50 Worst Cars of All Time


The Awful, Hideous, Heinous Lumps That Shaped Our World

If there weren't bad cars, how could the world appreciate the good ones? We've ranked the top cars you can buy and given awards to the best of the best, so we thought we'd revisit the worst of the worst. Some of them were fragile. Many were dynamically iffy. A lot were underpowered. And a few would melt into a pile of rust before your eyes.

Terrible, for this list's purposes, is loosely defined as a car that shaped American automotive culture around its bad example. That doesn't mean that all the cars here were big sellers, only that their undeniable stink made everyone notice.

The diabolical nature of these machines, however, is that there's a good idea at the heart of all of them. But it's a good idea betrayed by half-hearted engineering, haphazard quality or cynical compromises.

50. 1978 Dodge Challenger: A Mitsubishi Galant coupe that wore the name of a muscle car legend. The top-of-the-line engine? A 2.6-liter four-cylinder making — wait for it — 105 hp. The base 2.0-liter puked out only 77 ponies.

49. 1993 Ford Aspire: Built by Kia, sold by Ford and ignored by everyone. Basically a 1.3-liter four-cylinder engine and four wheels bolted to a bubble made from repurposed plastic straws and disappointment.

48. 1989 Ford Thunderbird: It was too big, much too heavy, and too expensive to produce. Initially available only with V6 engines, it was slow, too. It's the car that killed the T-Bird.

47. 1987 Sterling 825: A rebadged Rover 800 series based on the V6-powered Acura Legend, but without the reliability or resistance to rust. Paint hardly stuck to it and the electrics lasted a few weeks if you were lucky.

46. 1957 Renault Dauphine: The rear-engine, 32-hp Dauphine-made VW's Beetle seems quick. According to Road & Track, it took 22.3 seconds for the 1962 Dauphine to reach 60 mph.

45. 1983 Plymouth Caravelle: A stretched K-car that no one noticed when it was in production and no one misses today. Plain in every way, it's the most boring car ever made.

44. 1982 Chevrolet Camaro Sport Coupe: The base third-generation Camaro was powered by the 2.5-liter "Iron Duke" four-cylinder rated at 90 hp. That's 90, thrashing, noisy, crude horses — total — in a Camaro.

43. 2003 Chevrolet SSR: Spoiled by its ridiculously heavy retractable hardtop and underwhelming TrailBlazer chassis, the SSR could have been great. Instead it was grating.

42. 1974 Ford Gran Torino Elite: Desperate to grab some of the personal luxury market, Ford swiped Mercury's Cougar coupe sheet metal, gave it an uglier nose and then misnamed it. This was cynical rebadging at its worst.

41. 1981 Maserati Biturbo: Kind of like a BMW 3 Series, only hideously unreliable and powered by a twin-turbocharged 2.5-liter V6 that only made 185 hp. Interior leather on these ages faster than room-temperature cheese.

40. 1976 Chevrolet Chevette: Instead of trying to build a world-class small car of its own, Chevy opts for a cheesy, primitive Opel design that was a decade out of date. Yet it stayed in production through 1987.

39. 1980 Chevrolet Citation: Chevrolet's first front-wheel-drive machine proved to be legendarily unreliable and one of the most recalled cars of all time.

38. 1955 Dodge La Femme: A Custom Royal Lancer that came with pink trim and a special pink calfskin purse. Turns out the target market knew more about cars than the product planners thought, and didn't bite. Discontinued after the '56 model year.

37. 2006 Saab 9-7X: The only Saab ever built in Moraine, Ohio, was a gussied-up Chevy TrailBlazer. It's definitive proof that GM's ownership of Saab was completely misbegotten.

36. 1968 Volkswagen 411/412: The large, awkward Type 4 was the last gasp for rear-mounted air-cooled engines at VW. But it was so lousy that the company replaced it with the sweet-natured Passat.

35. 1979 Mercedes-Benz 300SD: As the first turbocharged diesel sedan, it's important. But the five-cylinder engine only made 110 hp and it had a big S-Class to haul around.

34. 2006 Dodge Caliber SRT-4: A lesson in how to build a bad performance car: Start with a bad car. It replaced the wonderful Neon SRT-4 but was too big and too ugly.

33. 1975 Bristol 412: Britain's most hideous bespoke gentleman's express. The Zagato-built body rode on an ancient Bristol chassis, with a Chrysler 383-cubic-inch V8 tasked with outrunning the nasty looks.

32. 1978 Chevrolet C/K Diesel: The dread Oldsmobile diesel made it into Chevy's half-ton pickup, putting out all of 125 hp. The same black-smoke magic that ruined GM's cars did the same for the pickups.

31. 1923 Chevrolet Series M: Chevy's experiment with air-cooled engines used individual cylinders fitted with copper fins. About 500 were built and virtually all were recalled and scuttled.

30. 2002 GEM: Basically a golf cart built under a special set of "low-speed" vehicle rules, this electric vehicle was nonetheless allowed to operate on public roads alongside real cars.

29. 1970 Triumph Stag: Seemingly infinite problems with its 3.0-liter SOHC V8 engine and dim Lucas electric parts meant this four-seat roadster didn't do much for the reputation of British cars in the '70s.

28. 1950 Crosley Hotshot: The best name ever put on a terrible car. The 750cc engine's block wasn't cast, but welded together from various pieces. It's amazing so much ugly could live in a car this small.

