Top Ten bad idea domestic cars
Here’s a list of our Top Ten bad idea domestic cars. Think we missed something? Have a comment, a concern, or an idea for a Top Ten article? Let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This was a real horse race: there have been so many bad-idea cars built in the U.S. You couldn't swing a dead cat over your head in a supermarket parking lot in the mid-1970s to mid-1980s and not hit half a dozen of them. But our job was to find 10 standouts for this list, and here they are:
10. 1886 Stanley Steamer — Several manufacturers produced steam-powered automobiles until the 1920s; we pick on Stanley because it’s best known. Heavy and grossly inefficient, steam-powered cars were the original “alternative fuel” vehicles. Well, sort of— they typically used fossil fuels to generate the heat to make the steam. They were the worst of both worlds.
9. 2001 Pontiac Aztek — Whether through gall or incompetence, Pontiac foisted this pug-ugly monstrosity on the public as a utility vehicle for active young adults. It made our list only for its Elephant-Man looks. Mechanically it was sound and did provide some unique cargo solutions. It should’ve come with a brown paper bag to put over your head when you drove it.
8. 1958 Ford Edsel — A big, bulky, ugly, expensive gas hog, Ford marketing touted the Edsel as “a new kind of car.” Well, it wasn't unless you count the new benchmark in grotesque. Hey, here's an idea that’ll catch on: changing gears by pushing buttons located on the steering wheel hub. Ford pulled the plug on it after only three years. It now haunts the garages of scores of collectors.
7. 1989 Chrysler's TC by Maserati — Basically a gussied-up LeBaron convertible that seated two rather than four, the TC was long on name and price, and short on anything truly Maserati other than the exterior body. Another K-car clone, it was to be the halo vehicle for Chrysler, but just couldn't overcome the LeBaron stigma. Chrysler put it out of its misery after three years.
6. 1978 AMC Pacer — You should’ve suspected either the Gremlin or the Pacer would make this list. We chose AMC's toss-some-poo-on-the-wall attempt at a compact car, Pacer. Because of factory limitations, Pacer was as wide as the typical midsize sedan and about two-thirds as long. It had more glass than an Oregon greenhouse and virtually no cargo space. Homely, inefficient and impractical, it’s how a car company circling the drain responds to a big shift in buyer tastes.
5. 1994 Ford Aspire — Any one of several entry-level econo-box buzz-bombs could have made this list; think Chevy Chevette or Dodge Colt. Making the Geo Metro look tony, the Aspire was an underpowered, Korean-made tin can. Merging onto an expressway was a life-or-death ordeal and hay wagons would streak past it on hills.
4. 1971 Chevrolet Vega — The Vega needed to make this list not just because it was truly a rust bucket, but also because my family owned a 1973 version. I've waited nearly 40 years to get his off my chest: what a pile of junk! General Motors marketing this car was nothing short of a crime against humanity. The core of the problem was the aluminum block engine that seized up and body panels that burst into rust after the first hard rain.
3. 1960 Chevrolet Corvair — Offering all of the stability of a carnival bumper car, Corvairs ricocheted through the first four years of the model's life-cycle with a rear suspension that was so notoriously erratic that Corvair anchored Ralph Nader's book Unsafe at Any Speed. A $4 or so fix was all that was required to solve the problem.
2. 1971 Ford Pinto — “More bang for the buck” was probably first coined to describe the inexpensive Pinto's propensity for erupting into flames when rear-ended. The prepared Pinto owner carried with him at all times a fire extinguisher and a bag of marshmallows. Enough said.
1. 1982 Cadillac Cimarron — The poster child for corporate arrogance, the Cimarron was nothing more than Chevy's bread-and-butter vehicle of the time, Cavalier, with a bit of lipstick smeared on it. An anemic 88-horsepower, four-cylinder hooked to a five-speed manual transmission powered it. Evidently GM thought that the availability of leather upholstery would elevate it to Caddy status. It was dead wrong. The apex of brand engineering, it was another misstep on GM’s road to bankruptcy.
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