Thursday, April 11, 2019


A good friend of mine, who is an outstanding photographer and publishes his blog at: has, like me, travelled the world extensively over a long career as a senior company executive.

This week he has posted a story, based on a photo from 1984, which prompted him to recall his worst driving experience in the USA. His chosen rental agency presented him with a brand new Oldsmobile Cutlass (below). I won’t spoil his story.

My own rental car nightmare occurred in 2003, when Derek Bell and I were headed for Anaheim to brief the entire editorial team at ROAD & TRACK magazine, about the new Bentley Continental GT coupe.

2002 Chevrolet Impala SS
We approached the rental desk at National Car Rental, and of course the car I specified (a Ford Thunderbird) was not available, so we were allotted a turquoise green Chevrolet Impala SS.

Leaving LAX we joined Route 405 South at Imperial Highway, with Derek occupying the passenger’s seat (because, as he claims, he was not being paid to drive, just to talk!).

However the Impala, which broadcast a plethora of assorted rattles and clunks, would not steer straight, and continually had to be forced to stop veering into the next lane. Yes, yes, it was just poor steering alignment, but its overall problems were much more than that - including an intermittent 'miss' from the engine.

We only ventured two exits, and did a U-Turn at Rosecrans Avenue (a distance of roughly two miles), and headed back to National Car Rental at Los Angeles International Airport.

The customer agent was thoroughly professional and accommodating, whilst admitting that the only car on their fleet they ever had problems with was the Chevy Impala.

Even worse, all they had on the lot ready to go, were three other Chevy Impalas. After Rock, Paper, Scissors, we left in a white tribute to awful, to head for our lunchtime briefing at a seaside restaurant at Newport Beach.

2002 Chevrolet Impala (v.2)

You guessed it! The white Impala was no better than the first, but we soldiered on, wrestling with the steering wheel. On my return to Detroit, I called my good friend Bob Lutz at GM, and relayed the bad experience, to which he replied resignedly: “Yeh, the Malibus and Impala’s are all crap, but hopefully we’ll fix ‘em with the next generation.”

2011 Chevrolet Impala
My friend John at The Rolling Road Blog gets to have the last word:

“My only other bad experience was in 2011 when I rented a brand new Chevy Impala!”

So much for product improvement!

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