Ah, the proverbial lemon. At one time or another we’ve all purchased a wreck of an automobile that just doesn’t ever quite work right. Over the years we learn the hard way to change the oil and maintain the brakes in order to extend the life of our vehicles. Even so, the fact is not all cars are created equally. Despite our best intentions and rigorous maintenance schedules, some cars are just pieces of junk. Manufacturing flaws, poor designs, or poor quality control all take some of the blame. Some of these marvels of engineering aren’t just bad – they’re dangerous. Here are ten of the worst vehicles ever constructed – hopefully yours isn’t on this list.
10 1955 Dodge La Femme
Ah, the 1950s. A nostalgic time when men were men and they degraded women on a regular basis with outdated ideas like – hey, what women really need is their very own car because the ones we design for men just won’t work for them! Thus was born the Dodge La Femme – a true pink and white painted gem that was basically a Dodge Royal Lancer (another spectacular vehicle!) This wondrous machine included pink seats, a rain cape, a matching purse loaded with all kinds of womanly “needs” and an umbrella. Amazingly this vehicle just didn’t sell that well. Plus, you know, it was basically a Royal Lancer which wasn’t exactly a piece of finely tuned engineering itself. The La Femme was sold for only two years before someone probably thought, “hey, maybe women can drive these other cars we’ve been selling?”
9 1982 Cadillac Cimarron
The 1980s was not a great time for American auto manufacturers and the Cimarron is a prime example of this ineptitude. The Cimarron is nothing more than a Chevrolet Cavalier with a bit nicer clothing. If this sounds like a bad idea it’s because it is. The Cavalier was never a great car in its own right, but changing the body and calling it a Cadillac was a crime. Shockingly, the Cimarron never sold well. Worse – the car was so bad it nearly put Cadillac into an early grave. Luckily we all recovered, but the Cimarron lives on in some dank parking garage pretending to be a real car and telling the other vehicles that, “no really, I am Cadillac! Look, it says so right here on my hood!”
8 1974 Mustang II
Mustang owners despise this car – and rightly so. It’s been giving Mustang a bad name since it was first released into the world in the mid-1970s. The Mustang II was a redesigned Pinto, complete with a rear-end installed gas tank that could inexplicably explode if you ever got rear-ended (but that almost never happens, right?) It was also low on power and muscle, because it arrived on the scene as the oil embargos were in full effect. So let’s recap. It’s a slow Pinto hidden in a Mustang wrapper and it might explode. Other than that it’s great.
7 2003 Saturn Ion
One would think that by the 2000s we’d have figured out a proper way to build vehicles. Engineers at Saturn apparently missed that class in college and after a heavy night of drinking and partying (we assume) they design this piece of garbage. The interior is just, for lack of a better word, idiotic. It’s poorly designed, uncomfortable and filled with a lot of cheap-looking plastic. And speaking of plastic, the exterior was covered with it. Driving was also an experience – and not a good one. It might be the worst care designed in the 21st century (though there’s another on this list that will beg to differ).
6 1958 Edsel Corsair
Here’s what the Edsel Owners Club (a group of fans, I might add) have to say about the Edsel Corsair, “The name Edsel has become synonymous with disaster and failure.” That quote comes from the people who actually like this car. A re-designed Mercury – the Edsel was hailed as a savior to the Cold War (seriously!) The front end was a disaster and everyone hated it. Ford spent in excess of $300 million (in the 1950s no less) designing this car and it was a complete and utter failure. The transmission had push-buttons on the steering wheel which resulted in a lot of accidental gear shifting while driving or trying to honk the horn. Not only was the car terrible, but even the name Edsel was a marketing disaster. Ford even supposedly shipped cars to dealers with missing parts and instructions on how to make them whole!
5 1981 DeLorean DMC-12
I have an idea. Let’s design a car that looks like a spaceship, name it after ourselves, construct it in a country filled with internal turmoil, and have it built by people who’ve never built cars before. How does that sound? A bit crazy? Yeah, that’s what we were thinking, but that’s exactly how the DeLorean was put together. Granted, John Z. DeLorean was a pretty famous auto designer who already had a lot of success with his Pontiac GTO and running GM, but his individual achievements aside, this automobile was so not good. Drivers caught inside during an electrical failure were trapped since you couldn’t open the gull-wing doors at all without power. The car was notorious for leaking in the rain, and was surprisingly slow to accelerate. Oh, and John DeLorean himself was eventually caught in a crazy money-laundering scheme. The Back to the Future movie franchise actually revitalized interest in this disaster of a car. Newfound fans were often shocked at how cheaply they could get one – but they soon found out what a mess the DeLorean truly was.
4 1957 Trabant P50
The Trabant might just be a product of its upbringing. It was conceived and built in East Germany during a turbulent time by a highly unmotivated workforce working in poor and underfunded conditions. The Trabant’s body was constructed from a product called Duroplast – which sounds pretty impressive but it was actually wood and cotton fiber turned into plastic. Exterior panels might fall off at high speeds, but that was unlikely since the two-cycle engine contained only 18 horsepower! The engine required an oil and gas mix (you know, like the chainsaw in your garage) and it belched black smoke when it was turned on. Most consider the gear system to be one of the worst ever put into a car. Unfortunately, this was the only car available in East Germany under the communist government regime. The waiting list was 10 years long!
3 2001 Pontiac Aztek
The Pontiac Aztek’s claim to fame is a simple one – it killed Pontiac. Sure, Pontiac was on the downswing and it may not have recovered at all, but putting this utterly hideous vehicle on the road just gave the company a heart attack. There was nothing appealing about the exterior of the Aztek. It was plastic and bulky and ugly. Oddly enough, the exterior was its best feature. The Aztec drove like pontoon. Its interior was utter crap and it wasn’t even cheap to purchase. No other car on this list can boast that it murdered a car company. But it was in Breaking Bad.
2 1971 Chevrolet Vega
We’d like to blame John Z. DeLorean for this one as well, since he was running General Motors at the time, but we just can’t because DeLorean had nothing to do with the Vega – he inherited this problem. And what a problem it was. The engine couldn’t hold oil. The front end actually fell off eight miles into a test drive, and most of the fenders rusted out after only a year in the winter (and in some cases in places that never got snow.) The engine got so hot it warped the heads and destroyed head gaskets. During the construction of the Vega there was an employee dispute and later on some employees admitted to sabotaging the production lines! One thing the Vega did get right – it actually was so bad that it helped the popularity of foreign imports. We’re pretty sure that was not GMs intention when it released this piece of crap.
1 1987 Yugo GV
Someone thought it was a good idea to take a Fiat and ship it to Siberia for a “make-over” and then release it into the world for a low, low price. It just wasn’t. The Yugo GV (GV stood for good value, by the way) was just a tire fire of a disaster in every sense of the word. The Yugo was small and often didn’t work – other than that it was a pretty nice car. The electrical system was probably designed by a twelve-year-old as a shop class project. The construction was shoddy, to say the least. The only good thing about a Yugo was that they were light – which made pushing them when they broke down pretty easy.