Even when fresh off the lot, these cars were a mess. And not in an “I’m not used to this new car” kind of way. No, these cars had standard features such as exploding fuel tanks, fried electrical circuits and systems so complicated that even mechanics couldn’t fix them.
After years of poor sales, expensive lawsuits and probably the highest car insurance rates the world has ever seen, these vehicles have earned their legendary status.
What was supposed to be a radically innovative vehicle became the most famous car flop of all time. It’s the Edsel, and it’s a mess.
Ford decided they needed to squash their competitor, General Motors, so they created a mysterious ad campaign: “The Edsel is Coming.” Its production was shrouded in secrecy and the hood ornament was the only detail released to the public. Record numbers of people flocked to see the unveiling on “E-Day” (September 4, 1957), but all the hype left them horribly disappointed.
The Edsel did have some really cool features, like a push-button “Teletouch” transmission shifting system and a “rolling dome” speedometer, but it was also the most expensive car on the market. In a recession, that’s not good news. And those who did fork over for an Edsel found that the car was just plain terrible. Poorly made, gas-guzzling and kinda ugly. Mechanics couldn’t even fix them because they were so complicated. All of this spelled the end of the Edsel era. Only 118,287 were ever made, and only 10,000 survive today.
Back in 1899, horses were a big deal. So big, in fact, that people went to great lengths to conceal the introduction of non-horse vehicles. The theory behind the Horsey Horseless is that a live horse would see the head and think, “Oh, it’s just another horse,” and mind his own business. And by the time he figured out it wasn’t really a horse, the carriage would be long gone.
The Pinto was first introduced on September 11, 1970, in the time when teeny tiny Japanese imports were all the rage. Ford thought teeny tiny cars were a fabulous idea, so they jumped on board with the Pinto, which cost less than $2000 and weighed less than 2000 lbs.
Sounds great, right? Well, it was until 1977. That year’s model had an unfortunate structural defect that caused the fuel tank to be punctured in rear-end collisions, which resulted in flames and explosions. Someone even died and a 13-year-old boy nearly burned to death. A recall reinforced the structure between the rear panel and the tank, but the damage was done. The Pinto was pulled in 1980.
The 1961 Amphicar, produced by the German Quandt Group, seemed to have a lot going for it. It drove okay on land, was surprisingly maneuverable in water, and didn’t look too bad. So what was the problem? It wasn’t watertight. If the bilge pump couldn’t keep up, the Amphicar sank. Oops.
Although the Aztek is actually a really cool crossover with fun accessories like a tent/mattress package with a built-in air compressor, consumers couldn’t see past its ugly exterior. Pontiac called it “Xtreme styling,” which is a politically correct way of saying it’s hideous. In 2007, Time magazine called it one of the worst cars of all time, and in 2010, the magazine went even further and named it one of the 50 worst inventions of all time. The Aztek couldn’t survive the constant ridicule and was pulled in 2005 after only 4 years of production.
At the time of its production, between 1981-82, the DeLorean was overpriced, underpowered and super ugly. It’s still super ugly, but at least little movie called “Back to the Future” made it cool. The movie didn’t come out until 3 years after production stopped, so the DeLorean was still doomed. Only 9,000 cars were ever sold, but 6,500 still exist. You can thank Michael J Fox for that.
The first Yugo was handmade in 1978, and even with the help of machines, the quality never got any better. Somehow, despite the terrible engine and the electrical system’s tendency to sizzle and cause necessary parts to fall off, 141,511 cars were sold in the US from 1985 to 1991. Maybe it’s because carpet was listed as a “standard feature.” Who knows.