Friday, August 24, 2012

Cars That Should 

Never Have Been Made 

3rd Edition

2001-05 Pontiac Aztec

"Give me the crappiest car you got! Because 

I am the one who knocks!"

Besides the last two episodes, Breaking Bad is my favorite TV show. It's just my personal opinion, but I think the show has taken a couple of wrong turns recently. 

First, Walter's new team member - that blond guy - kills a kid who is just out riding his dirtbike. Wrong place, wrong time, I know. But murdering a child is a place I don't want to go. Period.

Secondly, Walter casually discards a vital team player for a few bucks, then turns the show into a Chrysler commercial. Don't pretend that didn't offend you.

That vital team player? Walter's Pontiac Aztec, of course.

Now, just in case you've been living on Mars, Breaking Bad is the story of a mild-mannered chemistry teacher that - upon finding out he has advanced lung cancer - decides to start cooking meth to provide his family with a financial cushion.

Walter White, the chemistry teacher, is played with aplomb by Bryan Cranston. He learns the drug trade from a former student and drug dealer named Jesse - played by Aaron Paul. 

Walter's wife is played by the awesome Anna Gunn, and did I mention that Walter's brother-in-law is a DEA agent? Yep, good ole Hank is played by the incredible Dean Norris.

Breaking Bad first aired in 2008, and for the entire four seasons, Walter's ride has been a Pontiac Aztec. A fern green 2004 Aztec with three custom wheels and a spare on the back. 

Quite frankly, I laugh every time I see the car. And the editors push the craptastic car to the limits by adding sounds - a wheezy engine and creaks along with groans - and a puke-inducing paint job. It's hilarious.


Pontiac engineers first presented the Aztec concept back in 1999, and the idea was wonderful. 

A front-wheel drive suburban SUV that got good gas mileage and wasn't prone to rolling over like the bigger SUVs on the market.

And the vehicle we were shown was downright cool.

1999 Aztec Concept

With a bit of customizing, the coolness factor shot through the roof, too. Hell, yeah, Pontiac. Build that, please.

So they did. And in 2001, this is what we got. Sigh.

Obviously, some shit went down between 1999 and the release date in 2001. 

GM projected sales of 75,000 units a year...but only sold 27,000 - and half of those Aztecs were to car rental companies that had no choice in the matter.

The Aztec was aimed at Generation-X kids as an entry-level SUV that you could go camping in. The problem? The price tag was not entry-level and kids had no interest in sleeping in their car. 

Can't really blame them. Who wants a 25,000 dollar tent?

In 2002, Pontiac smoothed out the ugly cladding somewhat, but other than that nothing really changed during the Aztec's production run. 

The car was only offered with GM's 60 degree 3.4 liter V-6 coupled to a four-speed auto tranny. There have never been any issues with the drivetrain of the Aztec, and it was pretty reliable all around.

It seems that this car was hated based solely on its looks. The Aztec has made it onto countless 'Ugliest Car Ever' lists, but I rather like it. 

Oh, I agree the car is ugly, but I can live with ugly as long as it's a good car. And the Aztec was a good car.

The Aztec was discontinued in 2005 and the production line was retooled to make the Chevy HHR - another design disaster.

Now, here is where we go off the rails a bit. People love to hate the Aztec, and I've never really understood why. 

Sure, lots of critics think it's the ugliest car ever made. But the Aztec had an extremely high customer satisfaction rating, and it was damn good at what it was designed to do.

As an urban grocery-getter, you could have bought a lot worse. 

The cargo hold was cleverly designed and held a lot more than any other SUV on the market at the time. If you put aside the looks, the Aztec made a lot of sense.

And now the poor car is a joke on a popular TV show.

I completely understand that.



My new book, Poison Well, is the story of a dead girl named Christine Taylor. 

Christine - a CIA signals analyst - dies in a plane crash in 1971....and spends the next 40 years tracking murderers for God in Heaven.

Then she gets reassigned to Earth - and Christine only has one request. A Bumblebee Camaro.

Pictured below is what Christine gets instead. Budget cuts, and all that.


I have always been kinda turned off when writers give their characters awesome rides in books, movies or television shows. I like it much better when a character gets a crappy car.

I believe it shows a lot of courage when a strong character like Walter White is given a fern-green Aztec. And for better or for worse, the Aztec in Breaking Bad became a loved member of the family on the show.

Giving a badass meth cooker like Walter White a crappy car humanizes the character for the audience - plus it's pretty damn funny.

I was sorry to see the Aztec go.

Maybe the writers will change their mind and put Walter in a British Leyland Princess. Now, that would be funny.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The Aztec design was seemingly ahead of its time...the new awd/4wd 'turtlebacks' that every(!)auto manufacturer seems to have a copy of;ex.: Acura RDX SH AWD., etc.__ GMC did a great job killing the brand name of Pontiac