9 Historically Horrible Cars

We live in an era with very few, if any, bad cars. Safety regulations, scathing magazine reviews, and pure market forces have pushed out just about all of the shamefully bad cars (and carmakers) from the American auto market. But those that don’t know their history are doomed to repeat it, so we’re here to provide a little reminder of some of the worst offenders.

There will be cars that we don’t get to, and some of the cars here you may have an affinity for. There’s no way we get to every horrible car in the history of the car, but this simply serves as a reminder—we live in pretty good times when it comes to new car ownership. Most of these cars were sold in the American car market, but one or two were sold abroad, yet so terrible, that it required placement on this list.

Yugo

9 Historically Horrible Cars

Perhaps the butt of more “bad car” jokes than we’d care to count. It is actually called the Zastava Koral, and was built in Serbia (the former Yugoslavia). Malcom Bricklin (the guid who made the SV-1) created the International Auto Importers to bring the Fiat X1/9 and 2000 Spider after they were discontinued. He wanted to expand the cars offered by IAI, and that included an economy hatchback. Thus the Koral came to the ‘States as a Yugo, and many a thrift-conscious were left with a sub-par vehicle and a certain future of repair bills.

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Ford Pinto

This is the car that many of you probably expected to find on this list. Though, there’s no sense beating a dead horse, but it needs to stand as an example of the challenges faced by American automakers in the early 1970s. Following years of unbridled power, they now had popular import cars to compete with, and quickly had to scale down vehicle size. With little experience in building compact cars and under serious pressure to deliver an answer, the American Big Three cranked out some real disappointments.

Chevrolet Vega

9 Historically Horrible Cars

Could you believe that this car was named Motor Trend’s Car of the Year in 1971?! The Vega was actually an ambitious car in a few ways. There was an inline four with unusual tappet cylinder heads, and there was even a Wankel rotary in the works. None made production, and the car suffered from numerous reliability and safety problems. Perhaps that’s what you get when you design a car with the focus on the bottom line to the point where they designed it to fit vertically in specially designed railroad cars. 

Smart Fortwo

9 Historically Horrible Cars

Has there ever been a more inappropriate name for a car? First off—you get so little in return for what you give up. It is supposed to be small so you get better fuel efficiency, but it gets 38 mpg. That was quite the feat when the car first came out, but in 2015, you can get an economy sedan that is actually comfortable with the same fuel economy. But hey, at least you can park it in tight spaces!

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Reliant Robin

Mercifully, this car was not originally sold the U.S., and it is hardly a car, but worth inclusion on this list. The Robin was popular in the UK, as it only required a motorcycle license to operate. But as exemplified by the Top Gear segment shown here, you’d have to have a death wish to want to drive one of these three-wheeled goblins.

Ford Mustang II

9 Historically Horrible Cars

Remember everything we said about the Ford Pinto? Imagine a car based on the Pinto, but sold to you the unfortunate consumer under the guise of being an iconic Ford Mustang. With the restrictions placed on cars due to fuel prices, we can understand Ford’s hands were tied. But the fact that there was a “II” in the name suggested Ford brass knew exactly what they were trying to shove off on the consumer.

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Ford Bronco II

9 Historically Horrible Cars

A pattern is starting to emerge. If it has a “II,” watch out. Based on the Ford Ranger platform, this 2-door SUV had the makings of something interesting. Too bad they were exceptionally roll-happy and the base 2.3-liter Mitsubishi engine made a miserable 86 horsepower.

Pontiac Aztek

9 Historically Horrible Cars

This car will eventually be something of a collector’s item. The combination of its reputation of being a generally ugly car, but also its appearance on Breaking Bad will keep this cringeworthy crossover for years to come. Just don’t forget that it is one of the ugliest cars of all time, and is trying to be an SUV, while built on a minivan platform.

Dodge Nitro

9 Historically Horrible Cars

Speaking of a vehicle trying to be something that it isn’t, the Dodge Nitro is supposed to be a “street-wise” SUV. It was built on the same platform as the second-generation Jeep Liberty, which was itself a departure from true SUV capability when compared to the first-gen Liberty. While the Liberty at least had a towing capacity of 5,000 pounds, the supposedly street-savvy Nitro only had a 2,000-pound capacity. Which one of these terrible cars do you love to hate?

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