The 25 Worst Cars Of All Time

By: Jack Sackman
Portrait of a man driving his car in a very angry look. On the windows you can see the movement, and theres a crash on the frontal glass photo by Rubén Chase Carbó / Getty Images

Not every car that is designed, manufactured and marketed to the public is a winner. In fact, automotive companies are as likely to roll a dud off the assembly line as a success.

Whether it is an ugly design, poor engineering or a plain old lemon that turns off consumers, the history of the automobile is littered with some real stinkers over the years. Many of them now infamous and forever burned in the collective memories of the public.


Here are 25 of the worst cars ever manufactured and purchased by people.

25. Bricklin SV1

The Bricklin SV1 car, which debuted in 1975, is a like a bad DeLorean DMC-12 but without a cool movie like Back to the Future to redeem its reputation. Designed as a “car of the future” by smooth-talking businessman Malcolm Bricklin, the SV1s most distinguishing feature was its 100-pound gullwing doors similar to those featured on the DeLorean. Billed at auto shows as “a safer car of the future,” the acronym SV1 actually stands for “Safety Vehicle 1.” However safety doesn’t seem to mesh with this vehicle’s body, which was made entirely out of plastic – the same type of plastic found in Playschool furniture situated in Kindergarten classes everywhere. Other safety features included compressible bumpers and the removal of both a lighter and ashtrays from the car’s interior. Unfortunately this car, plastic and all, proved to be extremely heavy and the weight limited the V8 engine’s performance. In the end, fewer than 3,000 Bricklin SV1s were made, and today the car remains a curiosity among some automotive collectors.


24. The Trabant

The Lada is the car most often associated with Communist Russia in the 1970s and 1980s. But ask any Russian who lived through those totalitarian times, and they’ll likely tell you that it was the Trabant that most comrades drove during the Communist regime in Eastern Europe. And many automotive experts claim that it was the Trabant that gave Communism a bad name throughout the Western hemisphere. Powered by a weak two-stroke engine that maxed out at a paltry 18 horsepower, the Trabant was a car constructed entirely of recycled materials. The body was made out of a recycled fiberglass. Designed in the 1950s, the Trabant was billed by the government of the time as East Germany’s answer to the Volkswagen Beetle on the other side of the Berlin Wall. It was known throughout Eastern Europe as a “people’s car.” Sadly, Trabants smoked like a trash can fire – that is, if they ran at all. Oh yeah, this car also didn’t have brake lights or turn signals. (Details, details). If you can find it, archival news footage exists of thousands of East Germans driving their Trabants across the border when the Berlin Wall fell in 1989. Most of these cars were quickly abandoned by their owners once in West Germany. Maybe they went shopping for a Volkswagen?


23. The Chevy Chevette

Where to start with this automotive crisis? Basically a cross between a Pinto and a Gremlin (yuck), the Chevy Chevette descended on unsuspecting motorists in 1976 and was quickly reviled by anyone with good taste. Designed as a hatchback with a snout, the Chevette is widely viewed as one of the most unloved and ugly cars to ever roll off an assembly line. While some other automotive misfires such as the Pacer and the Yugo actually have fan clubs devoted to them, the Chevette is considered by most people as a car that is best left forgotten. A three-door hatchback that never quite caught on with the public, the Chevette had a 51 horsepower engine and a four-speed manual transmission, and not much else. The engine was loud and tinny, and always sounded like it was about to heave its last gasp. While the Chevette may be remembered fondly by some people who drove one in college in the late 1970s and early 1980s, most people remember this car for spending more time in the repair shop than on the road.


22. Plymouth Prowler

There have been some great hot rods and speedsters over the years. The Plymouth Prowler, released in 1997, is not one of them. By the mid-1990s, car designers worldwide had access to powerful new computer tools that enabled them to design new cars quickly and easily using a computer mouse and not much more. From this quantum leap in design technology came the Prowler, a retro-roadster/speedster hybrid that was meant to look futuristic with an open-wheel frontend and low-slung hot-rod fuselage. While this design might have looked cool on an old Mac computer screen, it did not translate well to the showroom. Chrysler went all-in on the Prowler in the mid-1990s and stuck its standard 3.5 liter V6 engine under the bonnet. Unfortunately, this engine was only capable of producing a lackluster 250 horsepower, which disappointed people who expected so much more from the car. The Prowler also lacked a manual transmission, which made it almost impossible to lay down hot rubber. The result was a car that looked weird and disappointed everyone who test drove it.


