It was cheap, it was easy to buy, or the only thing you could afford. Charitably, it can be called a car. Unfortunately, it tops out at about 40 miles per hour (45 if you're going downhill), it breaks down a lot, you get parking tickets while in motion and you probably have to special-order replacement parts since you're the only one around who was sucker enough to buy one and the dealer, manufacturer, or country it came from is no longer in business. The only parts that aren't about to fall off are the ones firmly rusted in place. Often it bears some kind of cute or derogatory nickname. Sometimes, a car like this is referred to as a Rolls-Canardley: rolls down one hill, can 'ardly get up the next, and that ticket you got for "attempted speeding" still rankles.
The polar opposite of the Cool Car. Often found in Injun Country and Ruritanias, or in the parking lot of Honest John's Dealership. Expect My Car Hates Me to happen a lot.
While this can be Truth in Television, it's largely the ghost of tropes past: it plays off old pre -1980's notions of notoriously unreliable used cars and low-quality imports that tend not to be true today. Back then owning a car built in a foreign country could be a joke in and of itself and anyone buying a used car was understood to either be barely above poverty or a major cheapskate. Lemon Laws and lawsuits have since driven most of the truly decrepit jalopies out of the market. Also worth noting, cars that degrade to the state of disrepair often depicted in an Alleged Car would simply not be street-legal in any modern industrial country with an established vehicle safety code. Of course, that doesn't mean there aren't people who still drive them anyway, and, as anyone who has owned one can tell you, there are plenty of shady garages that will happily slap an inspection sticker on any old piece of junk or even just sell you the sticker outright, "twenty dollars with an inspection or fifty dollars without one" as the old joke goes.
Paradoxically, in both fiction and sometimes in real life, a person who operates any such alleged vehicle for any length of time can often become quite emotionally attached to it. Sometimes a person gets in touch with all the car's little quirks, such that only s/he can keep the heap running. Other times, it's just Stockholm Syndrome. But hey, anybody can drive a new car: keeping one of these babies running requires talent!
Ironically, this trope was codified by none other than the Ford Model T. Yes, the very car that put the world on wheels was considered obsolete and faintly ridiculous by the height of the silent film era and quickly became the Alleged Car in the hands of comedians like the Keystone Kops, Harold Lloyd, and Laurel and Hardy. They were cheap, disposable, intrinsically funny, and ironically enough the quirky brake, throttle, and transmission controls that made them seem so obsolete just happened to make them excellent stunt cars. note In reverse order: the pedal shift transmission had no levers to get in the way and only two speeds, the hand-lever throttle would stay where it was set and was easily rigged in any number of ways, and the brakes worked on the rear wheels only, ideal for skids and bootleg turns, which the tall, skinny tires allowed at relatively low speeds.
If it's a horse or a computer that gets this treatment, then you're respectively dealing with either The Alleged Steed or The Alleged Computer. If the car looks like this but is secretly a Cool Car, see What a Piece of Junk. A Chronically Crashed Car may become one of these if it gets repaired one too many times. Either this or a bicycle will be part of a Real Vehicle Reveal.
Real Life examples have their own page.
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Anime & Manga
The infamous "Yukarimobile" from Azumanga Daioh, which is actually owned by her parents and presumably owes the shape it's in to her driving. Hell, it's a miracle Yukari candrive the damn thing in the shape it's in. The way that thing gets camera treatment, it is the closest thing the series has to an outright villain. Not even Kimura-sensei is quite as traumatizing.
Coach Yamazakura's car in Slow Step. Bikes are faster and factories produce less exhaust.
In the manga of You're Under Arrest!, Natsumi ends up with one of these after getting her auto license - the car had been assembled out of discarded parts from numerous stolen vehicles. Then it gets customized by Miyuki...
Of all things, a historical armored vehicle in Girls und Panzer. One of the viewpoint team's tanks is a Type 89 I-Go, an interwar Japanese tank intended to fight in China against infantry that was underarmed even by the standards of infantry at the time. It's regularly pitted against vehicles ten or more years younger and several orders of magnitude more capable. It's usually the first tank knocked out, and the go-to option when it encounters an enemy vehicle is trying (and often failing) to run.
Archie Andrews' jalopy in Archie Comics. Witness what happens when Archie tries to get it insured:
Insurer: What model is your car? Archie: Uh, let's see...It's a Ford, Chevy, Plymouth, Pierce Arrow, Packard, De Soto, Hudson- Insurer: Hold it! How many cars do you want to insure? Archie: Oh, it's only one car, but it's a collection of replacement parts from several junkyards. Insurer: Well, what year is it? Archie: Some of it dates back to 1926!
Originally, Archie's car was a 1916 Ford Model T (which, when Archie first appeared in 1941, would have made it a believable 25 years old). Later, it was depicted as a generic thirties-looking jalopy but by 1983 the idea of a teenager having such a museum piece of a car was judged too hard to believe and it was destroyed and replaced with a newer hot-rod. Today, Archie usually drives an old Ford Mustang.
Donald Duck's famous 313. In one comic Donald manages to get the car to do 40 mph downhill, gets a ticket, and the cop remarks it's the first time he's ever given a speeding ticket to someone in a Belchfire Runabout (the make of car). In the story Recalled Wreck, Donald tells that he actually built the car himself from parts that by now are all out of production and can't be replaced. It's not hard to guess what happens to the parts next...
In Sin City, Gail has an unfortunate tendency to saddle Dwight with crappy cars when he's helping her. Once, during The Big Fat Kill she gave him a clapped out, abused and neglected 1957 Thunderbird on its last legs (Dwight mentions it was once a Cool Car, but had been abused so much it was now a junkyard wreck) which didn't even have enough gas to get him to the tar pits. She gives him a Beetle in similar condition (but with a full tank of gas).
Gaston Lagaffe's car (the picture for this page) is an old jalopy, a Fiat 509 from 1923 or '25 that goes so slow, pedestrians can outrace it. It leaks so much oil that one strip shows someone water-skiing in the car's oily wake.
The title character of Achille Talon drives a car that rolled off the assembly line in 1903 (the British-made Achilles, obviously chosen for its name). And it looks every year of its age.
The 1962 VW Microbus Jeremy and Hector are "restoring" in Zits. It has wildlife living in the engine compartment and creates its own smokescreen as it drives.
The Spider-Mobile. Unlike most examples on this page, it was actually pretty pimped out...just really uncool in being pointless (Spider-Man neither needs nor — as the arc in which the thing appeared showed — has the ability to drive a car) and corny looking. The butt of many jokes in hindsight.
The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers went through a succession of old clunkers - Franklin needs a car and borrows Fat Freddy's '58 Ford, asking "Is your car working all right?" He replies "Hunh? Oh yeah, except the turn signals don't turn off by themselves. ...and there's no spare tire...and the speedometer's way off...and the windshield wipers don't work...(continues talking out the window)...and it pops out of gear, and you have to pump on the brakes two or three times before they start to work, and..."
One episode of the Dutch comic Roel Dijkstra is about a voodoo curse on the eponymous character. Roel, who first doesn't believe in voodoo, is forced by the events in the story to take it seriously. In the end, when being taken back to the airport in a rattling, run-down cab, he asks the driver (a recurring character in the story) if it is also voodoo power that is holding his car together.
I insist, though, that when in Transbelvia, the truly discriminating tourist is obligated to drive the national automobile, the one and only Belv. The Belv is the quintessential East European car, a tiny tin box with a two-stroke motor that sounds like a mimeograph machine on Self-Destruct and smells like a burning blackwall tire. This particular one had a four-speed manual gearbox that liked to crunch and jitter on shifts, brakes operated by cables, and no gauges that worked.
Midnight Green's dilapidated cart that he quite happily smashes into a tree.
In Futari Wa Pretty Cure Blue Moon, Mia's mother, Kirei, owns a dilapidated old van that barely works. Yoko, the resident car fanatic, can barely stand to look at it, and she's enlisted to fix it in its first appearance when it breaks down at an inconvenient time. Near the end of the story, though, this is turned around, as the team uses their finale powerup to turn it into a complete replica of the DaiVan, DaiFighter'sCool Car.
The last song heard in The Brave Little Toaster brutally Deconstructs the attitudes of materialism and abandonment behind this trope, and is actually sung by thousands of personified Alleged Cars, all of them are constantly waiting for them to be picked up one by one by the junkyard magnet and be crushed to death by the car crusher at the end of a Conveyor Belt-O-Doom.
The Rusteze Bumper Ointment (Lightning McQueen's sponsor) tent from is full of rusty, beaten-up cars, much to McQueen's dismay. Ironically, his best friend is Mater, a similarly rusty, beaten-up tow truck.
The villains of the sequel are all notorious "lemons", such as Gremlins or Pacers. In fact, two baddies from this film are even known as Grem and Acer! The Dragon is based on a German microcar in which passengers always face the back.
