The World's Ugliest Cars
August 29, 2007 3:11 PM   Subscribe

Six feet long, eight feet wide, bicycle tires all around, and 0 to 60 in four-and-a-half hours. Have any MeFites the courage to admit they owned one of these horrors of engineering?
posted by bwg (122 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
My mother loved AMC cars. I had a very traumatic childhood.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 3:17 PM on August 29, 2007

I had a teacher named Suzette Jacquette, who lived in Olivette and drove a Chevette.

I am not making this up (she was my homeroom teacher for a couple years in high school).
posted by klangklangston at 3:17 PM on August 29, 2007 [9 favorites]

I walked past one every day on the way to school in grade 10 (1976). I swear that every day I looked at that thing in wonder.
posted by No Robots at 3:19 PM on August 29, 2007

posted by etaoin at 3:20 PM on August 29, 2007

Oh, and the Corvair? It's a myth that it was unsafe, and man, that thing could go. Louder'n sin though.
posted by klangklangston at 3:21 PM on August 29, 2007

My grandma had a Pacer, then traded it in for a Gremlin. She loved those things. I think I was too young for trauma; I hadn't graduated past the humor value at that point.
posted by Brak at 3:22 PM on August 29, 2007

Gremlins, Pacers and Vegas all look pretty sweet, frankly.
posted by klangklangston at 3:24 PM on August 29, 2007

Boyfriend not only had a Gremlin, it was lime green. Married him anyway.
posted by sageleaf at 3:25 PM on August 29, 2007

We had an AMC Eagle and I loved that car. It went anywhere and would not die.
posted by Kickstart70 at 3:28 PM on August 29, 2007

It's the American thing to do, slagging the Corvair. Here is another point of view.
posted by jet_silver at 3:29 PM on August 29, 2007

Man, those Eagles were great. go anywhere.
posted by notsnot at 3:29 PM on August 29, 2007

Jesus, I owned two of those beasts. One Pinto, and a Vega...I was young, please forgive me.
posted by lobstah at 3:30 PM on August 29, 2007

Say waht you will about the Gremlin, imagine for a second a car that had a mass and demensions roughly equvalent of the 70's Honda Civic.

Then imagine that you could put an eight-cylendar engine in that motherfucker.

That's what the Gremlin was.
posted by lekvar at 3:32 PM on August 29, 2007 [2 favorites]

My first car was a 1979 Chevette, which pleased me as it was as old as I was. I also got it from my grandmother. Gave me less trouble than my Mecury Sable station wagon, which was a huge pain in the ass, with an electircla system problem that made it not start in rainy weather, among other things.
posted by Snyder at 3:32 PM on August 29, 2007

Corvairs are not ugly.
posted by oneirodynia at 3:34 PM on August 29, 2007 [3 favorites]

My mother's addiction to AMC was complete. We had one that repeatedly broke down as we past through the desert. I remember staying for three days waiting for parts in Benson, Arizona. We didn't have extra money but the mechanic allowed us to stay for free in the motel they owned, in a room with a large gaping hole in its side, no furniture, and a dying horse leaning against a wall. The entire place shook when a nearby train passed at odd hours of the night.

When she turned in that car for another, her new car choice wouldn't freaking start at the dealership. The dealer explained it had been sitting around so long the battery probably had run down. It was the same model and color as the one that died in Benson. I was ten years old and freaking out with horrid flashbacks. It was with us for a whole new round of breakdowns and colorful mechanics straight out of Deliverance.

I don't like AMC.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 3:38 PM on August 29, 2007 [2 favorites]

Yes. They are. (Your favourite car sucks).
posted by sharpener at 3:38 PM on August 29, 2007

We briefly had a Pacer. I used to beg to ride in the wayback, such as it was.
posted by padraigin at 3:38 PM on August 29, 2007

There once was a teacher from Olivette
Who drove a rundown Chevette
This ain’t a lie, fool
I had her in high school
Her full name was Suzette Jacquette
posted by found missing at 3:41 PM on August 29, 2007 [10 favorites]

I had a '63 Corvair Spyder (bought in '74). Loved it. Traded it 2 years later for a '70 Volkswagen bus to further solidify my hippie credentials.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 3:41 PM on August 29, 2007

We were mostly a Volvo family until recently, ever since my dad's awesome P1800.
posted by Foosnark at 3:41 PM on August 29, 2007

I had a 1977 Ford Pinto. It was yellow, with a flat black hood. A car named after a horse that looked like a bumble-bee.
posted by deCadmus at 3:42 PM on August 29, 2007

eletircla.... Did Tesla have anything to do with this vehicle?

/snark, like I've never mispeld aneetheenk

seriously, for a few seconds, I thought you were speaking "mechanic" talk.
posted by Debaser626 at 3:43 PM on August 29, 2007

What? No El Camino?
posted by MrFongGoesToLunch at 3:45 PM on August 29, 2007

Ex-Pinto driver here. If you could roll into your highschool parking lot circa 1986 in a rusty orange Pinto, pieces of pipe jammed over the broken door handles to provide leverage to pull them up, and still manage to get laid, you know you were the man.

