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The 20th Century’s Worst Cars

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There’s something wonderful about the world’s worst cars. Maybe it’s because even an awful car sucks up an enormous amount of time, resources, and creativity before the very first one rolls off the production line.

So when the result is an obvious disaster, it makes everyone shake their heads and groan, “What were they thinking?” Great question! We’d like to answer it.

Here’s a short history of 10 cars that are widely considered to be some of the 20th century’s worst models. If you see your car on this list, we’re sorry! But you probably already know it’s just one of those terrifically terrible cars that people love to hate.

The Mustang II

You’re probably not surprised to see the Mustang II on this list. It’s one of the most hated cars of all time, probably because it took one of the coolest muscle cars in the world – the Mustang – and blended it with the absolutely uncool Ford Pinto.

Why did Ford ever think this would be a good idea? They reasoned that the Mustang II would be an attractive upscale economy car during the oil embargo of the mid-1970s. So they gave it an underpowered engine and the Pinto’s infamous gas tank, which was later discovered to be vulnerable to explosions during rear-end crashes.

If you own a Mustang II, you must have a big heart for oddball classics. Please keep it safe on the road with Mustang insurance that honors its strange but undeniable value.

The Jaguar XJ220

This may be the most popular yet unpopular car on our list. People went wild for its 1988 sneak peek, which came a full four years before it was actually offered for sale. Buyers rushed to pony up $100,000 just to reserve one.

It has scissor doors, sleek Jaguar style, and a price tag of half a million dollars. But inside, it’s a heartbreaker. Between the concept car and the first one to be sold, designers made ruthless engine and transmission changes to cope with government regulations. When buyers balked and refused delivery, the company sued them and created a group of hardcore Jaguar haters.

Still, many people have an abiding love for this finicky cat. Sound like you? Make sure you cover it with classic Jaguar insurance that protects it while you’re sauntering along the streets.

The Cadillac Cimarron

Auto writers have always had harsh words for the Cadillac Cimarron, including “the ultimate crap car,” “an affront to automotive decency,” and our personal favorite, “a steaming pile of Cadillac.” Any way you phrase it, this is a terrible car.

Essentially, this is what happens when you try to turn a Chevy Cavalier into a Cadillac. It’s a boxy nightmare of automotive mediocrity that’s somehow worse than both the cars it tried to be. It’s not even fun to drive! Auto historians consider it to be the car that almost drained all the luxury out of the Cadillac brand before it was finally discontinued in 1988.

The Kaiser-Frazer Henry J

Named after automotive chairman Henry J. Kaiser, this vehicle clunked onto the market in 1950 to appeal to people who could only afford a used car. In the spirit of thriftiness, the Kaiser-Frazer company produced a car that would be offered for just $1,300, which is about $14,000 in today’s terms.

Unfortunately, the low price tag led to cost-cutting and poor marketing that failed to resonate with buyers. Kaiser-Frazer cut a deal with Sears to sell discounted versions called Allstates, further diluting any appeal the car ever had. After numerous years of falling sales, the Henry J was discontinued. Today, it has one of the worst values of any classic car.

The Trabant

There are bad cars, there are horrible cars, and then there’s the Trabant, also known as the “spark plug with a roof.” This communist-era East German vehicle is so strange and poorly made, it’s led some people to wonder whether it’s really a car at all.

When it was introduced in 1957, the car’s all-in-one unibody was made of a substance called Duroplast that compacted cotton and wood fibers into plastic. Today, the Duroplast bodies of most original Trabants are all that remains of them, with everything else rusting and molding away into history.

Many people don’t realize that Trabants were manufactured until 1990 and more than 3 million of them were produced. They retain a devoted following among rally car racers and people who just have a special place in their hearts for unlovable cars.

The DeLorean DMC-12

There are so many awful things we could mention about the DeLorean. We could start by reviewing its history as the pet project of John DeLorean, whose car dreams weren’t always … realistic. We could point out that it malfunctioned constantly and was built by poorly-trained workers who didn’t know how to assemble it properly.

