April 29, 2024 | Jamie Hayes

The Worst Cars To Ever Hit The Road


What's The Worst Car Of All Time?

Some pretty serious lemons have come off production lines over the years. From ridiculous looks to "a tendency to burst into flame," it's hard to imagine how these cars ever got made.

What do you think is the worst car of all time?

Wcgallery

Triumph Mayflower

Triumph released the Mayflower to appeal to Americans who wanted a car that was both luxury and compact. The result was a car that James May called "the ugliest car ever built".

Black Triumph Mayflower - 1953Charles01, CC BY-SA 3.0, Wikimedia Commons

Trabant P50

Built in Communist East Germany starting in 1957, the Trabant P50 Limousine used an outdated two-stroke engine that got terrible fuel economy and gave off thick, smoky exhaust. Not quite as good as a Mercedes.

Trabant P 50 in Museum Berlin - 2016Buch-t, CC BY-SA 3.0 DE , Wikimedia Commons

Any Edsel

The Ford Motor company put $400 million into creating Edsel, a brand named after Henry Ford's own son hoping to compete with brands like Buick and Oldsmobile. Instead, it was such a flop that today Edsel Ford's name is synonymous with "failure".

Light blue Edsel Corsair - 1959Greg Gjerdingen, CC BY 2.0, Wikimedia Commons

Chevrolet Corvair

The Corvair was supposed to be Chevy's version of the Volkswagen Beetle—then the crashes started. Turns out, the thing handled terrible, and over 100 lawsuits ended up being filed against General Motors over it.

Light grey Chevrolet Corvair Monza - 1964Greg Gjerdingen, CC BY 2.0, Wikimedia Commons

Hillman Imp

A competitor of the Mini, the Hillman Imp failed to sell, turning into a fiasco that its manufacture, the Rootes Group, folded after nearly 50 years of business, becoming part of Chrysler Europe in 1967.

Light gren Hillman Imp - 1968SG2012, CC BY 2.0, Wikimedia Commons

Subaru 360

Entrepreneur Malcolm Bricklin thought he had a hit on his hands when he brought the Subaru 360 to North America. Maybe the slogan, "Cheap and ugly does it!"

Apparently not. The 360 was a commercial failure and remains one of the worst cars Consumer Reports has ever tested.

White Subaru_360 Model K111 - 1958Mytho88, CC BY-SA 3.0, Wikimedia Commons

VAZ-2101

If you ask Jeremy Clarkson, he'll call the Soviet-built VAZ-2101 "simply the worst car in the world". It was terrible in essentially every category—and believe it or not, it's the third best-selling car of all time, after the Toyota Corolla and the Ford Model T.

Light grey VAZ 2101 - 1972Berthold Werner, CC BY-SA 3.0, Wikimedia Commons

AMC Gremlin X

One critic said that for the Gremlin, AMC "basically whacked off the rear of the AMC Hornet with a cleaver". It looked weird, it drove terribly, and it's name is still a joke even today.

Front right side view of a 1977 AMC Gremlin with X package on the roadChristopher Ziemnowicz, Wikimedia Commons

Chevrolet Vega Coupe

The Chevy Vega actually won Motor Car Trend of the Year in 1971—but then the problems started. By the end of the decade, so many had broken down that junkyards stopped taking them. You literally couldn't even throw your Vega in the trash!

Chevrolet Vega GT - 1974Michael, Flickr

Ford Pinto

The Pinto actually did pretty well when it was first released...then people realized that it could catch on fire if someone rear-ended you thanks to a flaw in the gas tank design. 

"Tendency to burst into flames" definitely makes you a contender for "Worst Car Of All Time". 

B&W image of Ford Pinto - 1971dfirecop, Flickr

Morris Marina

When the Morris Marina came out in 1971, it used engines from the 50s and suspension from the 40s. It went from concept to production in just three years and let's just say it SHOWS.

Morris Marina Dl 1.8 Front - 1974Vauxford, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons

Vauxhall Viva Firenza, Canadian model

When the Volkswagen Beetle and Toyota Corolla started getting popular in Canada, General Motors decided to import the Vauxhall Firenza.

They ran terribly, spare parts were impossible to get, and Canadian used car dealerships refused to even take them within a year of their introduction.

Vauxhall Viva Firenza (Canada) - 1980Graham Robertson, Mr.choppers, CC BY 2.0, Wikimedia Commons

Lancia Beta

Just how bad were the rust problems on the Lancia Beta? The bad press around the Beta—plus the rumor that Lancia built the cars with ill-gotten Soviet steel—was so bad in the UK that Lancia stopped selling cars in Britain entirely because of it.

Yellow Lancia Beta HPELuc106, Wikimedia Commons

Reliant Robin

The three-wheeled car only existed in Britain because of a tax-loophole that considered them motorcyles. Because of it, the Robin was a huge success and remains a cultural icon in the UK—even though it's also a national joke for how terrible it is.

Mr. Bean though...

Blue Reliant Robin parked outside.Edoderoo, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons

Leyland P76

The Leyland P76 is widely considered the worst Australian car ever released—but to be honest it never had a chance thanks to the 1973 oil crisis. Still, going from "Car of the Year" in 1973 to out of production in 1975 is pretty rough...