21. Pontiac Aztek

A truly reviled crossover vehicle is the Pontiac Aztek, which was so badly designed that it illicited gasps from the crowd when it was unveiled at the 2001 Detroit Auto Show. Meant to be a hybrid car/SUV, the Aztek succeeded in being neither and proved to be a major let down in every conceivable way. Regarded by General Motors as one of the company’s biggest blunders ever, the Aztek was revised, cost-shaved, and changed so many times before it was released that what was originally a cool looking crossover ended up being a bulky, plastic mess. The design was labeled ugly, and the vehicle was quickly dismissed, which was a bit of a shame as there may have been a useful crossover somewhere in that debacle.


20. King Midget Model III

The name of this car alone should be a clear indication that it was a stinker. Released in 1957, this odd looking car was designed by Claud Dry and Dale Orcutt, two friends from Athens, Ohio who had an idea for a bare boned utility car that anyone could afford. They saw the King Midget as the antidote to the increasingly sophisticated and expensive cars that were emerging in the late 1950s. The designers likened the King Midget to an updated Model T or a U.S. version of the Russian made Lada. Versions of the King Midget were even sold as home-build kits for $500. That’s right, for 500 clams the car would be mailed to people in pieces so that they could assemble it themselves like a barbeque. Parts that were shipped included the frame, axles and sheet metal body panels. The good news is that any single-cylinder engine, sold separately, would power the car. The end result was basically one of those toy cars that people buy for their five-year-old at Toys R Us. Weirdly, the Midget Motors company survived and continued to develop cheap mini-cars until the late 1960s. The King Midget Model III was the company’s most popular nameplate, that is until government safety standards in the late 1960s banned it from use on highways. Bummer.


19. Zundapp Janus

For all their automotive and engineering successes, the German’s have produced some truly crappy cars over the decades. Few match the nightmare that was Zundapp Janus built in 1958. Coming out of Nuremberg, Germany, this truly strange looking tiny car was based on a Dornier prototype and powered by a 250 cc, 14 horsepower engine similar to those found in small motorcycles. Not surprising, this car had a top speed of only 50 miles per hour. Its unique selling feature, and the one most heavily marketed by the manufacturer, was the rear-facing bench seat, which meant passengers could watch the drivers in cars behind them make horrible faces as they screamed in frustration at how slow the Zundapp Janus was moving. Fortunately, consumers took a pass on this strange little car.


18. The Corvair

Rear-engine cars are great until you have to drive one. Lots of automotive manufacturers have experimented with cars that switch the trunk and the engine, but these cars have never really caught on for one main reason – putting the vehicle’s heaviest component behind the rear axle tends to cause cars to spin out. During World War II, Nazi officers in occupied Czechoslovakia were banned from driving the speedy rear engine Tatras because so many people were killed in the vehicle. But that didn’t prove to be a deterrent to Chevrolet, which launched the Corvair in 1961. While the engineers at Chevy made sure to include an air-cooled, flat-six engine in the back of the Corvair, similar to the engine design in Volkswagen Beetles, they neglected to spend the money needed to make the swing-axle rear suspension more manageable. Ralph Nader singled the Corvair out for special condemnation in his influential book Unsafe at Any Speed, noting that the Corvair’s single piece steering column could impale drivers in a frontend collision. Other problems with the Corvair included the fact that it leaked oil, its heating system released noxious fumes, and it was cramped inside.


17. Chrysler Imperial LeBaron

There are some other cars featured on this list that can be considered boats — one quite literally — but no car was a bigger boat than the Chrysler Imperial LeBaron. This car, released in 1971, was the Moby Dick of automotive boats, and it set the standard for the really long cars of the 1970s. The unholy child of a Chrysler New Yorker and the Dodge Monaco, the Imperial LeBaron goes down in automotive history for being one of the longest cars ever – measuring nearly 20 feet in length. It also boasted the longest fender in automotive history. Powered by Chrysler’s massive 440 cubic inch V8 engine, this car was also a two door. Yes, that’s right. Nearly 20-feet long and only a two door. The interior was also gruesome and was actually designed to remind people of the inside of a casino, if you can believe that. Sadly, Chrysler kept making versions of the humongous Imperial until 1983 when the model was scrapped for good.


