Top 10 Worst American Cars of All Time

The automotive industry goes back more than one hundred years and no one can question the impact of the automobile in our lives. U.S. produced models have always been at the top of the auto market with hundreds of models, from luxury sedans to muscle cars and even low cost economy class vehicles.

But the U.S. auto industry is not only about the good. There’s also the bad (and the ugly nonetheless), and we thought we should focus on the worst cars ever made with this Top 10 for 2014. Check out our list and feel free to add your opinions.

10. 1974 Ford Mustang II

Manufactured from 1973 until 1978, the second generation Mustang was just in time for the 1973 oil crisis. Far off the success of the first generation pony offered by the “Blue Oval”, the Mustang II was built on the subcompact Ford Pinto’s platform. While it was popular with buyers due to the fuel crisis and won the Motor Trend Car of the Year award in 1974, this malformed pony was considered appalling by Mustang lovers.

9. 1976 Dodge Aspen

Terribly built and rust-prone, the Aspen compact was subjected to a long series of recalls. In 1978, Chrysler recalled every 1976 and 1977 Aspen (and Plymouth Volaré twins) for possible replacement of the front fenders, which were prematurely rusting. The Aspen nearly bankrupted Chrysler and led to permanent changes in the organization’s management and in North American automobile production.

8. 1976 Chevrolet Chevette

In a desperate attempt to fit into subcompact class, Chevrolet chose to use an out of date Opel design for the Chevette. Underpowered and plain awful, the Chevette managed to stay in production until 1987.

7. 1960 Chervolet Corvair

Conceived as an economy car with a base model priced for under $2,000, the Corvair had enough problems to get a spot in this Top 10. Besides grossly oversteering, its steering column might have impaled the driver in a collision and its heating system flooded the car with dangerous fumes and it leaked oil. The first generation was replaced in 1965 and production was ended four years later.

6. 1970 AMC Gremlin

What’s the fastest way to get into the subcompact market? Slicing off the tail of a subcompact. That’s what AMC did with the Hornet to get the Gremlin. They put an outdated engine in it and that was it. The Gremlin’s sole success was being second to the Pacer in many aspects. A total of 671,475 were built in its single generation and also in its only body style.

5. 1982 Cadillac Cimarron

Introduced as “Cimarron, by Cadillac”, the new compact had a straight-4 cylinder engine and, for the first time since 1953, a four-speed manual transmission. While it managed to bring younger customers to the brand, Cadillac failed in its attempt to compete with the likes of BMW in the compact market. Forbes placed the Cimarron on its list of “Legendary Car Flops,” citing low sales, poor performance and the fact the car “didn’t work, coming from a luxury brand.”

4. 1971 Ford Pinto

Dubbed as “the barbecue that seats four”, the Pinto had a high tendency to explode during rear-end collision. The lack of protection for its rear-mounted fuel tank earned the subcompact a reputation as a death trap and cost Ford millions of dollars in court. In 1972, Ford paid compensatory damages of $2.5 million and punitive damages of $3.5 million in one single court decision.

3. 1971 Chevrolet Vega

Named “the car that invited Americans to buy Toyota and Hondas”, the Vega had an insatiable need for oil was guaranteed to fail. It usually fell apart before it had any time to rust out. That being said, the Vega is widely credited as having contributed to General Motors’ downfall doing irreparable damage to the marques reputation. Oh, wait, we almost forgot to mention the first Vega prototype that fell to pieces just eight miles into a shakedown drive on the test track.

2. 1975 AMC Pacer

Yet another weird and wide small car powered by an ancient six-cylinder drivetrain form AMC. Praised for its futuristic looks, the Pacer gained criticism as soon as it was put on the road for test drives. “We test the Pacer – and wish we hadn’t” haunted the Pacer for its entire six year career.

1. 2001 Pontiac Aztek

Heavily criticized on its exterior styling and poor driving, the Aztek is widely known as the car that destroyed an 84-year-old automaker (Pontiac was shut down in 2010). We agree and we think that’s more than enough to place the Aztek on the top of our list.