Both vehicles in The Fox and the Hound probably qualify for this. The widow's is a really old truck, and Slade's is temperamental after the engine gets shot full of holes by the widow.
In Madagascar 2 the state of the plane the Penguin Commandos and the Zoo animals attempt to fly back to New York in is so bad that one of the signs it is not working is that its engine is no longer on fire. It also comes with several skeletons on board.
Kowalski: We've lost engine one... and engine two is no longer on fire...
In Wreck-It Ralph, Vanellope's initial car "The Lickety-Split" is a pedal-powered piece of crap made out of graham crackers that pales in comparison to other vehicles in her game. Later on, she and Ralph build another car that while functionally better is still pretty hideous. Nonetheless, Vanellope's still overjoyed at having a kart of her own.
(hyperdrive groans, stutters, and fails to engage)
Leia: Watch what? Han: I think we're in trouble.
Lando: They told me they fixed it! It's not my fault!
Podracing seems to be made up of almost nothing but these. While no pod is slow, since each basically is two JET ENGINES, none of them meet even the most basic level of safety, since the only thing holding the engines is a magnet grid and rubber tubes. In the The Phantom Menace, many crash , break apart, or explode after even small hits, or if any of the numerous exposed parts are broken/knocked off. One pod explodes on the starting line. It seems the galaxy loves podracing mostly because of how recklessly dangerous the sport it.
The villains in Dead Mans Shoes drive an ancient CitroŽn that one of them had apparently inherited from his grandmother, complete with a My Car Hates Me moment when the Anti-Hero is advancing on them with an axe.
The car that the title character drives in Mr. Hulot's Holiday is so underpowered and rickety, duct-tape and bailing wire could be considered luxury extras.
Dragnet (1987). "After losing the two previous vehicles we had been issued, the only car the department would release to us at this point was an unmarked 1987 Yugo; a Yugoslavian import donated as a test vehicle by the government of that country and reflecting the cutting edge of Serbo-Croatian technology."
The VW bus in Little Miss Sunshine has to be push started because it needed a new clutch, but the family would have missed Olive's contest if they had waited for it to be fixed. Also, the horn had a loose connection and beeped intermittently.
Subverted in Fast and Furious: Tokyo Drift. Sean's car is a rusty Monte Carlo that seems to be falling apart... until you realize it's a "sleeper car", that is, a car that looks bland at best, beaten-up at worst, but tricked out under the hood so much it can beat a brand-new Dodge Viper.
The second Enterprise is like this in Star Trek V, allegedly because it was a quick refit of another ship still under construction.
Andrew Steyn's car in The Gods Must Be Crazy! is nicknamed "The Antichrist" (for multiple reasons) or "Son Of A Mlakka" depending on who you ask.
As much a Cool Car as the DeLorean of Back to the Future is, it would always break down at the worst time. Apparently this is Truth in Television; real-life DeLoreans tended to be unreliable even before you attached massive amounts of barely-tested mad-science doodads to them. It's implied that Doc Brown installed some sort of override on the ignition; he fiddles under the dash and she starts right up, or the ignition wires are just that loose.
The title ship in Serenity. In both of the Book Ends, a piece of the ship simply falls off.
DJ Drake's AMC Gremlin in Looney Tunes: Back in Action gave revered Looney Tunes voicebox Mel Blanc an extra posthumous acting credit by looping the effects he did for Jack Benny's Maxwell (see below) as it pulled into frame. Apropos of nothing, the car was also a Shout-Out, as its arrival was marked with a snippet of the "Gremlins Rag" (Joe Dante apparently couldn't resist a bit of self-reference).
Inverted in Wanted. The Lada driven by Fox in the train hunt scene is the quintessencial crappy car in (ex-)Soviet culture. Only she does some really crazy shit with this alleged vehicle: unbelievable stunts, ridiculous speed, aerobatics, you name it.
Denzel Washington's introductory movie, Carbon Copy, has one of these. Denzel's character purchased it for 14 dollars and a record player, leading his (white) father to reply, "you were overcharged." It has no horn, no brakes, a nonexistent paint job, coughs black smoke everywhere it goes, and becomes a permanently-converted convertible by the end of the film.
In Friday, Smokey's car barely runs, but he still installs an alarm.
Buford T. Justice's police cruiser in Smokey and the Bandit usually becomes one of these by the end of every movie, in one case being reduced to nothing but a chassis, engine, and wheels, but it still keeps going. The emergency lightbar also survives, but with no roof to put it on, he just has his son hold it over their heads from the passengers seat while he drives.
The Dude's Torino in The Big Lebowski was a pile of crap, even before the events of the movie which has the poor vehicle suffering several different kinds of abuse, before it is finally set on fire by the Nihilists.
Well, they finally did it... They killed my fucking car.
Ms. Norbury's car in a deleted scene from Mean Girls.
Axel Foley's "beat up old Chevy Nova" in Beverly Hills Cop. In one scene, he parks it on an incline and it starts to roll away. His ex-girlfriend Jeanette is apparently quite familiar with the car, as she asks him if he's still driving it.
In the Hallmark movie Ice Dreams the main character has one of these.
Amy: What's wrong with my car? Amy's Mom: It's not a car, dear, it's a casualty.
"That son of a bitch would freeze up in the middle of summer on the equator!"
Turned completely on its head in Woody Allen's Sleeper. While on the run from (future dystopian) authorities, Woody's and Diane Keaton's characters discover what appears to be a dust covered, 200 year old, mid-Sixties vintage Volkswagon Beetle. When Woody turns the key in the ignition the car starts without a millisecond's hesitation and purrs happily. Woody observes, "Wow, they just don't make 'em like they used to."
Polish Communist film Mis (Teddy Bear), which generally sent up life in the Polish People's Republic, had a sequence in the opening credits where the hero sneezed and his Polish Fiat car fell apart in the middle of traffic.
Gary King, the protagonist of The World's End, drives a car nicknamed "The Beast", which he bought off his friend about twenty years before the start of the movie. While it may have been a Cool Car back then, years of use have turned it into this trope instead.
The title character's car from Uncle Buck. It lets out a boom like a high powered rifle after being turned off for several seconds and leaves a smokescreen the size of Kansas in its trail. Its name is also "The Beast".
Judge Dredd. At the beginning, when Dredd is demonstrating the Lawmaster bike to a class of cadets, the performance of that particular bike is a bit less than reliable.
Subverted with the "Bluesmobile" in The Blues Brothers - a decommissioned police car Elwood bought while Jake was in prison. Even though it looks rundown and the cigarette lighter doesn't work, it stands up to multiple high-speed chases and even keeps going after it throws a rod. The car finally falls to pieces once the brothers reach their destination in Chicago.
Sin City, Nancy Callahan says she is the only person who can keep her car running. The villain tries to kidnap her in it, it doesn't work out well for him. As in the books, it is a 1957 Chevy Nomad, which started life a Cool Car right from the factory.
Drowning Mona begins with a title card stating that the town where the movie takes place was a testbed for Yugo's American rollout ages ago. Once the film begins, every car in the film is a Yugo. The film climaxes in a low-speed Yugo car chase - with one Yugo requiring a push-start.
The minivan at the end of Project X, which is missing two doors and has had most of its paint scorched off. Thomas' parents force him to drive it to school as punishment, though his friends think it looks badass.
In Ghostbusters, the Ecto-1 is an ancient ambulance/hearse that we're introduced to with Ray listing off the numerous things they'll have to fix. Remarkably, they do.
Ray: Everybody can relax, I found the car. Needs some suspension work and shocks and brakes, brake pads, lining, steering box, transmission, rear-end...
Peter: How much?
Ray: Only $4800.
*Venkman looks shocked*
Ray: Maybe new rings, also mufflers, a little wiring...
Dean Higgins' car from the 1975 Disney film The Strongest Man In The World, to the point that in the climax that Dexter powers it up with his strength formula in order to return to the weight-lifting competition.
The 1983 Nissan Shitbox (yes, that's its real name) from Superhero Movie. It does not make an actual appearance, but it is briefly listed on a site when Rick tries to see what kind of car he can get with only $300. Its description◊ explains it all:
This is a salvage title for a previously very nice ride, call about the car. Salvageable parts, and many square inches of un-bent sheet metal. Use for your own sculpture projects, landscaping or restore to like-new condition. Wheels extra, 3 included in trunk.
North West Frontier has an alleged train that smokes constantly and whistles at the worst possible moments.
In The Brass Teapot the protagonists own a barely functioning Pinto that is falling apart.
A common Texan joke involves a Texan bragging about the size of his ranch by explaining that it takes him all day to drive from his house to the end of his property, getting the reply "Yeah, I've had a car like that too..."
"Once you start driving a Toyota, you won't be able to stop." It certainly doesn't help that their motto is "moving forward".