Also one time the accelerator cable broke, I borrowed some string from a nearby store, tied it to the throttle and cruised home. If that happened in my current car, I'd need to study some arcane programming language just to begin solving the problem.

Pinto's rocked. And I bet they are collectible, give it another five years.
posted by Keith Talent at 3:45 PM on August 29, 2007

Looking through the list again...

My dad is desperate for a Corvair. It was his first "grownup" car after he left the Air Force, and he's looking to relive his youth. Everything he's said about them make them sound like a pretty fun ride.

One of the punkest motherfuckers I ever knew proudly drove a Pacer and still got more tail than I ever will.

I spent my Great American Roadtrip in my best friend's Pinto. Not just a Pinto, but a pinto station wagon. That damned thin was so un-hip I still can't dance right. It was so un-cool that it was responsible for at least three melted glaciers in the Arctic Circle. It was three colors; Baby Blue, Rustoleum Orange, and Rust.

And, God help me, I like the Aztek. It looks like my first car, a '78 Honda Civic, all growed up. Growed up swollen and strangely glandular, but growed up, nonetheless.
posted by lekvar at 3:47 PM on August 29, 2007 [2 favorites]

I'd gladly drive an AMC Matador Wagon today. And I'd be coloer than every SUV driver down at the mall, too.
posted by Keith Talent at 3:48 PM on August 29, 2007 [2 favorites]

The article seems to be undecided as to its subject - ugly cars or badly made cars. Some of these are both (and the Corvair, I aver, is neither).
posted by QuietDesperation at 3:49 PM on August 29, 2007

ooo! That orange pinto is EXACTLY the car we had growing up! Then we traded it for an avocado green one.
posted by small_ruminant at 3:51 PM on August 29, 2007

My parents had a Chevette. It was a lot like a Corvette, only shittier.
posted by GuyZero at 3:52 PM on August 29, 2007

Buy American! We kicked that list's ASS!
posted by absalom at 3:52 PM on August 29, 2007

Buy American! We kicked that list's ASS!

Yes, that article was decidedly American-oriented.

Wonder why some of the ugliest Euro-mobiles never made it to the list.

For the record, we also had a Pinto at one point.

posted by bwg at 3:58 PM on August 29, 2007

HOLY SHIT!!!! My dad had one of these, big purple mother. It broke down constantly, forcing us to walk home a lot. Once, it broke down twice in the same week.

Seeing one's father break down and cry while slamming his fists slowly and regularly against the steering wheel of an immobile Pacer leaves an indelible (though oddly hilarious) impression in a young lad's mind.
posted by John of Michigan at 4:02 PM on August 29, 2007

Maybe I just love ugly, but that Pacer is damned sweet. The Gremlin is pretty hot too.
posted by slogger at 4:04 PM on August 29, 2007

Why all the hate for American-made subcompacts? I would put the Hummer on the top of my list of uglies, along with most of the vehicles that tried to copy the PT Cruiser's 'retro' styling (although I like the PT myself; I know I'm not in the majority with that opinion).

My first car was a Chevy Vega; gave it up not because of aesthetics, but because it fell apart after 50,000 miles. Replaced it with a Datsun (pre-Nissan) B210, which I thought was uglier than the Vega but it was the only new car I could afford at the time (thanks to an in with a Datsun dealer). The Japanese subcompacts of that era were no beauty contest winners.

But as I RTFA a second time I realized the survey was for "worst designed cars", and many of the comments were about the vehicles' unreliability. And no amount of exterior 'cuteness' will make up for the ugliness of a car that's falling apart around you as you drive.

And the Edsel? Well, it always was the most unjustly vilified car in the history of Dee-troit (sorry, Corvair fans) and I doubt anybody surveyed actually rodein one. I did, once. And if I could afford to buy only one car classic, it'd be an Edsel.
posted by wendell at 4:05 PM on August 29, 2007

I will cop to having been a Chevette owner.

Hey, at least it wasn't a Yugo.
posted by jason's_planet at 4:07 PM on August 29, 2007

And my Datsun B210 was the "Honey Bee" model, light on options and only in one color - yellow, with cartoon bee decals that screamed out "This is the cheapest car we make!".
posted by wendell at 4:08 PM on August 29, 2007

Hell, my family sold AMC cars in the 70s. Every last model from the Pacer to the Gremlin to the Jeep (when AMC owned them) was parked in front of my house as a kid, and I loved them all. The Pacer was particularly cool with all that room in the back, and we took one on a family vacation with us.

