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The Trabant’s East German background gives it a clear advantage in its bid for the Worst Car of All Time title. (MICHAEL GOTTSCHALK/AFP/Getty Images)
The Trabant’s East German background gives it a clear advantage in its bid for the Worst Car of All Time title. (MICHAEL GOTTSCHALK/AFP/Getty Images)

Road Rush

The 12 worst cars ever built Add to ...

The Explorer also earns a place in the automotive rogue's gallery by virtue of its troubling accident history. Early models came standard with Firestone tires that had a habit of blowing out at highway speed. This, combined with the Explorer's tall profile and crude suspension (not to mention the driving skills of many buyers) led to a long series of rollover crashes, many of them fatal. It also gave the Explorer a new nickname: The Exploder.

1978 Ford Pinto: This small cars was the butt of countless jokes due to its poor design that led to serious problems when involved in rear-end collisions.

Ford Pinto

(1970-1980)

The Pinto could make a worst cars list purely on its mediocre styling, but its real claim to vehicular infamy is a design error - a fuel filler neck that snapped off in rear-end collisions, turning the Pinto into a flaming deathtrap. The problem defined the Pinto, which became the butt of countless jokes. In a routine about his ghetto childhood, comedian Eddie Murphy told audiences that his family used to rear-end Pintos instead of buying fireworks.

The Pinto turned into a public relations disaster for Ford when it was learned that the company had discovered the fuel tank problem during pre-production testing, but decided that a proposed fix (about $50 per car) was too expensive. Although the gas tank problem was rectified in later models, the car's reputation gradually strangled its sales and killed its resale value.

The Pinto was produced in a few different models, including the Pinto Squire, which featured simulated wood panel on the doors and fenders.

2002 Pontiac Aztek: The Aztek was sold for only five years, and was available at deep discounts, because few people would buy them.

Pontiac Aztek

2001-2005

The Aztek was born during a Detroit period defined by rising SUV sales and stylistic drift, as venerable brands like Pontiac struggled to maintain their identity amidst a confusing list of GM divisions as well as a flood of imports. Criticized for bland, derivative styling. Pontiac designers took a bold but ill-advised step with the Aztek, which looked a bit like a Transformer figure based on a Dust Buster vacuum cleaner. The Aztek was sold for only five years, and was available at deep discounts, because few people would buy them. In 2007, Time magazine declared the Aztek one of the worst cars of all time. In 2008, a British newspaper declared it Number One in a list of the 100 ugliest cars ever produced. Mechanically, the Aztek was mediocre, with underpinnings borrowed from other GM models. Styling-wise, the Aztek was a schizophrenic: the bizarre exterior gave way to an interior of exceptional dullness, as if the designers had finally chickened out.

Subaru SVX: The eye-catching window-within-a-window design of the Subaru SVX offers good aerodynamics, a good view and, when open, the smaller window means riders aren't as buffeted by wind. However, the car was taken off the market after just four years.

Subaru SVX

(1991-95)

The SVX marked a rare misstep by Subaru, a car company known for solid engineering and decent (if uninspired) design. The SVX stands as a monument to misguided styling, with odd panel breaks and complex windows that defined the car - and killed it in the showroom. The windows were a two-part design, with fixed outer sections that had sliding panes set within them. They might have made sense to the stylist who came up with them, but to everyone else, the windows seemed ridiculous. Like the fashion of wearing clothes backwards during the mercifully brief reign of the hip hop duo Kris Kross, the SVX's radical window design died a quick death: The car was taken off the market in 1995, just four years after it was introduced.

The Trabant’s East German background gives it a clear advantage in its bid for the Worst Car of All Time title.

Trabant

1958-1990

In the same way that a ghetto childhood can help a boxer become heavyweight champion of the world, the Trabant's East German background gives it a clear advantage in its bid for the Worst Car of All Time title. The now-fallen communist state provided ideal conditions for the creation of a truly awful vehicle: a demoralized labour force, incompetently-run factories, and a iron-fisted political system that crushed innovation. Trabants were powered by smoke-belching two-stroke engines, and the bodies were constructed of compressed cardboard coated with plastic resin. Reliability was terrible, and the gearshift mechanism is generally agreed upon as one of the worst ever invented. None of these problems quenched demand. In East Germany, the Trabant was the only car available, and the waiting list was typically ten years long. The Trabant went out of production in 1990. The fall of the Berlin Wall removed the Trabant's key feature - a monopoly position.

 

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