"At least my Toyota has a manual transmission so if it runs away I can hit the brake and clutch, leaving both hands free for the wheel. Or the Rosary."
"How do you get a Yugo up to 60 mph? Push it off a cliff."
"Why do Yugos come with rear window defrosters? So the people pushing it can keep their hands warm."
How do you double the value of a Yugo? Fill the gas tank.
Dirk's car is not much better, especially after he rear-ends another car and busts the right-side indicator. The main concession he makes to repairing it is to conclude that it's fine since he rarely turns right anyway, and at one point, in order to get it running, he has to steal a tow truck just to force the repairman to get it running.
Newton Pulsifer has a Wasabi. He praises its incredible gas mileage, but tends to gloss over the amount of time it spends being repaired; he also calls it Dick Turpin (after the British highwayman), because "wherever I go, I hold up traffic." At one point it's described as having been designed on that fateful day when Japan stopped copying Western designs and began coming up with their own, during the brief period of paradigm shift, and ended up with not only all the flaws of Western cars, but also some entirely new ones. Aside from the repair time, it also has a voice that recites, in a particularly bad Japanese accent, "Prease to frasten sleat-bert" regardless of whether the seat-belt is fastened, and an airbag system that deploys on dangerous occasions like when you're traveling slowly on a dry straight road but are about to crash because an airbag just deployed into your face. Newton's attempts to convince others to buy one are motivated by the idea that misery loves company.
Crowley drives a 1926 Bentley, which qualifies as a Cool Car. But near the end of the book, he drives it like mad to get from London to Tadfield during a huge traffic jam (including leaping through a wall of fire caused by a cursed motorway Crowley designed), and what's left of it afterwards definitely qualifies as an Alleged Car, assuming it qualifies as a car at all.
A third main character, Anathema Device, has an Alleged Bicycle possibly made of drainpipes. All three vehicles get better over the course of the book. Anathema's bicycle and Newton's Wasabi get better than new, with the Wasabi gaining ridiculous gas mileage and its warning system changing to pleasant-voiced haikus.
Shadow buys a "Pee-Oh-Ess" '83 Chevy Nova for $450 which "had almost a quarter of a million miles on the clock, and smelled faintly of bourbon, tobacco, and more strongly of something that reminded Shadow of bananas." It goes, and that's about all you can say for it.
There's also "a lumbering and ancient Winnebago, which smelled non-specifically but pervasively and unmistakably of male cat".
An a 1970 VW bus that "smelled of patchouli, of old incense and of rolling tobacco."
The Winnebago later gets traded for another car that is in absolutely horrible condition, but will continue to run as long as they keep filling it with oil.
Shadow also ends up buying another vehicle that is painted (poorly) a very ugly shade of purple. It's described as a color that a person would only choose while under the influence of many drugs.
Played with in The Big Over-Easy, where the protagonist drives a 1970s Austin Allegro that should fit this trope. He replaces it with another one, in showroom condition, in The Fourth Bear — it turns out it's only still running because he bought it from Dorian Gray and there's a picture of the car that suffers all the damage and breakdowns the car would otherwise be subject to. Over the course of the book, the damage sustained reaches such an extent that the picture collapses into an inter-dimensional portal, dragging the car and anyone in it to hell.
Thursday Next - Thursday's car is old, makes funny noises, came very cheap from a questionable second-hand car lot, and caught her attention because of a time loop in which she saw herself driving it. But she falls in love with it anyway because it's loudly colored and goes fast.
The Dresden Files has Harry Dresden's Beetle, complete with a cute nickname: The Blue Beetle. He can't drive anything else because magic screws up modern technology. Although this is never explicitly stated, it's possible that one of the reasons he's driving a Volkswagen instead of any other random older car is that the engine is farther away from him. Plus, Harry has stated that his mechanic can keep the Beetle running eight or nine days out of ten, which, as far as Harry's Walking Techbane status goes, makes the mechanic a miracle worker. Unfortunately, miracles have limits, and being compacted into a small ball is the Beetle's limit...
In the column "Lemon Harangue", he talks about his father's unerringly awful car buying instincts:
For example, my father was one of the very few Americans who bought the Hillman Minx, a wart-shaped British car with the same rakish, sporty appeal as a municipal parking garage but not as much pickup. Our Minx also had a Surprise Option Feature whereby the steering mechanism would disconnect itself at random moments, so you'd suddenly discover that you could spin the wheel all the way around in a playful circle without having any effect whatsoever on the front wheels... You don't see many Minxes around anymore, probably because the factory was bombed by the Consumer Product Safety Commission.
In ''Dave Barry Does Japan", he mentions that his own first new car was a Chevrolet Vega, which was "made of compressed rust".
He once owned a Fiat, which "rusted on the assembly line." It was easy to find in a crowded parking lot, as all he had to do was follow the sound of parts falling off.
In Markus Zusak's The Messenger, one of the narrator's friends owns a "shitbox blue Ford" of which he is intensely proud and protective - he goes berserk if anyone brings up its shortcomings within his earshot, even at a police officer who told him it wasn't roadworthy. He claims it's an antique, it appears to made from rust, it has a 0.5 percent chance of starting the first time you turn the key, it's often propped by bricks because the handbrake is broken, any replacement part would be worth more than the rest of the car itself put together, and it foils a bank robbery in the opening chapter because the robber chose it as his getaway vehicle and couldn't get it to start before the police arrived.
Stephen King's Cujo has a woman and her son trapped in one of these by a rabid Saint Bernard dog.
The evil, sentient title car in Christine, also by King, is a sort of twisted horror version of this trope. It completely takes over a geeky young car-lover's life with its constant demand for repairs and replacement parts, all while making him love it beyond reason. Futurama does a Shout-Out: "And then... Honk honk! The car honked its own horn!"
In The Movie, it's very much an Alleged Car when the protagonist first sees it, but gets much better (to the point of being a Cool Car) by around the middle of the show.
In 11/22/63, every car Jake touches becomes this on the day of JFK's assassination, thanks to the past trying its damnedest to fight being changed.
In Ilya Ilf and Eugene Petrov's The Little Golden Calf, the Antelope Gnu was essentially what was considered The Alleged Car in the early 1930s Soviet Union. Unknown origins (allegedly Loren-Dietrich), but obviously heavily modified and jury-rigged, working unstably and finally exploding into small pieces of debris (and being rebuilt).
One set of Beachcomber columns describes the saga of the Alleged Ship Saucy Mrs Flobster, flagship of the Lots Road Power Station, and an attempt by the Government to sell her to Afghanistan. The ship is too waterlogged to burn, is missing vital components such as masts, sails, rudders and most of the hull, and the previous purchasers (Lichtenstein) offered sevenpence but pulled out when they saw what they'd be buying. It's only at the very end that anyone wonders why the Lots Road Power Station ever needed a navy in the first place.
Stephanie Plum frequently has one of these, due to her financial constraints and how frequently her cars get destroyed. Though this is also somewhat subverted by her Uncle Sandor's powder blue '53 Buick Roadmaster (aka Big Blue). This is the car she drives when her usual one is inevitably destroyed. The Buick is indestructible, though Stephanie absolutely hates it (mostly cause it's ugly and large). Women, especially Lula, share her disdain, while men unanimously love Big Blue.
In the short story "Tobermory" by Saki, one of the secrets that the eponymous talking cat elects to share is that one of the guests was only invited to the party because the hosts think that she is stupid enough to buy their alleged car, dubbed "The Envy of Sisyphus" because it goes quite nicely uphill, if you push it...
In Shoefly Pie, the Alleged car is a Dodge Dart, with the most valued component being the half pizza in the back. t didn't have problems driving (until they took it into a field and the driveshaft fell out), the floor was flintstones style, and the original color might possibly have been blue.
In William Gaddis's A Frolic of His Own, the protagonist's troublesome Japanese car, which runs over him, engendering a lawsuit, is called the Sosumi.
A subplot in the The Darkest Hours, a Spider-Man novel written by Jim Butcher, involves Mary Jane Watson-Parker having to take her driving test so she can play Lady Macbeth for a theater company in Atlantic City. She surprises Peter by announcing that she had purchased a rusty, lime-green Gremlin. The Gremlin also turns out to be a Chekhov's Gun; when Spider-Man is almost killed by Mortia the Ancient, MJ ends up ramming into her with the Gremlin while quoting Lady Macbeth!
The protagonist of Laurie Halse Anderson's Catalyst has a Yugo named Bert, which she describes as "a tissue box on wheels with a bulimic hunger for motor oil."