27. 1971 Plymouth Cricket: Plymouth's response to the Pinto and Vega was a rebadged Hillman Avenger. It was a flimsy disaster with too little power and a tendency to make like a Mission Impossible briefing and self-destruct.

26. 1954 Nash Metropolitan: A showcase for the worst of 1950s design and engineering with haphazard assembly. It was worryingly tipsy around corners, so it was good that the 1.2-liter engine kept it slow.

25. 1977 Lincoln Versailles: Responding to the challenge of the Cadillac Seville, Lincoln took the Mercury Monarch, added a Continental bump on the trunk and a Mark IV grille up front, and tried to pass it off as sophisticated.

24. 1976 Dodge Aspen/Plymouth Volare: At Chrysler's nadir, it built these strictly conventional compact cars that proved a magnet for rust and were subject to a long series of recalls.

23. 2007 Chevrolet Malibu Maxx SS: Kind of a station wagon, but with less utility and style. A low point for Chevy's SS badge.

22. 1990 Infiniti M30 Convertible: Spongy suspension, a lackluster drivetrain and a soggy structure were enough to doom the M30.

21. 1996 Ford Taurus: The bulbous blobular redesign of Ford's best-selling sedan effectively ended its life in the retail market. Weird when it didn't need to be.

20. 1987 Cadillac Allante: A pointless, front-drive roadster that was ludicrously expensive thanks to Pininfarina building its bodies in Italy and then air-shipping them in 747s to Detroit for completion. An embarrassing attempt to take on the Mercedes SL.

19. 1978 Fiat Strada/Ritmo: A disposable front-drive subcompact. It might not be a coincidence that Fiat bowed out of the U.S. market for 28 years starting in 1983.

18. 1975 AMC Pacer: Unfortunately, a desperate AMC bet on weird and wide small car with a fishbowl greenhouse and archaic six-cylinder drivetrain. When you talk about this car, you have to start all your sentences with "unfortunately."

17. 2011 Aston Martin Cygnet: A $47,000 restyled Toyota (er, Scion) iQ. Aston needed it to meet EU fleet emissions standards but didn't bother to make it at all "Aston."

16. 1982 Renault Fuego: A fragile front-drive coupe that rusted quickly into dust or burst into flames amid random electrical fires. It was recalled for steering wheels that came off in drivers' hands.

15. 1971 Ford Pinto: Built to a $2,000 base price, the subcompact Pinto infamously lacked protection for its rear-mounted fuel tank. Ford wound up paying out millions in judgments.

14. 1989 Chrysler TC by Maserati: A haphazard combination of front-drive K-car bits, indifferent assembly, and a two-seat roadster body that was indistinguishable from a LeBaron. It's both the worst Maserati and worst Chrysler ever.

13. 1974 Reliant Robin: This ludicrously unstable three-wheeler turned turtle on its plastic body at the slightest provocation. Fortunately, with a 750cc engine, it was underpowered, too.

12. 1983 Renault Alliance: An AMC-built, Americanized version of the front-drive, 60-hp Renault 9 subcompact — complete with monochrome paint and whitewalls. Worse, in '85 came a convertible so droopy the doors often couldn't close.

11. 1917 Chevrolet Series D: Chevy's first V8 could only manage 36 hp — less than the brand's four-cylinder. Killed after 1918, the next Chevy V8 came a full 37 years later.

10. 1979 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme Diesel: As bad as the 5.7-liter Olds diesel V8 was, the 4.3-liter version was worse. Sold only in the '79 Cutlass, the 4.3 diesel made 90 hp before shattering into shrapnel.

9. 1957 Trabant: East Germany's two-cylinder, two-stroke disaster somehow survived the fall of the Berlin Wall. It was literally made from old clothes and glue.

8. 1982 Cadillac Cimarron: A cynical attempt to compete against BMW with a redecorated version of the front-drive, four-cylinder Chevrolet Cavalier.

7. 1958 Edsel Corsair: Ford went hunting for a market niche that wasn't there with a redecorated Mercury that had been beaten with an ugly stick. The legendary flop of all automotive flops.

6. 2003 Saturn Ion: Shockingly incompetent to drive and with an interior to match. Kick it and your foot might get stuck in the gaps between the plastic body panels.

5. 1971 Chevrolet Vega: An engine that couldn't hold oil, in a car built with contempt for its buyers. It's the car that invited Americans to buy Toyotas and Hondas. However, it did make a good Pro Stock racer.

4. 1987 Yugo: This even cheaper version of the Fiat 127 seemed like it couldn't possibly be as awful as its low price suggested. But it was!

3. 1955 BMW Isetta: Originally designed by Italy's Iso, BMW built the, single-cylinder 12-hp, one-door Isetta for seven years. Parked nose-in to a wall, the door wouldn't open. The whole car was a crumple zone.

2. 1974 Ford Mustang II: Built upon the spindly bones of the Pinto, this shrunken, malformed pony is instantly appalling to Mustang lovers. Unfortunately, it was hugely popular with buyers stuck with serial fuel crises.

1. 2001 Pontiac Aztek: It may be cliche, but it's hard to argue with. Drive one and you quickly realize that the Aztek's exterior design is its best feature. It's the very worst car of all time because it's the only car on the list to kill an 84-year-old car company. The Aztek drove the biggest and last nail into Pontiac's plastic-clad coffin.


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