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Ten Car Pile-Up: the Top Ten Worst Cars in History

October 29, 2013

We all like hearing about the fastest, most luxurious and most beautiful cars in the world. But it’s all meaningless unless, occasionally, we remember those vehicles at the opposite end of the spectrum. The cars so diabolically awful that they make us stop and give thanks that we’re not driving them. And so, in that spirit, we bring you the Top Ten Worst Cars in History.

1961 Amphicar

Let’s be honest, at some point we’ve all dreamed of owning a car that doubles as a boat…er, right? Well, the minds behind the Amphicar certainly thought so. The brain-child of German Hanns Trippel, the Amphicar used the 1147cc engine from the Triumph Herald 1200 and was intended for the US market. Sadly, only around 4000 were ever made because, as it turned out, the Amphicar was about as good on water as it was on land; that is, not very good at all.

1970 Triumph Stag

Like many of British Leyland’s cars, the Triumph Stag was quite a stylish beast that was actually a lot of fun to drive – when it actually worked. Sadly, like so many British cars of the era, the average Stag spent almost as much time in the garage as it did on the road, and they were particularly notorious for their 3.0 litre Triumph V8 engine’s tendency to blow a gasket at the drop of a hat.

1971 Ford Pinto

Like the Triumph, the Ford Pinto looks pretty good on paper. It looked okay and drove okay for a car in the subcompact range. It did, however, have an unfortunate tendency to burst into flames during rear-end collisions. Ultimately, the whole line was recalled in something of a PR disaster for Ford. Oh, and somebody really should have told Ford what “Pinto” means in Portuguese before they slapped the name on a car.

1974 Jaguar XK-E V12 Series III

The Jaguar E-types of the 60s were a gold-standard for British sports cars, being both beautiful to look at and a pleasure to drive. They were particularly popular in the US, which caused Jaguar a major headache when new safety and emissions regulations meant the E-type had to undergo a radical redesign in the mid-seventies giving us this ugly monstrosity.

Not only was the reliable 4.2 litre V6 engine replaced with a heavy 5.3 litre V12 which made the car front heavy, they changed the design, ruining the old E-types smooth lines and, worst of all, added those weird protruding rubber bumpers.

1975 Triumph TR7

One of the last cars Triumph made before the company went out – not with a bang, but with a fizzle. Not only was it ugly, it was really badly made, suffering from constant electrical failures and requiring constant tune-ups to stay in anything like working order.

1980 Ferrari Mondial 8

It’s reassuring to know that even the best of us royally screw-up sometimes, and so it was for Ferrari with the Mondial 8. A big, heavy car, its V8 engine only managed to deliver a scant 214hp − when the car was working, that is. Notoriously with the Mondial 8, it wasn’t a matter of if your electrics would fail, but when – and they weren’t cheap to get serviced.

1981 DeLorean DMC-12

To whole generations now, the DeLorean is nothing but Doc Brown’s time-machine from the Back to the Future films – but it’s important to remember that, in reality, the DeLorean DMC-12 was, above all, a really rubbish car. Built in Northern Ireland, the DMC-12 2.8 litre V6 Peugeot engine was woefully underpowered for a car which weighed 1,230kg and all at a cost of around £40,000 in today’s money.

1984 Skoda Estelle

It was hard to pick just one classic Skoda for this list, but the Estelle made the cut, thanks to its especially poor handling and the tendency for the radiator to overheat and cause the head gasket to blow. It was also ugly as hell. Thankfully, since VW took over the company, Skodas have been reinvented as surprisingly good cars.

1989 Lotus Elan

Elan means “to have energy, style and enthusiasm”, making it an ironic name for a car which is certainly lacking at least two out of three. It has a weird, fore-shortened look to it, as if someone has squashed it from both ends and, thanks to a 1.6 litre engine, it had terrible performance. Perhaps someone, somewhere, was enthusiastic about it, but that’s the kindest thing we can think to say about the Lotus Elan.

2002 Gem Chrysler

When people talk about all-electric cars as ridiculous little Noddy cars, chances are they’ve got something like the Gem Chrysler in mind. It looks ridiculous and could only legally drive at a top speed of 25mph on streets with a speed limit of 35mph or less. Fortunately for the electric car movement, more ambitious manufacturers like Tesla Motors have come along to show that electric cars can have both style and performance, leaving the Gem Chryslers of the world to languish in the dustbin of history.

If you’re unhappy with your car, maybe it’s time to think about an upgrade. Whatever your income, there are finance options out there to allow you the car you deserve. So let the experts at The Car Loan Warehouse help find the money you need for the car you want at a rate you can afford. It’s car finance, without the hassle.

About The Author

Jon Le Roux is co-founder and company director of The Car Loan Warehouse. Being a mad engineering and motorsport enthusiast, I spend more hours than is healthy, watching, reading or talking about cars, boats, motorbikes…..basically anything with an engine.