Every auto writer loves to make fun of bad cars, and the thought of creating a list of the worst makes me absolutely giddy. This list is “The Worst Cars Sold in the US during the 1970’s,” a time of muscle cars, “Nimitz” class family sedans, and quick rusting steel.
Ford Pinto – The mother of all bad cars. This car is an abomination, with an exploding gas tank that killed thousands of people, and maimed even more. Ford actually had a radio spot that claimed, “Pinto leaves you with that warm feeling,” can you believe it? A better “saddle” tank was used in the Capri, but the bean counters decided a human life (worth $200,725 dollars) and the lawsuits were cheaper than spending $5.08 per car to fix the problem. When the Pinto was hit, the doors would crumble, trapping owners inside the burning car. Even though Ford tested the Pinto 40 times in secret, with it exploding every time, they still refused to fix it. The Ford Pinto is the most reprehensible decision in the history of American engineering.
Ford Mustang II – Based on the Pinto, the Mustang II was Ford’s answer to the oil crisis of 1973. The standard car had 88hp, and the high-end version had 105hp, not swift by any definition. Shorter, and smaller than the old Mustang, it looked overly styled, bulky and was an embarrassment to the Mustang name.
Ford Maverick/Mercury Comet – Ford was cute with this one…giving you paint options like Anti-Establish Mint, Freudian Gilt, Thanks Vermillion, Dresden Blue (Remember how pretty Dresden was after we got through with it?) and the luxury version was (I am not lying) targeted as an alternative to BMW, Mercedes and Audi (More crack please!).
Lincoln Versailles – A very thinly disguised Granada…everyone hated it, and it turned out to be the Lincoln equivalent of the Cimarron.
Ford Fairmont/Mercury Zephyr – This was the car that chased poor E.T. until he dropped, and the base models were trash. Doors were the width of pennies, felt about as heavy, and the dash looked like it was made in grade school. Cheap was taken to a completely new level with the Fairmont.
AMC Gremlin – This car was fugly, and the cute comments asking, “Where’s the rest of your car” were really saying, “God, you are one stupid idiot for buying that piece of crap.” Yes, it was a tiny subcompact with a V6 option, but it makes no difference. The car was named after a small gnome that destroys equipment. It was introduced on April Fool’s Day, and the original design was drawn on a Northwest Orient airsickness bag. Because they ran out of money, they actually cut the back of the design off, and had carpeting as an option. AMC had to be an insane asylum, where no one took their meds… there is no other explanation.
AMC Hornet – Three years and one million man-hours of design, and this is the best they could develop. My father drove one courtesy of the US Air Force, and I remember it as being cheap, ugly and one of the oldest feeling new cars I ever drove, like driving a coffee grinder. Even in the show room, these cars looked used.
AMV Matador Coupe – This car is so ugly, they should have had an option to tint other people’s windows. It was too fat, the hood was too long, and the wheels were lost under all that overhanging sheet metal. Only when it was setup for NASCAR did the car finally look normal. The Matador Coupe was the ultimate in bad taste.
Notable – AMC Pacer – The Pacer is ugly and memorable, like that banjo playing kid from Deliverance, but I am not going to be like everyone else and call it the worst car ever made. Sure, during the summer the terrarium glass made everything in the car melt into a viscous pool on the floor, including the passengers. Yes, the heavy doors did not match (one was 4 inches longer) and they would eventually sag like an old woman’s chest; but the car was unique, and credit should be given to AMC for having the sack to take a chance.
Plymouth Arrow – Just when I thought there was nothing bad enough from Chrysler to get on the list, I stumble on the Arrow, a car whose rear suspension was taken from an earlier model: the ox cart. Also known as the Arrow Jet, and Fire Arrow, the car was a collection of sad parts, bad names and gaudy decals designed to decay in less time than it took to go from 0-60.
Plymouth Cricket – Yes, like the insect, this car would make annoying noises until you killed it.
Plymouth Sapporo – A hideous car that never sold well and looked like a Japanese import, raised on American Big Macs.
Dodge Omni / Plymouth TC3 – This was one horrible car. Chrysler came out with a Shelby version that was only slightly better, but I can never forgive them for the de Thomaso “red tomato” edition, not to mention what they later did to the Maserati name. Chrysler did more to ruin Italian heritage than Mussolini and Sacco & Vanzetti combined.
Downsized GM cars – Almost everything from the “downsize” era at GM was ugly, with the exception of Cadillac. Straight lines, poor quality, no power, and bad paint jobs helped make GM what they are today…bankrupt. Great models like the Cutlass were trashed by boxy replacements that fell apart in the showrooms. If I ever meet the people responsible for this period in car design, I shall beat them severely.
Chevy Monza – Why did GM do this to us? This car was a hideous joke, with a fat tail and a terrible design. Anyone who bought this car deserved the pain it caused, and the fact that Oldsmobile called it a Starfire was an insult to a great line of cars.
Chevy Vega – If this car was built by anyone else, it would have been great, but instead it was brought to us by GM. Everything, except the look was cheap and worthless.
Chevy Chevette – I knew someone that owned one, and I loved to drive it. It was small, cheap and durable with almost nothing inside. It was like a four-door motorcycle, and I loved the fact that you could reach everything from the driver’s seat, including the rear hatch.
Foreign Cars – I was one of those people who never made the switch from American to Japanese cars. When the imports first arrived, they were not pleasant, and I remember aiming my land yacht at more than a few of them. Cars like the Honda Z600, and the little Subaru were targets, which needed to be destroyed, and later models like the Nissan B210 Honeybee and the 200SX were just silly. Mazda didn’t help things with their GLC (Goofy Losers Car), Cosmo, or the 808 Mizer and its 50hp engine.
European cars were even worse, and buyers were brought to tears by the crap being sold on our shores. Italy was the worst of the lot, sending us the Fiat X 1/9 and Strada, and the miserable Lancia. France was second for the Renault 12 and LeCar, the Citroen 2CV (imported before 1970, but bad enough to make the list), CX Diesel, and the Mehari (a summer sun car made from plastic that eroded in sunlight). Third were British cars like the Triumph Stag and MG Midget, which made Anglophiles across the country hide in their homes in fear of retaliation. Even Germany, who gave us the beautiful Audi Fox, let us down with the VW Thing, a car that reminded us of Nazis. It took many years of counseling for us to heal from this abuse, but we will never let it happen again…hear that Chrysler? Never again.
The 1970’s were a time of great cars and hideous trash. I am sure there are a few atrocities I have missed, but I think everyone will agree that these are the worst offenders.
Article courtesy of Chris Raymond
Photos courtesy of Google Images