Blog: Crap Towns Returns… more crap cars on the way?

A guilty secret of mine is that I really do love the Crap Towns books that stormed the UK charts in 2003-’04. The premise was a simple one – readers of the The Idler website contributed their thoughts on the worst towns in the UK, and from that, 50 towns were chosen to represent the worst of contemporary Britain.

This Christmas, I received Crap Towns Returns in my Christmas stocking, and very amusing it was, too. It was interesting that the authors noted that in the decade since the first book had appeared, things had become a whole lot worse. For a start, we’d had riots in the intervening years. Who’d have thought that? Although some of the very crappest towns in the UK had made great strides towards improvement, the book pointed out that many others were a seething pit of tension, squalour and urban degridation. Or something like that.

Although many people railed against these books – especially those who lived in the places listed – they were a huge commercial success, and sired all manner of me-too books. Inevitably, we had a spate of car-related titles: Tony Davis went for Naff Motors, Richard Porter preferred the title, Crap Cars, while Craig Cheetham went for The World’s Worst Cars, and Giles Chapman plucked for The Worst Cars Ever Sold.


All were entertaining – and probably went on and earned a mint for their authors. The format was – and is – appealing, and publishers like to refer to these as great cistern reads. And I’d not disagree – I have all four of them, and still like to dip in now and then, when I want a quick and amusing read. As I know three of the four authors, I’d not be so crass as to say which is the best – they’re all brilliant.

But of course, one thing that concerns me with all of these books – and similar Top 10 lists that pepper the Internet – that it is simple to pick of the pick on the same targets every time. You know the ones: the Allegro, Marina, MGB – in fact, anything from BL’s 1970s back catalogue. And if the entry is illustrated by a marketing image bristling with sideburns, flares and hued with a dash of beige, all the better.

So, if we’re about to see a ‘Crap Books’ revival, can we have some new entries please? I’ve driven some humdingers during the past decade that are far more offensive than any Allegro to drive. And for anyone who says it’s impossible to buy a poor new car, I could also suggest a few: the Mitsubishi Mirage is a miserable little thing with no redeeming features, for a start. And it’s more expensive (by some margin) than, say, an MG3. The Vauxhall ADAM is a joyless thing trying to be something it’s not… And that’s just off the top of my head.

For me, though, number one will always have to be the 1990 Ford Escort. I’ve never made any secret of my disdain for this nasty piece of work – and amazes me that this cynically-conceived disgrace seems to have far got off scott free. So far.

1990 Ford Escort

Keith Adams


  1. I find these crap towns to be exaggerated if sometimes amusing. Near me, the popular target seems to be Barrow, or an image of the town formed from its rundown shopping centre or a few streets on Barrow Island. Actually if you overlook these two places, and possibly Hindpool and Ormsgill, the town is doing OK, with most of Barrow Island being regenerated, the submarine yard taking on thousands of staff in the last 5 years, and new retail parks and visitor attractions. Then you have Walney Island and Roa Island on your doorstep and good transport links with Lancashire, and things aren’t so bad, although the drive to Whitehaven is something for masochists.

    • I worked in Barrow in 1987 (on a job for VSEL… now BAE Systems). Back then it had a more vibrant shopping centre than now, but that can be said for just about every town in the land. Out of town shopping & internet retailing is where it’s at… Sadly

      • Barrow did suffer a lot when the Cold War ended and nuclear submarine building was cut back, with 8000 jobs going in the nineties, but the town has managed to fight back and as well as a revival at VSEL/BAE, there’s also a vibrant offshore energy sector and the Waterfront Business Park. Obviously there are pockets of crime and deprivation and The Mall has seen better days, but the out of town shopping centres have taken their place.

  2. I’ll bet Chapman, Porter, Cheetham et al wouldn’t find it quite so funny if we were to publish Crap Motoring Journalists . It would be really quite a long book too !

  3. Crap cars, how about the original Vauxhall Corsa ,a miserable looking car that resembled a bread van in five door form and in one litre form could barely get up a slight slope in second and as late as 2000, when it was phased out, didn’t even have a passenger airbag on basic models. Also it had a radio/cassette that sounded like a pocket radio out of Wilkos. Then add in the Corsa’s indifferent reliability and popularity among the baseball cap owners, who at least replaced the weedy radio/cassette with something a lot more powerful, but had a habit of blasting everyone with early nineties rave music for miles around, and you can why the Mark 1 Corsa was a crap car,

    • Totally agree – learnt to drive in one back in the 90s and it was horrendous. My first car was a mark 1 fiesta and I found that more enjoyable to drive even though it was ancient in comparison. My dad thought I was exaggerating when I said how bad it was until I got one a repair car when his was in the garage. The Mk 2 wasn’t much better – two friends had them and the they were very unreliable, though my aunt had one and loved it and never had a problem, except the paintwork all went weird as had my friends. Funny thing is one of those friends just replaced his missus Kia Picanto (another awful car) for a Mk3 Corsa!

  4. It’s hard to pick crap recent cars, as these days they’re much more guilty of dullness and uniformity now (especially with the masses of legislation manufacturers have to pass now)

    Invariably you end up with the oddballs, where manufacturers search for a new niche, but it’s harsh to call cars like the Peugeot 1007 or Renault Avantime crap because they didn’t sell.

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