My first car was an 83 Chevette Scooter. Worst fucking car ever. It handled like a mining cart and broke down constantly. I sold it for $200, but would have given that piece of shit away.
posted by malaprohibita at 4:09 PM on August 29, 2007

AMC got a bad rap. Their biggest problem, by far, was rust. But there was time in my live I would have killed for a purple Javelin. (the car, you sickos, the car)
posted by Benny Andajetz at 4:14 PM on August 29, 2007

I love the AMC Matador. For a brief and shining moment, I had a '69 Pontiac Catalina station wagon. You could cook burgers on the tailgate and not even smell them up front, the damn thing was that long.
posted by Liosliath at 4:15 PM on August 29, 2007

Without a doubt, AMC made the world's most hideous cars. Unlike the Edsel which in retrospect doesn't look too horrible, and one wonders what all the fuss was about, those AMC designs reeked then and continue to reek today. In my teens I breifly baby-sat for a family who had several AMC cars, including one that looked like a normal (-ish) car on the outside but drove and sounded like a Sherman tank. Their lack of good taste extended to the interior of their house as well, which was decorated with a large Fonzie mirror (doing the "AAAAAY!" pose) in their living room and a collection of over 100 novelty candles (I counted them once).
posted by brain cloud at 4:21 PM on August 29, 2007

My mother believed that supporting incompetent capitalism was somehow a liberal cause.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 4:26 PM on August 29, 2007 [1 favorite]

Gremlins are Ok, as long as you don't feed them after midnight.
posted by Optamystic at 4:27 PM on August 29, 2007

My first car was a hand me down. A yellow Gremlin with white pin striping. I hated that car so much. The only two redeeming things about it were, some monster engine that would light up the tires when taking off and a "desert only" AC setting that was so cold it probably slowed down my aging while it was engaged.
posted by Mr_Zero at 4:33 PM on August 29, 2007 [1 favorite]

Corvaire should be off that list.

Replace it with the Toyota Echo. That car looks like a clown car screeching to a halt.
posted by Joey Michaels at 4:33 PM on August 29, 2007

Yes, that article was decidedly American-oriented.

Indeed, no list of the ugliest cars ever can be complete without these two examples of European design.
posted by Skeptic at 4:34 PM on August 29, 2007

Maybe it doesn't count because it's European, but how did they miss the Simca?

($1200 brand new in 1972, and um, worth every penny. Insured it for only $43 per year with my teenage brother and me driving it.)
posted by nax at 4:35 PM on August 29, 2007

I had a 1978 Monza, Chevy's attempt to make you forget the Vega by putting a bigger engine in it. Sadly, they forgot to beef up the suspension to handle the additional weight, but that wasn't its only problem. Mine, which I ordered from the factory came equipped with a short in the electrical system that took multiple trips to the dealer to find and repair (at least it was under warranty).

The linked slide show mentions a couple of cars that paved the way for the Japanese car makers, but really, it was pretty much all of them.
posted by tommasz at 4:42 PM on August 29, 2007

"The Yugo was a car that fell apart while you drove."
This is not hyperbole.
I felt bad when the window handle came off while riding in the back of a friend's Yugo until he pointed out that it was the last one to go, and just one item in a long series of things that had fallen off.
posted by 2sheets at 4:50 PM on August 29, 2007

Lessee. I owned a Vega wagon with the most excellent 2 speed auto transmission, 60,000 trouble-free miles. I sold it just in time. I had a Pinto wagon with the faux-wood paneling. Classy! A friend drove his over 200,000 miles. I once had a '64 Corvair Monza. Like driving a steroidal go-cart. I've owned a 1974 Gremlin X, which would beat a Firebird off the line. My Chevette ran for 190,000 miles. Love the Iron Duke. A friend's mom had a Matador, which was an unalloyed piece of shit.
posted by Floydd at 4:51 PM on August 29, 2007

Kid I knew in high school had a green Gremlin. He got pulled over for speeding, but the cop let him off because he didn't believe the car could go that fast.
posted by backseatpilot at 5:08 PM on August 29, 2007

No VW Beetle or Karmann Ghia?
posted by UbuRoivas at 5:12 PM on August 29, 2007

VEGA: My first car and the last American car I'll ever own.

But these guys missed:
the Triumph TR7
the Nash Suburban (so ugly it might be cute)
that Mercedes SUV thing whatever it's called
VW Thing
Hummer (the biggest pile ever)

Th Porsche SUV is surely a runner up
posted by cccorlew at 5:13 PM on August 29, 2007

Pinto: "Junk from the day they built it! Do you see any around anywhere? Not even close to a collectible car."