The DeLorean is an epically disastrous car with such serious electrical failures, it trapped drivers inside as they pounded on the tiny windows for help. Maybe we shouldn’t be surprised that it’s the brainchild of a man who ultimately went to jail for money laundering in a ring of cocaine dealers. That’s pure ‘80s!

But none of this matters to people who love the DeLorean. It’s all part of the mystique. When the DeLorean made an appearance in the 1985 film “Back to the Future,” it inspired generations of crackpots to resurrect one of the worst cars of all time.

The Chevy Vega

Did you know John DeLorean managed to ruin not one, but two cars on this list? Yes indeed, he also had a hand in making the Chevy Vega, an absolute mess of a car that arose from a bumbling corporate design team.

It would take too long to list all Vega’s design flaws, but here are a few to make you chuckle. The engine ran so hotly it almost instantly warped the head gasket. Its sheet metal and fenders could barely survive a warm winter, let alone a single dent. The “rust-proof” coating seemed to somehow encourage more rust.

And don’t forget the cherry on top: Labor disputes at the production plant caused assembly workers to deliberately sabotage these cars, bringing Vega owners endless costs and frustration.

The Dodge La Femme

The perky La Femme embodies 50s-era sexism. The company wanted to make something that appealed to women and gave their husbands a way to purchase the car of their wives’ dreams. Unfortunately, Dodge made their goal so blatant, it didn’t fly with the ladies.

The La Femme’s looks lived up to its name. It had pink woven-tapestry seats, a matching rain cape and umbrella, and a dainty pink-and-white paint job. Women could even buy a matching purse and makeup kit to coordinate.

What could go wrong? Everything. After two years of offending women and being mostly ignored by men, the La Femme became a thing of la past.

The Yugo GV

Car and Driver called it the worst car in history and “a communist car sold in Reagan’s America.” Even Malcolm Bricklin, the Yugo’s biggest fan and the entrepreneur who brought it to life, admitted that it was an astoundingly low-quality car. It was his last-ditch effort to make money in a struggling company.

The Yugo was slow, shaky, uncomfortable, and lacked basic features like a glove compartment or cup holders. It also couldn’t handle more than two riders without struggling up a hill. Buyers reported that the gears constantly slipped, the interior knobs would pop off in your hand, and the gas cap would become stuck in place. Here’s the best thing we can say about the Yugo: It was a failure, but maybe a cheap failure is better than an expensive failure?

The Edsel

The Edsel is such a colossal disaster of a car, it’s become synonymous with the concept of failure. Time magazine put it on their list of the Worst Cars of All Time and their list of All-Time Lemons, honoring it in their crossword with the clue, “A five-letter word for a Ford failure.”

Maybe Ford just hyped it too much. It was supposed to be The Car That Ended The Cold War and, according to ads, took “automotive excellence to a futuristic new level.”

In reality, the Edsel was poorly manufactured and earned a reputation for arriving brand new at the dealership with defective and outright missing parts. Ford sunk millions of dollars into it before finally admitting what everyone else already knew: The Edsel was doomed to fail.

Legacy of Classic Auto Insurance

Need to insure a classic car you love, whether everyone else loves it or not? We’re here to help you give it the care and attention it deserves.

Classic Automobile Insurance Agency is a family business built on a love of classic cars. We take every opportunity to bring you unique learning opportunities like our hugely successful Project C10, powered by American Modern. Having owned a variety of collectible vehicles ourselves, we understand the special protections your iconic ride requires.

Whether you bought it at an auction, drove it off the lot, or restored it to perfection in your garage, we can insure it. We’ll build you a customized auto insurance program that is designed specifically for owners of collectible cars while providing the top-notch customer support you expect.

Visit our website at to get an instant quote online or call 888-901-1338 and see how we can help safeguard your dream car.

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