and stirring debate in Internet chat rooms as of Wednesday.

Obama said he had learned to drive first on his grandfather’s Ford Granada, a boxy, big-engined sedan that Ford once tried to market as a kind of Everyman’s Mercedes-Benz.

The Illinois senator did not remember it so fondly.

“It may be the worst car that Detroit ever built. This thing was a tin can. It was during the ’70s when oil had just gone up so they were trying to compete with the Japanese. They wanted to keep the cars big, so they made them out of tin foil,” he was quoted as saying. “It would rattle and shake. You basically couldn’t go over 80 (miles per hour) without the thing getting out of control.”

Fans of the Granada, which made a cameo in last year’s Academy Award-winning drama “No Country for Old Men,” rushed to the defense of a car killed with little fanfare 25 years ago.

“I’m a Barack voter but I disagree with him on the Granada,” said Jesse Sweigart, a 32-year-old computer engineer in Columbia, Pennsylvania.

Sweigart said his 31-year-old Ford Granada, bought on a whim for $400 over a year ago, runs like a dream and gets better gas mileage than his newer Dodge truck. “They really put things together back then,” he said.

Tom Peterson, another enthusiast, said Obama was wrong to suggest the big Ford featured flimsy “tin foil” since it was a heavyweight in its late 1970s heyday. “If Obama actually said this, it sounds like (a) politician gum-flapping based on no knowledge,” he said.

“Here comes Granadagate,” wrote one Web poster. “We should invite Barack to drive a couple of our rides. Time heals all wounds.”

Sweigart offered to let Obama take a spin down memory land if the presidential campaign takes him back to Pennsylvania.

“I think if he got behind the wheel it would all come back,” he said. “I’d be happy to give him a ride to the next state.”

In the meantime, Obama may have some damage control ahead with voters in Michigan’s still auto-heavy economy. The Michigan Democratic delegation remains in play ahead of the party convention in August, and polls show Republican John McCain as a strong challenger to Obama in a prospective match-up in the 8th most populous state.

Click here for more Reuters 2008 campaign coverage.

Photo credit: Reuters/Ellen Ozier (U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama speaks to supporters at his North Carolina and Indiana primary election night rally in Raleigh)

6 comments

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Barack, Barack, Barack…

didn’t you ever drive a Chevy Vega? You’re killing me here!

Posted by Gary | Report as abusive

The Ford Granada was a tin can. My mom had one and it was a dog in performance, a gas guzzler, and broke down constantly.
My car mechanic says that he woke up every day and thanked God for the Granada and later the Ford Taurus too.
They build much better cars now though.

Posted by Olddog | Report as abusive

I inherited my Granddad’s Granada and drove it for a while. I didn’t like the huge amount of play in the power steering and the cars instability. I gave it away to someone who took it to a mechanic who discovered it was a deathtrap. If the car had hit a speed bump going a little too fast the wheels would have detached.

Posted by Tired Evangelical | Report as abusive

I must coment on the Granada too because I had one of those “tin cans” you called it and to me it was never considered as such. I bought mine brand new in 1976, specially ordered it with a 302 and floor mounted three speed shifter. I had it for thirty- one years and sort of gave it away to a person who had planned to fix another vehicle for me as an even exchange when the clutch went out in my Granada. That other car was never repaired properly and now I am sorry I gave my beloved Granada to him. I cannot complain about the way the Granada ran, just normal maintainance and replacing of parts that wore out and to have it thirty-one years speaks for itself. It was a great car during its time and I enjoyed every year I had it. They don’t built them like that anymore,(my opinion),and if I could I would take another one in a heartbeat.

Posted by Steven | Report as abusive

I own both a 76 and 77 Mercury Monarch, which are Granadas with better upholstery. One has 120K miles and the other 150K. Both run well, with a 250ci-6 or 302 v8. Mileage is not great, but I have no complaints. Normal maintenance and repairs have not been excessive. I do my own, using “lifetime” parts where available. I expect to drive these a lot longer, and continue to participate in collector car events. The cars are used for daily transportation. His comments on the suspension and handling are way off base. His was probably a torn up junker. I was not going to vote for the liberals anyway.

Posted by John Elko | Report as abusive

Not sorry nor upset with GM going down…What upset’s me is the FACT that GM/Chry/AMC(now gone)/Stud(now gone)/Ford(at least not asking for hadout)..and many others that did not get handouts and either made it or failed..that is Biz. in all of the sense..PLUS knowing the Pat’s all of them have sat on for better gas milage cars>>..I do not feel for any of them..>>as for Unions and what they gave up…give me a break..they are part of the problem .

Posted by rgw | Report as abusive