I have, in fact, met a Pinto collector. It was at a car show in New Jersey. He had a mint(ish) condition Pinto.... racing stripe and all. We spoke for quite awhile about all things Pinto. (My older sister had owned one and I had memories of going to the beach in it.) Seems the Pinto collector had worked for Ford, though not on the Pinto, and had owned the car show Pinto from day one. Not surprisingly, he said that the parts were really hard to find. He also told me of how the other car show participants had tried to keep his Pinto out of the various car show contests ... apparently they felt that he was making fun of them by entering a Pinto.
posted by R. Mutt at 5:23 PM on August 29, 2007

I'm not convinced that these are the ugliest & worst-engineered cars ever. Most look OK to me, although they could do with a few extra features, like an extremely large beverage holder, a little ball on top of the aerial, tail fins, bubble domes, shag carpeting, several horns that all play "La Cucaracha", and - for infant passengers - a second soundproof bubble dome with optional straps and muzzles. And they should be powerful like a gorilla, yet soft and yielding like a Nerf ball.
posted by UbuRoivas at 5:23 PM on August 29, 2007 [1 favorite]

I saw the most beautiful, pristine Gremlin with a kayak on it's roof in Portland ME last week.
So, mechanically unsound, maybe.
Ugly? Never!
The Aztek otoh, wow ugly. I see a lot of them here in Buffalo NY, and I always imagine that they're bought out of old loyalties to an employer which has no loyalty left to this town. Aztek owners make me want to drown.
posted by kuujjuarapik at 5:29 PM on August 29, 2007

And BTW, my 86 Plymouth Tourismo was just as horrible as any of these.
posted by R. Mutt at 5:32 PM on August 29, 2007

... but how did they miss the Simca?

The Simca: they're boxy, but they're good!*

*Shamelessly stolen from Crazy People.
posted by bwg at 5:36 PM on August 29, 2007

No discussion involving the Ford Pinto is cmplete without mention of the Mitzar.
posted by lekvar at 5:39 PM on August 29, 2007

But these guys missed:
the Triumph TR7

Was it a TR6 or a Spitfire? No, but it wasn't horrific. My first wife had a TR7 when I met her, and that car was hella fun to drive in the mountain twistys. Very nice handling car. Unfortunately, it ended having the typical Triumph reliability issues (read Lucas electronics).
posted by Benny Andajetz at 5:42 PM on August 29, 2007

I had a Chevy Chevette. Drove it cross country and lost a cylinder in the Rockies on Rt.70. I just kept driving and eventually made it (slowly) back home to Maryland where I lent it to a roommate one night to go to a party with explicit instructions not to wreck it - she of course totaled it, sadly loosing one of her front teeth.
posted by stbalbach at 5:53 PM on August 29, 2007

I just missed my chance to learn to drive on a Pinto wagon. I guess I'm lucky that my brother got to it first and managed to total it while driving only 5-10 miles an hour. Not really the Pinto's fault, he accidently drove up the guide wire of a telephone poll and severed the axle.
posted by saffry at 5:56 PM on August 29, 2007

I have yet to see anything that matches the monstrosity called the Fait Multipla. I throw up in my mouth when I think about it.
posted by blue_beetle at 6:12 PM on August 29, 2007

The first generation FIAT Multipla has to be a contender. God damn is that minivan ugly.
posted by anthill at 6:12 PM on August 29, 2007

OMG jinx
posted by anthill at 6:12 PM on August 29, 2007

Like any other internet list...this one sucks..

I had a gremlin (new), fastest damn car I ever owned, it took me a month to learn how to start that thing moving in first gear without spinning the tires...

The Pinto, and it's cousin the Bobcat, were really pretty good cars for a young family...

The corvair was a sweet car for those of us that were in high school in 1966....

yep, there are a couple of clunkers on that list (yugo), but, hell, one man's junk is another man's treasure...
posted by HuronBob at 6:21 PM on August 29, 2007

Tell you what... I'd take the Vega that's pictured in the article. It's quite fine lookiing and, I suspect, an awesome performer.
posted by bz at 6:22 PM on August 29, 2007

My parents started out with a Gremlin, moved on to some piece of shit Datsun hatchback and then somehow managed to buy a Lada.

A fucking Lada.

To this day I have bad-car trauma.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 6:22 PM on August 29, 2007

God, I enjoyed the Pacer. We got one the first year. It was beautiful inside, easy to get in and out, safe, ergonomic and aerodynamic. The stereo kicked and it handled great. Granted, it was underpowered. The engine it was supposed to have was lost to bean counters in GM or somewhere.

Here's a great idea. Let's sit four people comfortably and then build a car around them. Let's make it easy to get in and out. Let's have a kick ass stereo, and let's make it safe. We could give it a built in roll bar along with a collapsible frame to protect the passengers. And we could make the passenger compartment 35% glass so there would be clear visibility for the driver all the way around.

Oh, and let's make it stick to the road by giving it a low center of gravity and rack & pinion steering so the driver can feel the road.

And let's do all of this so some Business Weekly Los Angeles senior correspondent can slam it in 32 years, and make his money without having to write for Extra or The Sun.

But I snarkily digress . . .
posted by elmaddog at 6:36 PM on August 29, 2007 [2 favorites]

The worst car I ever owned was a '69 Nova. It had vice-grips for window handles, because the cranks had fallen off, and was prone to spontaneously turning in directions you didn't want to go. It was 1/4 rust, and the engine was rough and loud, and tended to break motor mounts.