The Doctor from Doctor Who apparently has a particular affection for this trope. In the Eighth Doctor Adventures novels, he has a Trabant, as featured in the Real Life section of this trope page. Even better: he drives it during his stint as a single father and wealthy business consultant, working with the kind of people who drive "Porsches and BMWs", next to which the Trabant looks like "an old drunk uncle at a wedding". He keeps a ton of books in it and it often stalls (in one scene, his would-be-love interest is foiled by his generally oblivious personality and the fact he's preoccupied by trying to get the car to start), but at the end it comes through when the Doctor needs to go rescue his daughter from being whisked off the planet:
The Doctor smiled, and slammed his foot on the Trabantís accelerator, astonishing the owners of the Audi he cruised past.
Genevive Robles from Bystander by Luke Green has her Termite, which is a discontinued model from 2011 in a story set in 2035. No parts are made for it so it consumes a lot of cash and paperwork to keep operational, especially given that over the course of the book it's in an earthquake and a blizzard, and narrowly misses being crushed by a flying hydraulic arm from a garbage truck. It is also stated to have an air conditioner that smells like ozone; at least once, Lucretia took a ride in it after being drunk and stuck in garbage truck, which couldn't have helped the smell.
In the early Spenser detective novels, Spenser drives several of these. The first was a 1968 Chevy convertible in such awful condition that everyone he meets remarks on it. He justifies keeping it by saying that if it gets damaged in the line of duty, he doesn't care all that much. He later wrecks a Subaru somewhere near the Charles River locks. By the 1990s, he's switched to something better, but he still loses cars with some frequency after that, and implies he's never too attached to them.
Carried over to the TV series; in one instance, Spenser complains that his car was nearly totaled, and Hawke quips, "that would be redundant."
In Wise Blood, Hazel Motes buys an old car for $200note accounting for inflation, about $1500 in 2011 money. He's quite proud of it, but no one else is impressed, and it's missing several seats.
In Daniel Pinkwater's Yobgorgle: Mystery Monster of Lake Ontario, one character purchases one during the course of the book. He gets it dirt cheap(less than a hundred dollars), on the condition that he has to wear a chicken suit whenever he drives it.
Jen from Extraordinary* has a car that stalls all the time, usually at the worst moments.
The Jetlag parody travel guide for Molvania makes mention of the national car, the Skumpta. The car is described as having a single headlight, a three cylinder engine, and a candlelit interior. The car is also said to have performed best out of four leading European car models in a crash test involving being driven into a wall at 60 kph, but that's because the car broke down repeatedly and never reached the wall.
The Joads' truck in The Grapes of Wrath, a boxy one-ton flatbed from the 1920s. Typical for the 1930's Dust Bowl migrations; vehicles of that era required a total engine rebuild every 20,000 miles or so and a new paint job every other year; and by the mid '30s it would've been operating on five or more years of deferred maintenance.
Bert and Cec's original cab in the first Phryne Fisher novel Cocaine Blues. In the second novel, Phryne buys them a new cab as thanks for their services, and because the first cab was a death trap.
In More Information Than You Require, John Hodgman recounts a (made-up) story about his wife owning a Volkswagen Jetta that actually worked fine; the only problem was that whenever she drove it, people would point at the car and scream, and she could never figure out why. They tried to let it get stolen by leaving the doors unlocked in the middle of New York City, but all that happened was that a lot of people used the car as a place to have sex. Eventually, to get rid of the car, they sold it under false pretenses to one of the writers for Sesame Street; they were that desperate.
In Kevin J. Anderson's Dan Shamble Zombie PI novels, Chambeaux & Dyer uses a barely-functional Ford Maverick that's held together mostly by rust as a company car. Sheyenne nicknames it "the Pro Bono Mobile" because they'd be able to afford something better if not for Robin Dyer's continual willingness to offer free legal aid to those who can't pay.
Giles' first car, a potentially very cool but dreadfully run-down CitroŽn DS, is one of these until it gets crashed by Spike in the Season 4 episode "A New Man." He replaces it with a Midlife Crisis Car, a BMW 3-series convertible (still used, but much more contemporary). The CitroŽn is also mocked in the Buffy tie-in novels. Oddly, it's actually totaled in one of them.
The entire series seems to revel in this trope. Xander and Oz have both confessed their own personal off-screen road-trip-gone-wrong stories that begin with their vehicles breaking down.
Zap Rowsdower's truck in the MST3K episode The Final Sacrifice does this. Mike and the bots waste no time in bashing the Rowsdower-mobile.
The Reliant Regal three-wheeled van owned by the main characters of Only Fools and Horses is a famous example, the So Bad, It's Good of the car world. It's popular enough that more than one Real Life Reliant Regal owner has painted his vehicle to look like it, and it came second only to the General Lee in a poll of the best-ever TV cars. Also the Ford Capri driven by Del in later seasons, known to Rodney as "the Pratmobile". The vast majority of cars that Boycie sells also qualify.
Mr. Bean's 1977 Mini, complete with latch and padlock door system and non-working handbrake, is constantly "The Alleged Car" in its repeated collisions with a certain Reliant Supervan.
Columbo drives a beat-up Peugot 403 convertible. He seems pleased to own a foreign car. In one episode, he drives it to a junkyard where a body has been found. A policeman tells him he'll have to dump his car there another day. Columbo is shocked at the idea that anyone could think his car was junk. Peter Falk allegedly picked it out himself one day after having been picked as Columbo. He saw the car in a mechanic's shop where they were apparently using it as a test-bed/oversized paperweight, and thought that given Columbo's otherwise disheveled appearance, the car would be perfect. He bought it from the mechanics and drove it to the lot that day.
The title character of Harry O drives a rust-bucket roadster that's always either prominently featured in at least one scene, or conspicuous by its absence, with Harry riding the bus because it was in the shop.
Federal Marshall Mary Shannon drives a beat-up purple Ford Probe on In Plain Sight that is an ongoing topic of conversation.
Not a car per se, but Oliver's Hoyt-Clagwell tractor should count.
Oliver's car breaking down was the subject of at least one episode, in which Mrs. Douglas used her pancake batter to fix a blown head gasket, something of a great feat, considering her knowledge of cars was limited to referring to the gear shifter as a "pernundel" (because of the order of gears: P R N D L).
The crowning example of this had to be a Ford Escort which was actually the result of the owner welding two Ford Escorts together. Xzibit promptly declared the car "unpimpable" and tuned up a new one for the guy.
One episode features Jeremy Clarkson driving an FSO Polonez, a Polish-built Fiat 125 derivative that he was so unimpressed with that he decreed it be used to play conkers with the aid of an electromagnetic crane. It remains one of his least favourite cars, but later models (produced after The Great Politics Mess-Up) are significantly improved.
Another episode has a segment revolving around the question "Did the Communists ever produce a good car?", with said vehicles being tested, for maximum Cold War irony, around the former site of US nuclear missiles, the now closed RAF Greenham Common. The first two cars tested, a Lada Riva and a Moscvitch 408, lose a quarter-mile drag race to a dog. Other highlights included a car in which the door couldn't be closed (forcing Clarkson to drive with the front door open) and a tri-wheeled car covered in canvas. When all was said and done, they found the answer to the original question to be resounding no.
Later expanded upon with May and Clarkson trying out Chinese cars. The early attempts played the trope straight, the latest models were much better and thus averted the trope.
Among the cars they tested was the notorious Reliant Robin, a three-wheeled rear-wheel-drive subcompact car. The challenge? To drive 15 Km. While the car succeeded, it turned over at least ten times along the way.
The presenters built their own alleged car in one episode: Hammerhead Eagle i-Thrust, an electric vehicle that, despite being a death trap, is fully street legal. It had a top speed of ten miles an hour, the aluminum body could blind the driver, the seats were plastic lawn chairs, it couldn't go in reverse, it was insanely noisy, and it took 7 hours to recharge the ONE battery used to power the thing. Even then the range was so bad they converted it to a 'hybrid' by putting a portable generator in the back, which filled the cabin with fumes. It even got a proper review in Autocar; which noted that there were two ways it could take a corner: sliding out of control, or sliding out of control backwards, and that it could get in horrible accidents when going in a straight line. Hilariously, the Autocar review actually rated it half a star higher than the real-life electric car the presenters were trying to beat, the Reva G-Wiz (which gets its own listing in the Real Life section). Presumably they did this because the Top Gear car made no pretense that it was actually any good.
Many of the show's legendary challenges center around the three hosts being given a very small amount of money to buy a car. They then have to to drive somewhere, completing challenges on the way:
The Toyota Land Cruiser aka "Donkey" from the Bolivia special. The engine hardly ever started, its prop shaft fell out, its differential exploded, and the list goes on.
One episode features the creations of the British Leyland company. James May's actually does fairly well, but Clarkson's loses a door. Twice. And not even the same door.