16. Crosley Hotshot

Produced in 1949, the Crosley Hotshot was billed as America’s first postwar sports car. Americans quickly realized that they could do better. The Crosley Hotshot proved to be a hunk of junk. Weighing a catastrophic 1,100 lbs and just 145 inches long, the tiny-yet-pudgy Hotshot was both slow and dangerous. In fact, this car was featured in the classic 1961 driver’s education film Mechanized Death that was shown in high schools everywhere for a period of time. We suppose you can’t expect much from a car that was designed by a guy who previously manufactured radios for a living – that would be inventor Powel Crosley Jr. of Cincinnati. Sadly, the Hotshot bombed and the company that made it was out of business by 1952. Today, historians claim that what doomed the Hotshot was its engine, a dual-overhead cam .75 liter four cylinder that allowed people to only drive about 50 miles per hour. Not very sporty.

15. Waterman Aerobile

Any time a company sets out to design and build a “car of the future,” trouble is bound to follow. Such was the case with the Waterman Aerobile (or sometimes called the Arrowbile), a futuristic car/glider/airplane that looked crazy and served no practical purpose. The brainchild of inventor Waldo Waterman, this car was described by its inventor as a “roadable airplane.” In 1934, Waldo Waterman flew his first successful prototype, the “Arrowplane,” a high-wing monoplane that had tricycle wheels attached to it. On the ground, the wings folded against the fuselage like those of a fly Historians credit the Arrowplane as the first flying car. More than two decades later, Waldo Waterman claimed to have perfected his invention, which he then labeled the “Aerobile.” It was configured as a car with the prop engine in the back. Luckily consumers had enough common sense not to order an Aerobile, and Waldo Waterman’s one working car-plane eventually wound up in the Smithsonian Museum in Washington, D.C., where it can still be seen today.

14. Overland OctoAuto

Experimentation was the name of the game during the early years of the automotive industry. And that, apparently, extended to how many tires a car drove on. While four wheels quickly became the norm for cars made in the early part of the 20th century, some people just had to push the envelope and tinker with the car design. One such tinkerer was engineer Milton Reeves, who thought that six or eight wheels might provide a smoother ride than the typical four wheels. Welding some parts to a 1910 Overland car, and adding two additional axles and four more wheels, Milton Reeves created the “OctoAuto,” and proudly showed it off at the first Indianapolis 500 race. Of course the car proved to be quite a monster at more than 20 feet long. Milton Reeves received precisely zero orders for his invention, making the OctoAuto one of the great failures in automotive history. Like all good inventors though, Milton Reeves was not discouraged. A year later, in 1911, he came out with the “Sextauto,” which featured six wheels. This car was banned because its name included the word “sex” in it. Did we mention that Milton Reeves also invented the car muffler? So see, crazy people can do good things.

13. The Briggs and Stratton Flyer

Little more than a glorified go-cart, the Briggs and Stratton Flyer made in 1920 looks both laughably simple and incredibly dangerous today. It is the opposite of the opulent Rolls-Royce and Cadillacs that were the rage back in the roaring 1920s. The Briggs and Stratton Flyer, which is little more than a motorized plank of wood on bicycle wheels, contained no suspension, no bodywork, no windshield and no roof. It was open air all the way. It was also a five wheeled vehicle, with a rinky dink two horsepower engine driving a traction wheel on the back, similar to the outboard motor on a boat. The Flyer was claimed to have been an attempt to make the cheapest, most basic car possible. We think they succeeded.

12. The EV1

It may be a case that the EV1 was ahead of its time. But that doesn’t obscure the fact that General Motors made a major miscalculation with this electric car when it was issued in 1997. The early hype was that GM’s EV1 was the best electric vehicle anyone had ever seen, and it was poised to transform the automotive industry as we know it. Built to comply with California’s zero-emissions vehicle mandate, the EV1 promised to be fun to drive, reliable and good for the environment. But… the car did not live up to the hype. The battery technology at the time was nowhere near ready to compete against the tried and true piston-powered engine. The battery in the EV1 could not supply the range or durability required for the car to appeal to the automotive masses. Plus, the EV1 was super expensive to build and buy, which turned off consumers and led to GM killing the program. Ironically, General Motors, the company that had done more to advance electric vehicle technology than any other car manufacturer, became known, for a time, as the company that killed the electric car.