I had about an equal revulsion for my late 70's Buick Skyhawk. The doors were too heavy for the hinges, and for a while, you had to lift them up to get them closed, but they stopped opening and closing altogether after a while, so I had to climb in and out the window. This presented a problem in the rain, as I had to leave the window down enough to be able to reach in and roll the window down so I could climb in. There was often an inch or two of standing water on the floorboard.

I think Corvairs are awesome. The '66's are like little mini-me's for the Impala of the same year.
posted by Devils Rancher at 6:45 PM on August 29, 2007

If I had a Chevette, I don't think I'd be able to resist using the line: "Hey baby, wanna ride in my chevette?"

My parents had twin brown Vegas when I was a kid.
posted by ninjew at 6:51 PM on August 29, 2007

The pacer had some pretty risqué ads for its day (and it's looks).
posted by anthill at 6:53 PM on August 29, 2007

Heard of a Pinto with a vanity plate that read IXPLODE. Also- there's a great exploding Pinto gag in the movie Spirit of '76 (a cult film in desperate need of a cult).
posted by squalor at 6:55 PM on August 29, 2007

"Boyfriend not only had a Gremlin, it was lime green."

Oh, sweet mercy.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 7:02 PM on August 29, 2007

Party on, Wayne.
Party on, Garth.

My friend's mom drove a Pacer, and I must say, we thought it was the coolest car ever. It looked really modern back in the day.
posted by amyms at 7:04 PM on August 29, 2007

I think the TR7 was unfairly maligned because the TR6 was so awesome. The TR8 is well-regarded, even though it looks much like a TR7-- the difference is (other than the V8 engine), that people had time to get used to the design style by the time the TR8 came out.
posted by deanc at 7:09 PM on August 29, 2007

From this list, I have owned:

2 Matadors (1 '74 wagon, 1 '72 sedan)
1 Pinto (set up as a drag car with a 351 Cleveland)

In addition, I nearly purchased a '65 Corvair with the quad-carb John Fitch package, and I was all set to trade one of my Javelins for a Pacer and $1500 cash but the guy never showed up.

I guess that makes me ... old?
posted by mr_crash_davis at 7:10 PM on August 29, 2007

TheWhiteSkull... a lada...heh..

I feel for you... I don't think anyone can beat you on that...
posted by HuronBob at 7:21 PM on August 29, 2007

The guy who lives across the street from my mother in Pittsburgh had a Pacer on a monster car with like 40" wheels.

Myself, I've always wanted one.
posted by StickyCarpet at 7:49 PM on August 29, 2007

Chevrolet Chevette: "When the car went into any type of water puddle it would suck water into the engine. They fell apart after 40,000 miles. Piece of junk."

Our Chevette wouldn't die. It didn't rust out and I do not recall any significant maintenance costs. It went up many miles of logging road and hauled a whole lot of stuff whenever we moved. Other than its bizarre steering wheel placement and horrible interior heating (ie. none), it seems to me to have been one helluva car.

Canuck model, though, so it may have been the Japanese build. The engine was Japanese, I'm pretty sure of that. Also a manual transmission, which might have made a world of difference.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:56 PM on August 29, 2007

I had a Gremlin in college. No back seat and no carpeting anywhere, so I just ran a hose inside it to clean it after a night of partying. That was the first car I bought on credit -- my payments were $32/month (compared to $50 gas fillups now).

On a different note, I just realized I've had sex in 8 of the cars on that list. (OK, it was on the hood of the Chevette but I should get credit for that because it was snowing at the time.)
posted by forrest at 8:03 PM on August 29, 2007

Of this list, my parents had a green Pinto wagon, a Chevette, and a Vega (not all at the same time). The Vega was inherited from my great-grandmother. They've also had the pleasure of owning a Hyundai Excel, two Novas, and a Suzuki Sidekick.
posted by candyland at 8:26 PM on August 29, 2007

Why all the hate for American-made subcompacts?

because back in the 70s and 80s they were pieces of shit that left one stranded, cost you far too much money, and eventually died at 40 or 50k

i had a girlfriend who used to own an amc gremlin - it was a lousy piece of shit and broke down all the time - she finally got rid of it and got a plymouth horizon instead

that was the worst piece of crap i've ever seen in my life - it eventually died at 42k after spending years making everyone who depended on it miserable

i drive a ford escort now - by 1997, at least one american car manufacturer had figured out how to build a subcompact right
posted by pyramid termite at 9:07 PM on August 29, 2007

When I become insanely wealthy, I vow to own a black-on-black-on-black '66 Corvair turbo coupe with "Unsafe at Any Speed" lettered on the decklid in gold leaf. Take that, Nader.