All three vehicles in the Budget Supercar special. Clarkson's Maserati Merak lost when its engine disintegrated into a fine cloud of metal bits. Richard Hammond's Ferrarinote Jeremy: It's not a Ferrari! from the same episode had all the engine electronics fail; May's Lamborghini kept running out of electricity, though it was the only car that actually ran out of fuel rather than fail. However, following the episode, the Lamborghini was bought by a supercar enthusiast who restored it to working condition, and Hammond restored the Ferrari himself; meanwhile, Clarkson's Maserati was so far gone that it had to be broken up for scrap, so it definitely wins the Alleged Car crown for the episode.
Played with in the Albania episode, where the trio were asked to see which of three premium luxury cars (a Rolls-Royce, a Mercedes, and a Bentley) was best for a Leading Light in the Albanian Mafia. Bentley pulled-out due to not wanting to be associated with organized crime and a suffering a sudden sense-of-humor deficiency. Undeterred by this, Clarkson purchased a none-too-gently-used Yugo and for the rest of the episode they pretended this car was the example of the Bentley Mulsanne they were originally scheduled to test as a Take That for chickening-out.
And in a complete subversion of this (and the jokes against Toyota above in the Jokes folder) we have the Toyota Hilux. The first one certainly looked like this trope when Jeremy got it. However it was proven that it can't die no matter what you put it through. The little Determinator was driven down stairs, against rock walls, into a tree, lost to the tide, dropped from a crane, had a caravan dropped on it from a crane, hit by a wrecking ball, driven through a shed, set on fire, and dropped from a controlled demolition site. It still drives. Sure it has seawater in a headlight, the dash was destroyed, and there are dents and scrapes everywhere... but it runs. Later they used (new, fresh, and modified) Hilux to drive to the North Pole, and to an active volcano (...after that one also drove to the north pole).
Also subverted by the car Hammond bought in the Botswana episode, a 1963 Opel Kadett A. Dubbed "Oliver". He became attached to it and eventually took it with him back home to England. While dirt cheap, it survived unmodified, unlike the other two cars, and only had one major breakdown because Hammond accidentally sank it in a river.
In the Alaska Special, Tanner's Chevy allegedly had a diesel engine. The fuel gauge even said it "diesel fuel only". It turned out to be a Chevy Small Block. He still won, and it was the only truck to finish.
The show has had some variation on "get a car for cheap/really cheap/obscenely cheap" as the central premise of an episode several times.
Rutledge got a Fiero/Ferrari mash-up kitcar for a "$5000 luxury car" challenge that had a leaking problem and struggled to reach 55 mph in the speed test.
The "obscenely cheap" version saw the hosts buying cars for just $500. Adam's puke-and-blood stained taxi cab (Tanner and Rutledge's cars had their fair shares of bodily fluids as well) had what he described as "a several minute delay between steering input and actual turning."
Episodes have been devoted to both "Worst Cars"note featuring the underpowered Mustang II, the homely Aztek, and the notorious Yugo and "Dangerous Drives"note featuring the rollover-prone Samurai, the flammable Pinto, and the unstable Corvair. In the former, the presenters bought the cars for each other and culminated in them trying to sell them at auction. In the latter, the flaws of each were played for maximum effect (and laughs) in a test drive, then each presenter was challenged to modify the car to eliminate the deficiency. Naturally, Hilarity Ensues.
The Sid & Marty Korfft Saturday morning show, Wonderbug, had Schlep-Car, a dune buggy that regularly left a trail of parts behind as it went.
The short-lived Channel 4 sitcom Hippies featured the "Ginkle", an exaggerated parody of the Trabant, which was incapable of driving more than thirty miles before breaking in half.
Jon Stewart says this about the Gremlin he had as a kid: "The car that existed only so that Pinto owners could have something to shit on." In his tribute to Bruce Springsteenduring the 2009 Kennedy Center Honors, he expanded a little on this: "The Gremlin was a car that was invented for two reasons; one, birth control for young males; and two, it was invented so that the Pinto wouldn't feel so bad about itself."
The Chevy that SClub got in Miami 7 and later sold in LA 7 was one of these. It had travelled nearly a million miles in its time, and when it reached that number, it unexpectedly transported itself and its occupants 40 years back in time.
In one episode of Chuck, Morgan buys a DeLorean with a stuck passenger door that cannot go over 22 miles per hour. Sort of a subversion in that Morgan considers it to be a Cool Car, and gets a Vanity License Plate for it.
The Plymouth Duster (often mistaken for a Dodge) in Married... with Children. According to various antecdotes, it was brought to a stop by an anthill, it wouldn't hit 60 MPH if you threw it out of a plane, the ignition key is a bottle opener, it's a literal one-of-a-kind car as the other models have exploded, been recalled, or dissolved in the rain, it has bullet holes on it from when Kelly tried to outrun the cops, and at one point a car wash "lost" it because the brown color is actually years of dirt accumulated on it.
In the episode "Take My Wife, Please":
Cowboy:(from the Village People) Hey, sorry about the Dodge out front. Kelly: Why, did you hit it? Cowboy: No. I'm just sorry about.
Most cars on The Red Green Show. Many of these were repurposed on the "Handyman's Corner" segment. For instance, in this clip two alleged cars were combined to make a luxury mid-engine car. Red's own Possum Van was a prime example. Numerous references were made to the crappy cars driven by many of the other Lodge members, to the point where one of the books written by the show's creators noted that having an "old car that barely runs" confirms its driver as a member of Possum Lodge.
Another episode, on the Handyman's Corner, showed Red cutting two cars in half and interconnecting the steering to make a car with front and rear steering. It actually moved several feet.
Satan gives Ezekiel Stone one of these in one episode of Brimstone. At the end of the episode Ezekiel realises that it's the second damned soul Satan told him to reclaim that week, and shoots its "eyes" (headlights) out to send it back to Hell.
Gives us this lovely exchange:
Detective: Nice wheels, Stone.
Zeke Stone: The wheels are great. The car on top of 'em's crap.
The "Shitmobile".(1975 Chrysler New Yorker 4 door hardtop) It's missing the passenger side front door entirely, and requires a specific method of key turning to start it. It breaks down periodically, but is also shown to be nigh indestructible. The boys have knocked down parking meters and walls with it, and still been able to drive away.
Most of the cars in the show start out in good condition, but usually end up this way by the end of the season. Mr. Lahey's car ended up providing parts for the Shitmobile, and later his cop car ended up without a roof of any sort, which didn't stop any of the characters from driving it.
The Mythbusters seek out Alleged Cars for their explosions experiments. Those that are perfectly fine (such as Earl The Caddy and the Corvette from "Stinky Car"—the Fiat X1/9 from "Compact Compact" didn't count as "perfectly fine" because it had no engine) are generally rendered Alleged Cars after being experimented with. Earl at least managed to last an entire season before it was finally destroyed by being dropped from a crane.
Also fitting in this categories have been alleged snow plows, cranes, cement trucks, motorcycles, airplanes, war machines and every other kind of moving contraption.
The famous scene in the Fawlty Towers episode "Gourmet Night" where Basil Fawlty's car breaks down in the middle of the road. He then starts shouting at the car, kicks it and runs offscreen... Only to return a few seconds later with a tree branch to start hitting the car out of frustration.
In Doctor Who, Time Lords other than the Doctor see the TARDIS as one of these.
The Master: Overweight, underpowered museum piece... Might as well try to fly a second hand gas stove.
In "The Time Meddler", the First Doctor and fellow rogue Time Lord the Monk gush over the special custom features on the Monk's TARDIS in a petrolhead-like manner, and the Monk brags about its make and model, referring to it as a "Mark IV". He then asks the Doctor which Mark number his TARDIS is, and he visibly bristles, saying "none of your business".
The Ghostmobile MK-I as seen in The Ghost Busters. It's a 1929 Willys Whippet that always has something wrong with it (usually the brakes).
Cedric's Hyundai on The Steve Harvey Show. It and Steve's El Dorado are never seen in the show. With Cedric's car, it has multiple bumper stickers on it to hold the body up and cover up its many dents, it frequently breaks down because Cedric tries to listen to the radio while he drives, and once it would not start simply because Cedric rolled the windows down. When he and Lovita are expecting their baby, she implors him to sell it but in the end, he keeps it and Lovita buys a used minivan.
The whorehouse-on-wheels in Tin Man that Cain "borrows" from DeMilo to get DG, Glitch, Raw and himself to the North from "Central City." It breaks down in the middle of a snowstorm, then probably suffered a permanent breakdown after getting Glitch and Cain back to the Witch's Tower, since it is never seen again.
One of the "contestants" on the fifth season of Canada's Worst Driver was nominated for owning several Alleged Cars. He proudly declared having never paid more than $400 for a car.
And even worse, the show itself frequently turns vehicles into Alleged Cars. Case in point, the Chevrolet Camaro and Dodge Challenger respectively from seasons 6 and 7, which became progressively worse looking every episode.
In I Love Lucy, Fred is put in charge with buying a blue Cadillac convertible. The first tip-off is that he bought it for $300.