11. Amphicar

We’ve written about the amphicar before, yet it never ceases to amaze. Don’t get us wrong. We love innovation and crossover vehicles, and we’re in favour of multitasking. We just don’t really understand the fascination of having a car that can also double as a boat. Perhaps fittingly, the concept of an amphibious car came from Nazi Germany. The SS designed the “Schwimmwagen” in the 1940s, which was an early prototype of a car that could also travel through water. By the 1960s, designing an amphibious car was a bit of a holy grail in the auto industry and an obsession among engineers – kind of like landing a man on the moon. Turns out though that the Amphicar was both a crappy car and a crappy boat. With a top speed in water of just seven miles per hour, critics claimed they could swim faster than the boat. Also, the Amphicar was not really watertight and prone to sinking (bit of a deal breaker, sadly). Yet despite these design flaws, nearly 4,000 of these cars were built between 1961 and 1968. We blame the Amphicar’ s popularity on the fact that large numbers of people were taking acid in the 1960s.

10. Lincoln Continental Mark IV

When people talk about cars from the 1970s being boats, they are speaking of the Lincoln Continental Mark IV. You still see these cars featured in movies set in the 1970s. Long, slow and completely impractical, this gas guzzler was actually considered a luxury car back in the 1970s, complete with a shag upholstered interior. However, the Lincoln Continental Mark IVs were also known for having frequent mechanical problems and costing a fortune to fill with gas. Over time, the car earned the nickname ‘hunk of junk’ from the public and press. And just imagine trying to parallel park this thing. Yikes!

9. Reliant Robin

To be fair, we suppose that, at some point, a company somewhere was going to design a car with only three wheels. It just happened to be the Reliant Motor Company in England, which unveiled its three-wheeled Robin in 1973. And while it never caught on as hoped, Reliant did continue manufacturing variations on the three-wheeled Robin for 30 years until 2003. This is due to the fact that the car enjoyed a cult following of sorts among certain British motorists who were willing to look past the car’s instability. Having only one wheel in the front of the car made it literally tip over when taking a turn at more than 25 miles an hour or on an angle of 45 degrees. Many drivers could be seen on the side of English roads pushing this car right side up again. The Reliant Robin was innovative in other ways too. It was the first car ever made with a completely fiber glass body.

8. PT Cruiser Convertible

The PT Cruiser was never the hit that Chrysler hoped. After all, the car’s nickname was the ‘PT Loser.’ This was owing, in large part, to the fact that the car looked too big and boxy. It just wasn’t cool. The PT stands for ‘Personal Transport,’ which is itself a pretty bland name. Yet, the only thing haters of this vehicle loathe more than the original model of the PT Cruiser is the convertible version of the car. In a last ditch effort to give this car some sex appeal before discontinuing manufacturing of the PT Cruiser in 2010, Chrysler brought out a convertible model in 2005. And both critics and the public hated it. It basically looks like a PT Cruiser with the roof cut off of it. This is an example where design flaw overwhelmed all other aspects of a car. Not cool, Chrysler. Not cool.

7. Chrysler K-Car

Another doozy from Chrysler is the K-Car—specifically the Plymouth Reliant and Dodge Aries. These cars became synonymous with the term “cheap” and helped cement Chrysler’s reputation in the 1980s for making junky cars. Conceived of by then-Chrysler head honcho Lee Iacocca as a way to mass market a cheap car that would appeal to John Q. Public and help revive the fortunes of the then-floundering Chrysler, the K-cars did succeed in this goal—selling more than one million units of each model in the first year of production. And Motor Trend magazine did name the K-car its Car of the Year in 1981. Still, the K-car was nicknamed the ‘Poor Man’s Car’ and gained a reputation for having a raft of problems—from knobs that literally fell off to faulty transmissions and rusted out bodies. A cheap car made cheaply, the K-car has since become part of 1980s nostalgia and automotive folklore—for all the wrong reasons.