As for cars that belong on this list instead of the 'Vair, how about that horrible, ugly football-on-wheels Lexus RX350? The "R" is for "retch". While I'm at it, the new Toyota FJ Cruiser is an aesthetic abomination as well--I don't know how you could screw up New Beetle-izing a design that originally looked like pure function over fashion, but they managed it.
posted by arto at 9:59 PM on August 29, 2007

I'm too lazy to find a link, but the Pacer was originally intended to carry a Rotary engine, and be a front-wheel-drive car -- but they couldn't get it together, and so they switched gears during development and made it into a normal-engined rear-driver. The somewhat more pleasing proportions and significant amounts of interior space were butchered to make room for the larger engine (which pushed the dash back, too) and transmission/driveshaft tunnel.

I think if it had ended up as intended, it might still have been a disaster -- but it might also have been celebrated.
posted by davejay at 10:16 PM on August 29, 2007

Oh, and my father had a 1975 VW Rabbit, and a 1978 Plymouth Horizon.

The Rabbit got vapor lock. Often. Too often.

The Horizon threatened to overheat. Often. Too often.

Meanwhile, other folks we knew with Japanese cars of the time had very few problems; the reputation those cars got were deserved, even if the cars were slow (my buddy drove a 1976 CVCC wagon for years and couldn't kill it, no matter how rusty it got and how many used tires he threw in the back.)
posted by davejay at 10:18 PM on August 29, 2007

Owned by me or my immediate family:
Pacer, Gremlin, Chevette, Matador (sedan), and a Q-Ship Vega. And I'd give my left big toe to own a Corvair (OK, maybe only a toe nail.) Beautiful cars. Much of the list is boring IMO rather than ugly or poorly designed. The Matodor, Chevette, Yugo, Pinto and Vega all fall in that category.

klangklangston writes "Gremlins, Pacers and Vegas all look pretty sweet, frankly."

Despite the fact that a Gremlin tried to kill me one dark and storm night (you sit behind the CofG in a Gremlin which is a weird feeling the first time you notice it while pushing it hard) I actually liked the look of them. Pacers are a bump up from OK (my mother had one) and Vega's are just plain rather than ugly (at least until you plop in a warmed over 327 making enough power that needs to be chained down. Wheee!).
posted by Mitheral at 10:21 PM on August 29, 2007

Since I drive a Honda Element, I was gonna recuse myself from this thread, then, POW, Aztek! I used to park right next to one every time I dropped Scoo Jr. II off at daycare. Damned if it didn't make my E look good!
posted by Scoo at 10:22 PM on August 29, 2007 [1 favorite]

shit brown Pinto wagon, vintage 1974-ish, with brown naugahyde seats that seared your flesh in the summertime. to its credit, it did not explode when my mom left the brake off and it rolled backward down our long, steep driveway into the neighbors fence across the street. (I rolled out of the passenger door like a Hollywood stuntman. my sister still hasn't forgiven me for leaving her in the back seat. gimme a break, I was ten!)
posted by killy willy at 10:34 PM on August 29, 2007

My very first car was a 1976 AMC Matador. Maroon with a black vinyl roof, electric doors and windows - I was stylin'. The folks I worked with called it a "boat," though, as in "I saw you holding up traffic on Nine Mile with that boat of yours."
posted by Oriole Adams at 11:26 PM on August 29, 2007

I never thought the Pacer was ugly. Very different for it's time, but not ugly. But if those windows made things too hot, that's a shame.

A friend of mine was killed when her Pinto exploded. First time someone I knew died, other than very old family members.

My aunt got a Corvair in highschool. She loved it, it was a red ragtop. She was probably a bit spoiled, seeing as she was one of those 'September surprise' kids.
posted by Goofyy at 11:32 PM on August 29, 2007

As someone with an unironic appreciation of 1970's design, I like the Pacer. Most cars nowadays look like jellybeans with wheels, maybe Pacer was just ahead of it's time.

I have an aunt who had a yellow Pinto ('74 if I recall correctly) that she kept in perfect showroom condition. I remember she garaged the pinto and bought a brand new Toyota sometime in the late 80's, drove it for a week, and took it back to the dealer. Claimed it didnt handle as well as her beloved Pinto. It up and died sometime in the mid 90's, but I'm pretty sure it's still in her garage. I was always amazed at how she could drive it every day for 20 years, but still keep it looking like it just drove off the lot.

The Vega may have been a crappy showroom car, but as a base for a mini muscle-hot rod, they're pretty damn cool, and for the time, not ugly at all.
posted by billyfleetwood at 12:15 AM on August 30, 2007

The Vega in the article looks totally cool compared to my then-boyfriend's Vega Wagon... It looked somewhat like this (same color too). He bought it used in the mid-80s and we drove that thing for miles and miles and miles. We knew we looked ridiculous, but oh well.
posted by amyms at 2:02 AM on August 30, 2007

I feel for you... I don't think anyone can beat you on that...

Well, for what it's worth, there seem to be people who think that 4x4 Ladas are cool. (Not me, though. I just took the picture.)
posted by jiawen at 2:19 AM on August 30, 2007

"The World's Ugliest.."

