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The CAR Top 10: worst cars of the last 50 years

Published: 08 April 2016

► The worst cars from CAR's life time
► Do you agree with our selection of spudders?
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A tendency to be ugly, explosive, pointless, even evil, earns a place in CAR’s 50-year Hall of Shame.

1) Ugliest car ever – Ssangyong Rodius

Hold on to your hats! It's the SsangYong Rodius

‘Designed’ by Ken Greenley, who used to helm transport design at the Royal College of Art (alumni include Ian Callum and Peter Horbury), the lines of the (R)odius were meant to evoke the forms of a luxury yacht. Alas, the only maritime evocation was a nauseous feeling from being on board.

2) Ugliest, but with a heart of gold – Pontiac Aztek 2000

When the left hand and the right hand never met: the Pontiac Aztek

American cars are often conceptually flawed but generally they look pretty good. The Pontiac Aztek turned that on its head. This shocking looking thing was horribly let down by its desperate Trans-Am/camping tent/SUV styling muddle. Had a surprisingly practical cabin, though. Not enough.

3) The nadir of British car making – Morris Ital

Morris Ital: not Britain's finest hour...

The utter destitution of British Leyland’s ‘product strategy’ was most apparent with this ‘modified’ Marina, brought in as a stop-gap until the Maestro and Montego came along. It wasn’t designed by Italian styling house Ital. Or, indeed, by anyone else.

4) Daftest – AMC Pacer

AMC Pacer: a goldfish bowl on wheels

Make a small car out of a goldfish bowl, and then fit the weakest air-conditioning unit you can find, and see whether you can actually desiccate the occupants. Daft-looking, horribly slow, with doors that sagged, topped off with the evil intentions of a kid with a magnifying glass, and some ants.

5) Most nonsensical niche – BMW 5-series Gran Turismo

BMW's 5-series GT

The 5 GT held off a strong challenge from the X6, but for awkward high-roofed glasshouse styling, daft half-opening letterbox boot and no obvious benefit over any other Beemer, only an executive who’s drunkenly had an Xmas party hat permanently glued to their head would want one – and that’s too nichey, even for BMW. 

6) Badge engineering’s worst hour – Cimarron, by Cadillac

The Cadillac Cimarron... oh dear

In 1982, GM’s inability to make small saloons rivalled even BL, and in the face of the threat from Germany it reacted by glueing the Cadillac badge to the Chevrolet Cavalier, adding some awful fabrics, that terrible naming order and a few thousand dollars. So reviled, it almost did for the brand.

7) Vainest of all – Zimmer Golden Spirit

The Zimmer Golden Spirit

The apotheosis of neo-classical car design. In others words, a lash-up of ‘modern’ parts clothed in what Americans thought was a stylish 1930s-style body. Apparently designed on a napkin in 1978 by Paul Zimmer (presumably at the end of a long lunch). A $200k insult to good taste.

8) Most evil car – Ford Pinto

Flame red for a reason: the Ford Pinto

Not a bad car, except for its tendency to explode when hit from behind. Ford worked out that fixing the fragile fuel tank would cost it a fortune, so stuck its head in a fire bucket full of sand. Pinto fires did cost lives, but a recall proved inconclusive. Odd.

9) Biggest disgrace to a name – Alfa Romeo Arna

Alfa Romeo Arna: not your average Italian beauty

Giulia, Spider, Alfasud – Arna? Alfa’s affair with Nissan – it stands for Alfa Romeo Nissan Autoveicoli – could have resulted in reliability and beauty. But no. Nissan donated its unlovely Cherry body panels while the Italians lent their exceptionally unexceptional electrical and construction expertise. Result: the most ‘bello’ Alfa ever.

10) Biggest con – Delorean DMC-12

The Delorean DMC-12: from Back to the Future to nowhere, in no time at all

It was appallingly built – with leaking doors and wonky electrics – by an untrained Belfast workforce who had been duped as much as the British Government, which poured millions into the project dreamed up by ex-GM exec John DeLorean. JD preferred penthouse partying to fixing panel gaps. An FBI drug bust eventually sorted him out. But sadly they couldn’t sort out the car. 

For more CAR Top 10s, click here

By Steve Moody

Contributing editor, adventurer, ideas pitcher, failed grower-upper

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