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We Got Him: That Time GM Sold 12,500 Terrible Chevy Malibus to Saddam Hussein
The legend of the special-order "Iraqi Taxi" Chevrolet Malibus—and Saddam's complaints about them.
Drive
By Peter Holderith
July 27 2020



The international reputation of American carmakers during the Malaise Era—the period of successive oil crises, regulation-choked engines and general crap quality lasting from 1973 to the mid-1980s—was, in a word, bad. So bad that former Iraq dictator Saddam Hussein once nixed a deal to buy 25,000 specially-built 1981 Chevrolet Malibus from General Motors after the first 12,500 reportedly arrived in Iraq riddled with defects, inadvertently creating a now-rare piece of automotive history in the process.

Unfortunately, the Iraqi government claimed the cars were total lemons. Between a litany of reported build quality issues and a notoriously sticky clutch on the Saginaw three-speed transmission, well... I think a reporter from the CBC put it best at the time: "They've been running so badly and breaking so often, that the Iraqis aren't much interesting in having 12,500 more." Saddam called off the deal.

None of this is verified, but in the decades since there's been open speculation that Saddam simply axed the deal to save money as the horrific, eight-year-long Iran-Iraq War heated up.

Back in Canada, the Iraqi Taxi Malibus were especially desirable to GM factory workers, who knew that there was actually little (if anything) wrong with most of the cars. Demand was high and the cars quickly sold. So what began for GM as a business nightmare probably ended better than the company expected.
*Full Article at Link
 

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Interesting piece, thanks EDJ.

The article mentions Saddam's budget issues. Another downside explaining "poor quality" might be poor maintenance issues from the low-tech Iraqi wrench-spinners.

That GM factory rats themselves wanted these cars speaks volumes.
 

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Interesting piece, thanks EDJ.

The article mentions Saddam's budget issues. Another downside explaining "poor quality" might be poor maintenance issues from the low-tech Iraqi wrench-spinners.

That GM factory rats themselves wanted these cars speaks volumes.
I find the story kind of funny and yes I believe the Iraqi lack of know how probably was the achilles' heel in it all.
 

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Probably a little of everything - quality issues, lack of maintenance skills and the need to conserve cash. Neat story! All the crazy things going on behind the scenes that we don't know about!
 

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I had one of them "iraqi taxis"
it was a "great" car for a slow V6 with almost 4 to 1 gearing
there was NO emissions on it and was designed for leaded petrol
the speedo was in KPH only and at 100 and higher was printed in RED and a buzzer would sound going over 100 KPH

it is one of the cars from my young driving time I wish I kept
 

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I had one of them "iraqi taxis"
it was a "great" car for a slow V6 with almost 4 to 1 gearing
there was NO emissions on it and was designed for leaded petrol
the speedo was in KPH only and at 100 and higher was printed in RED and a buzzer would sound going over 100 KPH

it is one of the cars from my young driving time I wish I kept
100 KPH, man.. that is fast
 

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Terrible Malibus???? I thought Saddam died in 2006, there's no way he could've driven a 2013 Malibu if he were dead for 7 years
 
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