Sigh, America's's not quite the same....
posted by lerrup at 3:09 AM on August 30, 2007

You people have no idea. NO idea.

The ugliest luxury car - and bear in mind, luxury cars are usually hideous - is the Stutz Blackhawk.

The ugliest - and worst designed - subcompact is the Lightburn Zeta. Lightburn started out making things like washing machines and 'fridges. One year for some reason they tried making cars.

Amongst the various fascinating design decisions incorporated into the Zeta (including but not limited to bug-eyed headlights and roof-fins) is a two-stroke motor. When you wanted to reverse the Zeta, you ran the motor backwards. Interestingly, this meant that your three forward gears became three reversing gears.
posted by Ritchie at 3:10 AM on August 30, 2007

Lightburn Zeta is totally gonna be the name of my next City of Heroes character.
posted by Scoo at 4:12 AM on August 30, 2007

and a "desert only" AC setting that was so cold it probably slowed down my aging while it was engaged.

My favorite part of all those beasts - climate controller called the Weather Eye, and fan setting were indeed, Low, Medium, and Desert Only. Love to have a picture of just that gem of the dash.
posted by yoga at 4:43 AM on August 30, 2007

That Stutz Blackhawk is OUTTASIGHT, seriously. The Lightburn Zeta, not so much - but three reverse gears would be pretty fun.
posted by sluggo at 5:06 AM on August 30, 2007

I remember family vacations in the vega hauling a camper trailer, and getting stuck in the mountains when it blew the thermostat.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 5:55 AM on August 30, 2007

My grandfather sold me his AMC Matador for $1. It was my first car and I loved it. It was followed by a Mercury Montego (purchased from my mother's uncle, also for $1) then my first big ticket item, an $800 Grand Le Mans where I worked the stereo tuner by flipping open the 8 track insert area and moving the needle by hand, and using a screwdriver for the turn signal. The only downside was if you pushed the screwdriver too far in, you honked the horn. Also, the power windows were sketchy, and I had to grab the window edge and haul it up while pressing the windor power button.

The Matador wasn't any swanky station wagon model as pictured there, but rather the sedan, in a horrible bright green. Good times, good times.
posted by genefinder at 6:34 AM on August 30, 2007

I knew a guy who had a website dedicated to his Aztek. I think Aztek was even part of the URL.

He wanted to go out with me.
posted by desjardins at 6:41 AM on August 30, 2007

Here's a dollop of butt-ugly they forgot.

And count me into the AMC Love Squad. The first car I ever got really attached to was an AMC Spirit (the 2WD version of the Eagle), complete with an in-dash 8-track. In retrospect, I guess it was a used-up chunk of shit, but I sure liked it at the time.
posted by COBRA! at 6:58 AM on August 30, 2007

You can fix a Lada 4x4 with baling wire and chewing gum. I've read they're all the rage in the Aussie outback, for just that reason. Simple is good, sometimes.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:29 AM on August 30, 2007

I don't know who's still watching, but I would feel negligent not to offer up an honest list of the cars I have bought from or have had given to me by my father:
1. Volkswagen Thing
2. Reneault LeCar
3. Dodge Omni
4. Yugo (That's right)
5. Chevy Corvair (1966 model. Black with red pin stripes painted over sea green that showed through under the trunk and hood. Also showed in the wheel wells. Sweet little car.)
All this love for oddball or ugly cars has worn off on me. My current car? Scion XB.
posted by firemouth at 7:30 AM on August 30, 2007

My green AMC Matador wagon was a thing to behold. It had crumpled rusted fenders at all four corners . . . producing a sort of "camo" look. Pulling out on the freeway, people got outta my way!
posted by ahimsakid at 7:42 AM on August 30, 2007

My family's first car was a Gremlin. With a black vinyl interior. The seats would burn horribly after an hour in the sun, and the brakes would become ineffective after driving through a puddle. My parents have always driven the cars they've owned until they were entirely used up. Except that one.

It's a little sobering to realize that the "fast" Gremlin with the "big" V8 was so asthmatic and heavy that 0-60 took almost 9 seconds. That's minivan performance today.
posted by Western Infidels at 8:09 AM on August 30, 2007

We briefly had a Pacer. I used to beg to ride in the wayback, such as it was.

We always called the back of my grandmother's Buick station wagon the "wayback". I've never met anyone else that said that. Awesome!
posted by oneirodynia at 9:48 AM on August 30, 2007

Another xB driver here, firemouth. I learned to drive in one of these, and my parents had an early 60s Renault before I was born, so I guess it runs in the family here, too.

My brother had a LeCar--my 6'4", 350 pound brother. He eventually broke the driver's seat, so he just moved the passenger seat over and bolted it in. Anyone riding with him had to sit in the back, but, hey, that was, like, only 4 inches farther back, so no problem.
posted by MrMoonPie at 11:48 AM on August 30, 2007

My great grandmother left me her Chevette when she died. I drove it for about a year. She literally only drove it on the weekends to go to church and visit her brother.