The Bluth Company's stair-car from Arrested Development. While it runs perfectly well, it's slow, very large (wrecking banners and signs suspended high up), guzzles gas like the 1970s full-size truck it is, hitchhikers hop onto the back of the car whenever it stops, and the driver has to start braking several minutes before they need to get to a full stop.
Starbug, the transport craft, may qualify as an alleged ship; it frequently breaks down or malfunctions and the interiors are as cramped and dingy as you'd expect from something built by the lowest bidder. Granted, much of the former two may be down to the number of crashes it's survived, but there can't be too many ships where going from Blue Alert to Red Alert involves changing the light bulb.
The original, pre-Chicken Walker Blue Midget also counts. It resembled a shabby cross between a chinook, a tank and the space shuttle, was cramped, slow and had a dodgy gearbox. Somehow. When it sprouted legs for Season VIII (and the remastered versions of I-III) it shed most of these qualities. (Although it's entirely possible that the man who designed the bits that make it fly and the guy who designed the legs never met, and only one of them was good at his job.)
In Adam-12's "The Beast," Malloy and Reed are assigned the eponymous patrol car that's just a few hundred miles away from mandatory retirement. It's such a piece of junk that Malloy doesn't even want to be behind the wheel, one of the very few instances in the series where Reed drives the car.
Mr. Roper's car on Three's Company, which he briefly sells to the trio, gets worse every time it's described. One episode says the car must always have a passenger or it will tip over on the driver's side. A mechanic recommends against changing the oil because it's the only thing holding the car together.
The Now Show talked about how they're saving money with the high-speed rail connection from London to Scotland by running it from London to Birmingham and having Toyota supply the brakes.
Barney Fife buys an alleged car (with a transmission full of sawdust) from an alleged sweet little old lady on The Andy Griffith Show. The seller claimed she only drove it on Sundays and was hoping someone could take care of it after her husband died. Everything seemed alright, until the thing literally started to fall apart as he drove...
A very similar plot happened on Matlock when Matlock's(played by Andy Griffith) neighbor Les Calhoun(played by Don Knotts) with the twist that Les is accused of murdered the guy who sold it to him.
Saturday Night Live gave us the parody ad featuring The Adobe. "The sassy new Mexican import that's made out of clay!"
Another parody ad featured "the Chameleon", a luxury car disguised as a piece of crap as a theft prevention measure.
While reporting on the Toyota acceleration controversy, Seth Meyers quipped: "A highway safety spokesman said that if you have a Toyota, you should just stop driving it. Toyota owners said 'We're trying!'"
One episode of My Name Is Earl reveals that Earl and Joy once sold an alleged car to someone. When Earl goes to right this wrong, he discovers that the experience left the man bitter and pessimistic about mankind.
Simon's Fiat Cinquecento Hawaii in The Inbetweeners. Small, slow, yellow, missing one of its original doors (later replaced with a red one) and has a tape deck. It winds up in a lake in the finale. Still, it fares better than Neil's Vauxhall Nova which doesn't even have an engine.
There's a running gag in the 1980s cop show Hunter about the title character's horrible clunkers. Da Chief loathes him and so sticks him with awful cars, and sometimes it's even had more influence on the plot than just a gag - hard to have a Car Chase when your ride won't start (or the door won't even open, or piles of parts fall out of the bottom.) This was Justified by his tendency to completely demolish cars in chase scenes: you give this guy a car, it lasts two episodes tops, so you give him the worst you've got.
On The Amazing Race, some of the cars the teams are given turn out to be this, and it's obviously quite deliberate. That is, when they're not doing Product Placement cars instead
In the earlier seasons of Boy Meets World it's mentioned a few times that Eric has one of these, but it is never actually seen onscreen.
On The Roy Rogers Show, there was Nellybelle, who was run down to the point she often refused to start. Hence Pat Brady's Catchphrase "Aw, NELLYBELLE!"
In the Dirk Gently TV series, Dirk drives an Austin Princess which he's had for at least sixteen years (and, given when the Princess was made, was presumably not new then). It rarely starts, when it does it's always in reverse, and Richard compares changing gears to Russian Roulette.
The gag continued on the spin-off George and Mildred with the Ropers's motorcycle and sidecar which was nicknamed 'Charles Bronson'. It alternately either wouldn't start or wouldn't stop.
In the Drake & Josh episode: "The Wedding", the titular duo borrows a friend's old 1970s Chevy El Camino that is in very poor condition. The car stalls in the middle of an isolated highway and they spend most of the episode's plot trying to find help or repair the car. The car catches fire while they try to repair it and the episode ends with them walking away from it in defeat.
In the Bones episode "The Woman in the Tunnel", Booth rents a car for his trip to London with Bones and is given an Austin Healy "the size of [his] thumb". Booth is very disappointed, as he has been expecting to drive an Aston Martin.
John Cleese's series How To Irritate People included a forerunner of the Monty Python Parrot Sketch — a salesman (Michael Palin) insists that the car he sold is perfectly fine, while the buyer (Graham Chapman) demonstrates first that the gear lever is loose, the brakes don't work, and finally that the doors fall off at the slightest touch.
A running gag on Whose Lineisit Anyway, particularly during the Sound Effect game tended to go one of two ways. If the car starting sound effect wasn't given, the guys would go and push it, while if it was given to early, it would drive off without anyone in it.
Marshall's Pontiac Fiero ('the Giving Tree of cars') on How I Met Your Mother falls into this category, nearly managing to hit 200,000 miles and having a tape deck that ate Marshall's Proclaimers tape, resulting in "500 Miles" being the only music that is played in the car. The season 2 episode "Arrivederci, Fiero" revolves around the car's demise and the gang recalling some of the incidents that made it an Alleged Car.
In Breaking Bad, we have Walt's beige 2004 Pontiac Aztek (see below), which he eventually ends up selling for 50 dollars.
Axl's '75 Ford Gran Torino in The Middle met its end when a county fair official took a guess about the rusty, faded old land yacht and waved Axl into the demolition derby.
Starsky & Hutch: Hutch's vomit-colored, dented, rusting, crumbling Ford LTD (with a missing rear-view mirror, window cranks that don't stay in, and a horn that randomly blasts at top volume whenever he opens the door), in contrast to Starsky's signature Cool Car, the famous red-and-white striped Gran Torino. Hutch despises the Torino and repeatedly insists his piece-of-shit car has more "character" than Starsky's. An overly prideful car repairman is so offended by the car's very existence that when Hutch tries to bring it in for repairs, he buries it in his trash heap just so he can yell at Hutch that "Garbage belongs WITH garbage!" (Interestingly, when the LTD was totaled in an assassination attempt, Starsky bought Hutch another one exactly as crappy as the first one, though not before writing "condemned in 1827" on the windshield.)
Mike's Mitsubishi Galant on Mike And Molly becomes one in "Mike's Manifold Destiny". (Oddly, it never showed trouble before.) The engine loses power if the air conditioner is on (it later dies), there's a hole in the floor, the windows won't stay closed if the tape is removed from the switch, and the hazard lights don't work. And that's just in the teaser.
Serenity! The Firefly-class transport ship is hugely outdated by the timeframe of the story, but Serenity is a special example. When Mal bought her at a used ship lot, she was in such bad nick that she wasn't even capable of flight, nevermind space-worthy. However, as Kaylee once so eloquently put it, "it'll fool ya".
Mother, from My Mother The Car is a 1928 Porter, a fake equivalent of a Model T, and considered this trope by the neighborhood.
Brooklyn Nine-Nine: Jake admits he has a terrible car, but he loves it because he associates it with the first arrest he made after graduating from the academy. The sentimental value is (partly) why he takes his bet with Santiago so seriously.
Chet Kelly's junk-heap station wagon makes an appearance in the Emergency! episode "Firehouse Quintet". He tries to give the crew a lift to the gym for basketball tournament practice, but the car breaks down partway and the guys have to push it.
Jan and Dean had a lot of songs about cool cars like the Shelby Cobra and the Pontiac GTO. They also had a song called "Schlock Rod", about a jalopy that's almost falling apart and questionably customized.
The Morris Minor in Madness' "Driving In My Car". One line sums it up: I'm satisfied I got this far. We are also frequently informed that it is "not quite a Jag-u-ar".
Sir Mix-a-Lot (he who cannot lie about liking big butts) has a track called "My Hooptie."
The Coup recorded a fantastic inversion of the Cruising In My Caddy type of song with Cars And Shoes, which lists off a series of increasingly terrible cars that they have owned, making the point that they're crap, but still better than walking.
''Oh, rust and smoke, the heater's broke, The door just flew away. I light a match, to see the dash, And then I start to pray. Frame is bent, the muffler went, The radio it's okay, Oh what fun it is to drive This rusty Chevrolet.