Red Leyland P76 Executive - 1974Sicnag, CC BY 2.0, Wikimedia Commons

Ford Mustang II coupe

The Ford Mustang II isn't THAT bad—but when you call yourself a Mustang when you're really a Pinto, people aren't going to be happy with you. Car and Driver called it one of the most embarrassing cars of all time.

Blue Ford Mustang II outside.Alexandre Prévot, CC BY-SA 2.0, Wikimedia Commons

AMC Pacer

AMC was really sure they'd come up with a radical new concept when they released the bubble-shaped Pacer. Instead they made one of the most derided cars in history. It was good enough for Wayne and Garth though.

Amc Pacer Dl Coupe In Two-Tone Brown Ext-View - 1979Christopher Ziemnowicz, Wikimedia Commons

Bricklin SV-1

Malcolm Bricklin thought he was the next Henry Ford when he named his automotive company after himself. He got $4.5 million in government funding. The only problem? He didn't really know what he was doing.

The SV-1 looked neat, but it was extremely poorly made. It went out of production after just over a year.

Brown Bricklin SV-1 - 2007Thomas doerfer, CC BY-SA 3.0, Wikimedia Commons

Triumph TR7

Triumph was on its last legs when they released the TR7, and they were clearly swinging for the fences with the bizarre curve built into the sides. It was ridiculed for its looks, labor issues meant they were built terribly, and ended up being one of the last cars ever released under the near 100-year-old Triumph brand.

Light green Triumph TR7 - 1978Steve Glover, Flickr

Chevrolet Chevette

It took the Chevette nearly 20 seconds to hit 60mph. CNN called it "pathetic". Critics have said it permanently damaged Chevrolet's reputation. But at least when you owned one, you could tell everyone you drove a 'Vette.

Chevrolet Chevette 1600 Hatchback - 1978Chamelfo Ropatras, CC BY-SA 2.0, Wikimedia Commons

1981 Oldsmobile Cutlass Cruiser Diesel

The 1973 oil crisis pushed brands to introduce diesel cars as quickly as possible. To do that, General Motors just put diesel engines on the same blocks as gasoline engines. 

The result was cars like the Oldsmobile Cutlass Cruiser Diesel: Unreliable lemons that damaged the reputation of diesel passenger cars in North America for over 30 years.

Oldsmobile Cutlass Cruiser Station Wagon - 1981Mr.choppers, CC BY-SA 3.0, Wikimedia Commons

Chevrolet Citation

Call it the Chevrolet Citation, the Pontiac Phoenix, the Oldsmobile Omega, the Buick Skylark, or just call it a lemon, because while GM sold 800,000 units in the first year...they soon got a record number of recalls for it's glaring build quality and safety issues.

Chevrolet Citation II - FrontIFCAR, Wikimedia Commons

1981 Cadillac Sedan DeVille, V8-6-4 Engine

Another "great idea gone wrong," four of the cylinders in Cadillac's newest V8 engine could be deactivated while cruising to save fuel. Cool idea! It works so horribly they discontinued it after a single year.

1980 Cadillac Sedan DeVilleThat Hartford Guy, CC BY-SA 2.0, Wikimedia Commons

DMC DeLorean

The build-quality was suspect, the looks were bizarre, the performance was lackluster, and the pricetag was exorbitant—but none of that mattered when the DeLorean hits 88mph...

John DeLorean and his car - 1972James Vaughan, Flickr

North American Renault Fuego

Car and Driver said the Renault Fuego was "shaped like a walrus with gas" (pun intended?). Even worse, being a European import, if it broke down on you—which it was definitely going to—you were pretty much out of luck.

1982 Renault Fuego 1.7 GtsKieran White, CC BY 2.0, Wikimedia Commons

Cadillac Cimarron

The Cadillac Cimarron was basically a Chevy Cavalier with some fancy trim...at twice the price. This wasn't just bad, it was offensive.

Listen to auto critic Dan Neil: "Everything that was wrong, venal, lazy and mendacious about GM in the 1980s was crystallized in this flagrant insult to the good name and fine customers of Cadillac. ... This bit of temporizing nearly killed Cadillac and remains its biggest shame."

1985-1988 Cadillac Cimarron 2.8IFCAR, Wikimedia Commons

Chevrolet Camaro

What if they offered a Camaro with a 90 horsepower, 4 cylinder engine and a 3-speed automatic transmission? It sounds like a joke, and when they actually did it in 1982, that's exactly what it was.

Red Chevrolet Camaro - 1982Nick Ares, CC BY-SA 2.0, Wikimedia Commons

Holden Camira

The Holden Camira's engines would start smoking, if you used the AC your engine would overheat—in Australia—and the doors would fill with water if it rained.

Red 1987 Holden JE Camira SLi 2000 sedanGrant Baverstock, CC BY 2.0, Wikimedia Commons

Renault Alliance

Car and Driver actually apologized for putting the Renault Alliance on their 10 Best of 1983 list, saying, "The Alliance proved that Wisconsin workers could assemble a Renault with the same indifference to quality that was a hallmark of the French automotive industry".

Red Renault Alliance from 1983Thesupermat, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons


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