When I got it, I had to have the brakes adjusted -- she had driven so slow for so long, and all the while apparently with her foot on the brake, that it had to be loosened. The brake pads were naturally right on the tires and clamped own on the tires when I went over 40 on the first highway trip. (Stranding me in the worst part of Chicago in the middle of the night, but that's a funny story for another time.)
posted by crickets at 2:15 PM on August 30, 2007

Devils Rancher: The worst car I ever owned was a '69 Nova.

The '76 wasn't much better. My mother drove one when I was little. Any 'fond' reminiscing of that car has to be qualified by date. "Remember when the brakes on the Nova went out and we were on the interstate?" "Which time?" "Remember when the Nova died in the middle of a thunderstorm?" "Which time?" "Remember when the Nova caught on fire?" "Which time?"

She traded it in for a Subaru Loyale, which looked like a squashed dishwasher and accelerated much like the Gremlins do. That fucking car is why I preferred the Chevy Cavaliers in driver's-ed class. I drive the way I do because I am expecting my ride to fall apart, Bluesmobile-style, if I magically convince it to go more than 60 miles an hour. That pieceashit went through four starters, and every single one of them died when I'd taken the car. Trying to get out of a parking lot that turned from free to very expensive at 6pm? Starter dies. Trying to get home from a midnight grocery run in the scary part of town? Starter dies. Trying to get away from arguing alcoholics at Christmas? Starter dies.

My first car was a Toyota. I loved it so much I decreed that from then on we would only buy Toyotas. We have. It's gone well.
posted by cmyk at 3:09 PM on August 30, 2007 [1 favorite]

The wayback!! My dad used to drive a Ford LTD station wagon with the fold-up seats (and paneled sides!!) and we kids used to have mad arguments about who got to sit in the wayback!

Between that and my mom's yellow Pinto, my parents really knew how to pick 'em.
posted by Space Kitty at 4:40 PM on August 30, 2007

Trying to get out of a parking lot that turned from free to very expensive at 6pm? Starter dies. Trying to get home from a midnight grocery run in the scary part of town? Starter dies. Trying to get away from arguing alcoholics at Christmas? Starter dies.

This is a goodly part of why I refuse to drive an automatic. Push-start 4 EVAR!
posted by Devils Rancher at 5:27 PM on August 30, 2007

Thirding the awesomeness of a station wagon "wayback" (that's totally what it's called). It was a 1989-ish (not 100% sure what year) Volvo in my case. The car was a real piece of crap (perhaps hard to believe about a Volvo, but this thing was a major lemon), but my sister and I deeply lamented its passing all the same.
Do they make those anymore? I never see kids sitting in waybacks anymore, so maybe there are some new safety regulations or something...

A good friend of mine's family had a Yugo that they loved dearly (for some inexplicable reason) for many years even as it fell the pieces before their eyes. They finally gave up on it a couple years ago when some irreplaceable part broke.

I'm surprised there's not more argument about Corvair safety going on in here (all my lovely popcorn, gone to waste!). All I know is I don't think it's especially ugly.
posted by naoko at 6:52 PM on August 30, 2007

There's something about the Corvair, naoko. My dad, who is as rabid a lefty-socialist-commie-pinko as you'll ever find will damn Ralph Nader with his dying breath for taking away his precious Corvair. I get the impression that safety considerations are kinda secondary to fun in most people's minds.
posted by lekvar at 7:26 PM on August 30, 2007

Thirding the awesomeness of a station wagon "wayback" (that's totally what it's called). It was a 1989-ish (not 100% sure what year) Volvo in my case. The car was a real piece of crap (perhaps hard to believe about a Volvo, but this thing was a major lemon), but my sister and I deeply lamented its passing all the same.

Did I grow up with you? A friend of mine had a gunmetal-grey box of a Volvo station wagon, and "the wayback" was always a coveted place to sit.
posted by cmyk at 12:39 AM on August 31, 2007

naoko writes "I never see kids sitting in waybacks anymore, so maybe there are some new safety regulations or something..."

Well I don't think anyone makes a 7/8/9 passenger wagon anymore, they've been replaced by minivans. And kids are required to be belted practically everywhere so they can't ride in the back of a 5/6 passenger wagon.
posted by Mitheral at 9:15 AM on August 31, 2007

Holy Shit! That's an ugly car!
posted by Devils Rancher at 7:41 PM on August 31, 2007

Devils Rancher for the win. By gods, that is one fugly car!
posted by five fresh fish at 10:07 PM on August 31, 2007

Seriously, if anyone could provide some sort of insight as to what sort of thinking led to that godawful car, I'd love to hear it.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:09 PM on August 31, 2007

Hey, now you're just going in circles...
posted by anthill at 10:18 PM on August 31, 2007

Oops, I could swear I looked upthread. Not trying to 'jack anyone else's Google-Fu.
posted by Devils Rancher at 4:18 PM on September 1, 2007

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