They also have "Yooper Snow Rocket", which is about The Alleged Snowmobile.
"500 (Shake baby shake)" by Lush, on the venerable Fiat Topolino:
When things are looking good there's always complications, I can't be with you so I'm at the railway station
And then there's Jonathan Richman's Dodge Veg-O-Matic:
I'm gonna tell you 'bout a car you'd best not buy. The brakes'll fall off and you will sigh. I'm gonna tell you 'bout a car that you won't like. You had best stay home, sir, better take your bike.
Arrogant Worms's song "Car Full of Pain" — complete with a verse describing how it is possessed by the Legions of Hell.
"There Ain't Nothin' Wrong with the Radio" by Aaron Tippin. The car's a wreck, but the radio works perfectly.
She needs a carburetor, a set of plug wires She's ridin' me around on four bald tires The wipers don't work and the horn don't blow But there ain't nothin' wrong with the radio
"Teardrops on My Old Car", a parody of Taylor Swift's "Teardrops on My Guitar. 
"One Piece At A Time" by Johnny Cash is a variation: He's put together a Cadillac by smuggling parts out of the factory over almost a quarter-century. The "psychobilly Cadillac"◊ looks very strange by the time he's done due to interim design changes, though he apparently got it to work okay somehow.
The headlights was another sight
We had two on the left and only one on the right
But when I pulled out the switch, all three of 'em came on.
The 1957 Chevy pickup truck from the C.W. McCall song (which is really more of recitation set to music) "Classified":
Well, I kicked the tires and I got in the seat and set on a petrified apple core and found a bunch of field mice livin' in the glove compartment. He says, "Her shaft is bent and her rear end leaks, you can fix her quick with an oily rag. Use a nail as a starter; I lost the key. Don't pay no mind to that whirrin' sound. She use a little oil, but outside a' that, she's cherry."
The second verse of Billy Falcon's "Power Windows" is dedicated to one of these. The song goes on to say the car's owner doesn't need a Cool Car because he's found the Power of Love.
Jim White's "Corvair" is something of a deconstruction.
I got a Corvair in my yard
It hasn't run in 15 years
It's a home for the birds now
It's no longer a car.
Roberto Carlos' "Calhambeque" is about a man that gets an Alleged Car as a replacement after he sends his car to the repairshop, but ends up keeping the Alleged Car in lieu of the "normal" car.
The popular Tex-Mex singer, Selena had a song named 'Carcacha' (mexican word to refer to a run-down car, is somewhat offensive), the lyrics are entirely about a girl's boyfriend's car, which is the quintessence of the trope.
The chorus thranslates roughly to:
Carcacha, go step by step, don't stop "limping" forward.
Two of Red Fang's videos feature a 1979 Impala Station Wagon. They buy it for only a few hundred dollars in "Wires" and modify it with a plow to run over all sorts of stuff on an empty runway. In "Hank Is Dead" they outfit it with a loudspeaker and play while sending out flyers for an Air Guitar competition. It's one of the rare occasions where they take a beat up, tired old clunker and actively turn it into a CoolCar by force of will.
The Goon Show featured Henery Crun and Minnie Bannister at one point driving a vehicle that makes The Alleged Car look positively Bondworthy. Suffice to say, it's seen going at three miles an hour, and the wick in the engine goes out. Though given that, at various times, characters in the Goons drove pianos, brick walls, barrel organs and steam-driven rockets, an actual car, no matter what its condition, would have been fairly mundane.
Click and Clack deal with these a lot, including infamously Tom's Dodge Dart, which he appeared as in the Pixar movie Cars.
On his radio show, Jim Rome often tells the story of his Merkur XR4TI, which he calls "the worst car ever". (As an inside joke, Jim calls his production crew "the XR4TI Crew").
Amos And Andy's taxicab, forming the fleet for the Fresh Air Taxicab Company of America, Inc.
Jeremy Hotz's routine about his diesel-powered Chevette with a trailer hitch.
Bill Hicks also had a few words about the Chevette in Sane Man:
Piece of shit car. Turn the air conditioner on in a Chevette while you're driving, it's like hitting the car in the balls. It goes down to 5 all of a sudden. I feel like the Flintstones in that thing. You push the lighter in, the battery light comes on. No wonder I'm fuckin' drunk. I hit a moth one time, it did $400 damage to this piece of shit. The moth was all right; he rolled with it. He took off, I'm waitin' for a tow truck. 'What happened to your car buddy?' Shit, I hit a bug. 'You're lucky to be alive. A man in Tennessee hit a ladybug in one of them things sheered his head clean off.
Comedian Lewis Black had his rental Plymouth Horizon stolen. When he filed a police report, they suggested the thief took it for a joyride.
"I said, 'You know, I don't think you're listening, asshole. The car is a Plymouth Horizon. It is not a joy to RIDE!' This is a car that goes 45 miles per hour with the wind; if you turn the air conditioning off you can supercharge the little fucker to 48."
He also mentioned "never [having] driven a car that's aqua."
Bill Cosby's bit from his 'Why is There Air' album about his first car, a 1942 Dodge he bought for $75, which wouldn't go over 50 mph.
On another occasion, he talked about how his father's '52 Chevy was the uncoolest car ever because it didn't make any noise when you revved the engine. Doesn't help that he was comparing it to Fat Albert's car, a '41 Mercury modified to use a Cessna airplane engine.
Scott Faulconbridge had a routine where he talked about his car. It was worth about twenty bucks. After he filled it with gas.
In Adeptus Evangelion, this can be the Player's Evangelion if the player rolls poorly. It can be made by the lowest bidder or held together by duct tape (they're on the same table so it can't be both), have pressurized blood that squirts everywhere, lose bolts in battle that destroy nearby buildings, have a fractured mind, and be colored Neon Green.
BattleTech players may be familiar with the Hetzer Wheeled Assault Gun, an alleged tank. Among its "virtues" are a fairly slow wheeled chassis that prevents it from traversing many types of terrain compounded by lack of a turret for its only weapon, a battery weak enough that its engine needs to keep running nonstop to keep it charged, and a tendency to reach the customer not quite fully assembled at times. (If you're lucky, somebody thought to include the bolts to fix the last components in place.) Thank you, Quickcell Armories. It arguably is one of the cheapest ways available to field an AC/20, but between its flaws and the fact that its big gun makes it an obvious fire magnet it's no surprise that many of its crews consider it a rolling coffin in-universe. All that said, it is not unreasonable when you consider that it is a real-life World War II era design.
There exists the occasional Alleged Humongous Mecha as well. Some Battlemechs are just not ready for prime time and have developed a reputation for being trouble and perhaps a punchline as well. Most out-and-out losers quickly go extinct on their own, but then there's strangely long-lived problem children like the Assassin, a 40-ton 'Mech with a reputation for both lousy armor and missile launchers that tended to break down at the worst possible time...which was doubly bad because the bulk of its fighting weight was its missile launchers. Or perhaps you could think of the Daboku, precursor to the production-grade Mauler, which averts the Super Prototype trope in every way. It was slow. It was absurdly lightly armored. Its weapons were low-powered for its weight. It overheated at the slightest provocation. Finally, it had an annoying tendency to eject its pilot when struck even by the mildest of torso hits (though this was probably for the best).
Chez Geek from Steve Jackson Games includes, as one of the things you can spend your money on, a card representing "Harold the Hoopty Car". It's worth a lot of Slack (points), but it's very expensive, reduces your effective Income for each turn by 1, and every turn it has a one-in-six chance of breaking down beyond repair.
In the unlikely event that a vehicle from Paranoia (especially one from R&D) isn't one of these to begin with, then carrying around a handful of mildly unhinged T-shooters with secret society missions to waste each other will probably seriously damage the systems before long. The second edition sample adventure, for example, featured a six-legged Spider Tank submarine built by taking a van and bolting on legs; the bot brain is going senile, and there's a bewildering array of unlabeled and/or mixed-up controls and gauges (pushing down the gas pedal fires a torpedo, for example, and some of the levers snap off as soon as you try to pull them, and as usual the operating manual is above your security clearance).
The Smoogo Minima, from The Sims 2, is the cheapest car in the game, and a parody of this trope. Sims even have trouble closing the (apparently poorly fitted) door! Notably, it merely looks the part; other than the door and the way it impacts Sims' stats, it runs just the same as any other Sim-car.
The Sims 3 continues the tradition of having various cars of various expense available for purchase. Notably, the less expensive cars are indeed more likely to breakdown, meaning you might be late for work or school or whatever you're trying to get to, and you will get a negative moodlet.
Some of the cars in Grand Theft Auto qualify. They look ugly, and are painfully slow.
In Grand Theft Auto IV a few of the cars come in a 'beater' variant which is in horrible condition, with rusty bodywork, oxidized paint, missing panels and inferior performance (also, they backfire constantly). This one is a perfect example◊, and yes, that is duct-tape holding one of the windows in. And some of them even have alarms.