Honorable mentions

1997 Plymouth Prowler

This 250 horse-powered “hot-rod” failed in almost every aspect with its hideous “retro” design and was included in every single list of ugly cars ever built. BusinessWeek magazine described it as “a pie wedge on wheels. The sharp, angular front draws attention to the squished headlights, jarring grille and seemingly pasted-on front bumper”.

2001 Chrysler PT Cruiser

Inspired by the panel vans of the 1930s, the Chrysler PT Cruiser caused quite a buzz when it was first released, but poor performance, poor fuel economy and blind spots that could hide a tank took it down the stairs. The lack of user-friendly interior even made the PT Cruiser the best definition of the “i hate you” car.

1985 Yugo

Yes, we now, it wasn’t made in the United States, but was sold here and we couldn’t help it. I bet a lot of you would like to throw a brick at Malcolm Bricklin, the wise guy who decided to introduce this ex-Yugoslavian car to the U.S. The boxy Yugo was sold for less than $4,000 when it hit the U.S. in 1985 and it was the cheapest new car for sale. Well, people got what they paid for. It’s no use in listing all the problems, one popular joke is enough: “What comes with every Yugo owner’s manual? The bus schedule.”

It’s 2014. Tell us your worst cars list or top 10 in the comments below.

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3 thoughts on “Top 10 Worst American Cars of All Time

  1. Joe Vanderfluit

    I wouldn’t go so far as to say the Aztek destroyed Pontiac. In all fairness it didn’t drive any worse than the other GM minivans it was based on; and while terrible its interior wasn’t any worse either. Pontiac died because, barring the GTO and great but simply unluckily-timed G8 they had nothing worth owning in the entire lineup for a decade. Just bland, bloated, sub-par FWD garbage. The Aztek wasn’t great, and I’m part of a miniscule minority that likes how it looks, but it was no worse than the Grand-Am or Montana. Or the Wave. Oh, God, the Wave (and its Aveo twin).

  2. NDfenceofdPT

    Hey, what is the deal with the PT Cruiser being on this list? Yes, I did tell Allpar we’d never own another new Chriysler product soley due to the Cruiser’s rubber band driven cam shafts and how blasted hard they are to get at. But other than that the car has been a joy to own, it is reliable, and down right practical. It’ll haul more stuff and people in about any configuration outside of having the room of a minivan…
    Yes, gas mileage sucks in town, but out on the road its OK… even when it’s full of people and luggage. It’s got some pretty respectable zip including the errant 2nd gear scratch while pulling out onto highways… AND, if they were as bad as the article claims… then why are there so many PT’s still on the road? Our’s is an ’02 Woody with just over 81,000 miles on it. I got a timing belt/water pump kit thru Rockauto and had a local shop install it. I’ve done the brakes myself which are a jiff to do… and really the only reason why I didn’t do the timing belt was due to the lack of time and a chassis lift. Like ALL unibody Front Drive cars, using jackstands, and supporting the car by the suspenion or floor pan is pretty much a “no no.”

    Yet, for one to put the PT Crusiser in a catagory of cars as bad as the Chevy Vega (unless one was V8’d using Monza parts) or worse yet in the same ranks as the Yugo; is mindless nonsense. Had Chrysler stayed with it, like the way VW kept the old Beetle around for what seemed like forever… and had just gone with a chain driven cam set up, or V6’d it… they’d clearly outdo that uglier than sin Caliber. The only thing about Chrysler now that would keep us from buying another new one is their marriage to “Fix It Again Tony” FIAT. We’d rather own my wife’s 2nd car, a Mustang II.

  3. EMCEscher

    The Aztek didn’t destroy Pontiac, that is ludicrous. 30 years of GM incompetence destroyed Pontiac. The Aztek is kind of ugly in a way, but it had many nice features and is roomy.

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