6. BMW X6

BMW has made few missteps over the years. However, the German car maker drove off the proverbial cliff with its X6 model. The problem with this car is that people aren’t sure what to make of it. Is it a sport utility vehicle, a luxury car, some type of weird hybrid? Nobody is quite sure. In its marketing push for this vehicle, BMW tried to coin a new class of vehicle, calling the X6 a “Sport Activity Vehicle,” or SAV for short. BMW executives claimed that this car was meant to drive like a sedan but have the grit of an off road vehicle. Sadly, the public was having none of it and the X6, and SAVs in general, never caught on with buyers. A second generation of this car debuted at the 2014 Paris Auto Show looking much more like a traditional SUV, or sport utility vehicle. Yet it remains to be seen if the newest version can reverse the fortunes of the X6.

5. DeLorean DMC-12

The DeLorean DMC-12 sports car will forever be linked to the Back to the Future film franchise, and remembered fondly as the time machine used by lead character Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) to travel throughout time. However, what moviegoers are quick to forget is that the DeLorean DMC-12 was used as a joke in the movie. Just seeing the DeLorean on the big screen was supposed to be funny due to the car’s infamous history. The model DMC-12 was the only car ever produced by the Delorean Motor Company, which went into operation in 1975 but had filed for bankruptcy and ceased operations by 1982. Founded by eccentric automobile executive John DeLorean, the company’s signature car was a huge flop owing to its stainless steel exterior and gull wing doors. It also featured a woefully weak engine that took more than 10 seconds to go from 0-60 miles an hour. The car was savaged by automotive critics, and, at a price tag of $25,000 in 1977, was considered too expensive by the public. It wasn’t until this infamous car was featured in 1985’s Back to the Future and its sequels that people began to look at the vehicle fondly.

4. AMC Gremlin

Released in 1970, the Gremlin was the car teenagers everywhere wished their parents didn’t own. A blatant attempt by American Motors Company to beat Ford and General Motors to the subcompact car market, the Gremlin has to go down in history as one of the ugliest designed cars ever. Featuring a long and low front end and a short hatchback in the rear, the Gremlin looks disproportionate from any angle. Cheap and poorly made, the Gremlin also featured vacuum-operated windshield wipers, a heavy six-cylinder motor and erratic handling due to the loss of suspension travel in the back. The Gremlin did have the distinction of being quicker than other subcompact cars, but that was little consolation to the people who drove this car and had to endure being the butt of jokes.

3. Peel Trident

Looking like something out of the Jetson’s cartoon show, the Peel Trident is one of those quasi-futuristic curiosities from the 1960s. Designed and built on the Isle of Man in 1966, the Trident was only four feet, two inches in length, giving it the claim as the world’s smallest car. That, sadly, was the only claim to fame for the Trident, which was completely impractical in every other respect. The Plexiglas roof amplified the rays of the sun and cooked the people inside who dared drive this tiny, weird looking car. It was also difficult to drive and a pain in the butt to park. Not to mention the fact that you could not fit more than one person in the vehicle. And what was with the name—Trident. Is that not the pitchfork held by the King of Atlantis? Just plain bizarre.

2. Yugo

The mother of all lemons has to be the Yugo. This catastrophe on wheels was imported into the United States from Soviet-controlled Yugoslavia in the mid-1980s as a car for cost-conscious Americans. This car was so cheap and shabbily put together that “carpet” was listed as a standard feature in the marketing brochure. In fact, this car was so prone to breaking down that there was a warmer on the back window of the Yugo designed to keep people’s hands warm while they pushed it. Seriously. The engines were known to explode, the electrical system routinely short circuited, and parts would just fall off for no apparent reason. Many insurance companies refused to insure this wreck of a car. No wonder the Yugo had a short lifespan in the United States.

1. Ford Pinto

Still the butt of jokes, the Ford Pinto is a classic terrible car. First manufactured in 1971, the Pinto had the distinction of bursting into flames during low-speed rear-end collisions—making it both a safety concern and the punchline of late night comedians everywhere. However, what really sealed the notorious reputation of the Pinto was a now-famous “memo” circulated within the Ford Motor Company that discussed a cost-benefit analysis that concluded it was more affordable to pay victim settlements related to the Pinto ($50 million) than to recall the cars and reinforce their rear ends ($120 million). The “Pinto Memo” as it came to be known became synonymous with callous corporate management decisions and bottom line accounting. A huge debacle any way a person looks at it.