There's also beater Glendales and Sadlers found in San Andreas in the woods that can't be fixed due to them actually being separate, pre-damaged models internally named GLENSHIT and SADLSHIT respectively.
In The Simpsons Hit & Run, most vehicles which get destroyed are reduced to their frames, Buford T. Justice-style. They are still drivable, but have horrible acceleration, very low top speed, and terrible handling.
Gran Turismo 4 has many useless (from the game's viewpoint, that is) historic cars, including the Daimler Motor Carriage (1 HP!), Ford Model T, Daihatsu Midget I, Fiat 500F/R, Subaru 360, 1948 VW Beetle, 1954 Corvette, etc.
Forza Motorsport 4 has a couple famous Alleged Cars, like the Ford Pinto, the Chevrolet Corvair - famous for wrapping itself around trees due to massive oversteer tendencies, the Datsun 510, the Saab 99 Turbo, and the Mustang King Cobra. They all function fine, though they are painfully slow when stock - though some are absurdly fast once upgraded with more modern parts.
The third game also had a number of alleged cars, including the Fiat 131 Abarth, the aforementioned Datsun 510, the 1969 Toyota 2000GT, the Porsche 914/6, the Lotus Elan Sprint, and the Alfa Romeo Giulia Sprint.
In The Secret World, all three Transylvania zones feature two brands of cars: FSO Polonez and Trabant. Both remnants of bygone years that the region spent behind the Iron Curtain. They frequently appear rusted and cannibalised from parts of other cars of their brand. A sighting of a car different than these two is so rare, it only happens once or twice per zone.
Call of Duty has a rail shooter sequence where you ride in an alleged car through the French countryside while Germans in similarly shoddy cars chase after you.
The entire point of Bad Piggies is to build vehicular contraptions that will transport your pig across the screen. Even if you survive the trip, your vehicle often will not.
In Star Wars: The Old Republic, the Bounty Hunter's personal starship is a D-5 Mantis, which they were required to steal during the Great Hunt. Despite supposedly being a rare and top-of-the-line vessel, their one has definitely seen a lot of better days and it's status as something of a rustbucket is lampshaded on several occasions.
When Torian joins and comments on the Mantis' poor condition, a sentiment that Mako agrees with, the Bounty Hunter has the option to appear mildly insulted, revealing this was after they'd spent considerable time and money fixing the ship up off-screen.
The T'liss Romulan Light Warbird of Star Trek Online is this in spades. The thing was the mayor's personal Warbird during his younger days (younger days meaning Star Trek: The Original Series young) and when you're rescued during combat, the rescuer is shocked that the ship hasn't fallen apart around your ears and personally calls your Singularity Drive an antique!
The Murakami family's van in Kira-Kira. The main characters have a lot of trouble with it, and predictably, it breaks down completely when they're already in the middle of their Darkest Hour.
Parodied with Strong Bad's car, the Gremlin, in Homestar Runner, which doesn't even seem to have an engine but is treated as a working car by its owner anyway.
Strong Bad: And that was our road trip. Or, more accurately our car trip, since we didn't go on any roads. Or, even more accurately, our car, since we didn't go on any trips either.
In Drive, the Machito is one of these, until the Emperor has it upgraded.
"Why aren't we shooting at them?" "Budget interlock. The computer recognizes Sam and won't let us shoot a missile that's worth more than the predicted value of his ship." "So what are we supposed to do? Take him down with rubber bands and paper clips?" "Still too expensive. The computer will only authorize up to spitwads."
Sam and Helix did manage to get it off the ground by themselves, an act they're very proud of. Unfortunately, the parade committee forced them to return the balloons shortly thereafter.
In The Saga of Tuck, Mike's car, the Beast, runs. Most of the time. Beyond that, there's not much one can say for it.
In Night Hunters, the Chevrolet Impala starts off this way, until it's crushed and repaired
The DeLorean lives up (down?) to its reputation on Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee. It becomes the first car in the series to break down after picking up the guest. (The guest was Patton Oswalt if you're wondering.)
While not technically a car, the homemade plane built in Endless Saturdays certainly fits. It's constructed from a red wagon, has cardboard wings, and uses an exploding propane tank as a source of propulsion.
Roadkill is built around this trope. They take an old beater of a car and take it on some grand adventure. There are far too many to list. Some notable examples:
The "Draguar" that had to be given a car wash every few miles to prevent it from overheating.
The Datsun 240Z that puked oil all over the track, broke frequently, and almost got them bounced from their event for being a general hazard.
And the 1975 Corvette with no windshield, gutted interior, and brakes so bad they did a slow down slide around on a stop sign and got pulled over.
Comic Book Guy's car, a "Kremlin", isn't much better. As he brags in the game The Simpsons Hit & Run: "I cannot drive 55 because my car only goes to 38!" If you have the speedometer turned on while driving as him that's clearly not the case... but still.
Elderly Butt Monkey Hans Moleman has an AMC Gremlin that blew up when he stopped the car mere inches from being smashed into a tree.
Bart stole the engine from Skinner's car by tying it up to helium balloons. To which Skinner replies "That's a rebuilt Yugoslavian engine; there isn't even a Yugoslavia anymore! Bring it back at once!"
Fry: "I've never seen a supernova blow up, but if it's anything like my old Chevy Nova, it'll light up the night sky!"
Also in "Bendin' In The Wind" Fry finds an old VW dug up van with corpses in it.
Fry: Hey, Mister? Mind if I take this old van? Surly Man: Sure. You wanna dump the corpses out of theres, it's yourses. Fry: Yeah yeah, I've gotten used cars before.
Another episode features a "1992 La Toura", some vague French car, as a running gag (oddly enough, modeled on a 1975 AMC Pacer) which barely works (justifiable in being a thousand years old).
Kim Possible - The Roth SL Coupe (a.k.a. 'the Sloth') Kim's father gives her in the episode "Car Alarm"... before the tweebs soup it up. Ron's scooter definitely qualifies as The Alleged Motorcycle.
In Daria, almost every car that doesn't belong to Daria's family is one of these.
Tom's Pinto. Eventually, his mother has this car hauled away in the middle of the night. He replaces it with another, which Daria describes as something you'd want to get a tetanus shot before handling.
Mystik Spiral's affectionately named "Tank". It "was a van at one point", but breaks down so frequently that Jane has memorized the exact number of seconds you need to wait to hit its dashboard to make it go again.
Trent's Plymouth Satellite. It overheats constantly, and Jane sarcastically refers to it as "an adventure on wheels."
Daria: What about your car?
Trent: It'll be here in the morning. No one ever steals it; not sure why.
The five-part DuckTales that introduces Gizmoduck sees Scrooge and Launchpad acquire an alleged spaceship.
In Dan Vs., nine times out of ten, the reason for Dan seeking revenge is due to something happening to his car, which is probably how it got to be in the condition it's in. People tend to assume it's been abandoned, and when it was accidentally donated to the Salvation Armed Forces, the volunteer responsible told him, "In my defense, no one would want to keep a vehicle like that."
Salvation Armed Forces Employee: We only received one car donation today, and it was not in drivable condition.
On ReBoot, Bob's car never works properly. He describes it as a classic, but it's a recurring gag that the thing never runs — not even when a virus is about to infect Bob and company and turn them to stone (they have to resort to Percussive Maintenance to get it going again).
The Total Drama series feature several alleged vehicles, though only one of them is a car:
The Lame-o-sine, complete with an obnoxious set of bull horns on the front.
The Boat of Losers, though it was probably in the best of shape compared to the other alleged vehicles.
The single prop plane in Island and the Total Drama Jumbo Jet are certainly less than airworthy, with the former's wings falling off after one flight & the latter's front-end falling off in the Action special.
The contestant-built bikes in "That's Off the Chain" were built from scrap materials. Some held together while others fell apart or blew up.
Wait Till Your Father Gets Home has Harry buy a real lemon from an Honest John's Dealership - in this instance a new car dealship - with faults ranging from defective ignition, bad original tires to malfunctioning fuel pump (though it's more the dealership and shady salesman that's the problem in the episode).
Victor and Hugo's van was prone to back-firing, rumbling and crashing, though that was mainly due to the brothers' inability to drive correctly, or even remember who was behind the wheel. Given this treatment, it was surprisingly resiliant and had a lot of Hammer Space in the rear.
Subverted in the Popeye short "The Spinach Roadster" with Popeye's car. While it's rather dingy and shabby, and is also hard to start up, it's remarkably durable, able to squeeze through a rocky path with little trouble. The only reason it actually breaks down is due to deliberate sabotage by Bluto. Popeye simply rebuilds it to be powered by spinach, whereupon it gets Super Speed and the ability to survive being hit by a train.