10 Most Terrifying Vehicle Manufacturing Defects

Ford's Most Famous Fires
The 1971 to 1975 Ford Pinto was recalled in 1978 because the gas tank could rupture in the event of a rear-end collision. Mardis Coers/Contributor/Getty Images

When you look at this list, you realize Ford and fire have been fighting it out for decades. One of the most famous recalls of all time involved the 1971 to 1975 Ford Pinto (and don't forget its friend, the nearly identical Mercury Bobcat!), which was recalled in 1978 because the gas tank could rupture in the event of a rear-end collision. That's terrifying enough to make this list, but the truly terrifying thing was the attitude of Ford brass at the time. They crunched the numbers and realized it was cheaper to pay settlements to people who were injured or killed by the defect than it was to redesign the fuel tank and do a recall to replace it. They probably didn't figure in the cost of public outrage in that meeting.

Author's Note: 10 Most Terrifying Vehicle Manufacturing Defects

When tasked with finding 10 terrifying car defects, I learned that there is something like 500 recalls every year in recent years. Most of them are really, really, really not terrifying at all. They're almost all little fixes; cheap and easy things. Manufacturers have finally learned (though not GM, apparently) that it's a lot easier to bring people and their cars into the dealership for a wee repair-and-replace maneuver than it is to wait for things to go horribly wrong on the highway. Some of the biggest recalls in history were also decidedly unscary, like Honda's recall of seatbelt buckles, for instance. Little pieces would break off and fall inside the slot, and then the buckle would get stuck. That seems inconvenient and, maybe at worst, frustrating. Not terrifying. Hardly the stuff of horror movies.

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