Exactly what makes a car terrible is subjective and can be difficult to determine. However, time has created some lemons that most people would agree were just awful. These are five of the absolute worst.
1. 1983 Camaro Iron Duke
This cis terrible based on what it was created for. The Camaro name was invented to compete with the sporty Ford Mustang, which is a perfectly fine reason to invent a car. However, the Camaro Iron Duke could do 0-60 in a stately… 20 seconds. Despite this, the name “Camaro” has not actually been ruined forever and now is legitimately associated with sportiness.
2. 1961 Corvair
Unlike the Camaro above which just disappointed people and probably actually saved them from speeding tickets, the Corvair was dangerous. It had a steering column that had the unfortunate tendency to impale people during head-on collisions and running the heater sometimes filled the cabin with toxic smoke. The Corvair is responsible, at least in part, for Ralph Nadar’s famous book, Unsafe At Any Speed.
Beyond being dangerous, almost every Corvair ever made seemed to have an oil leak that could not be fixed. The rear engine also made the car spin out with little effort, causing more than a few accidents in its time. This car was truly a mess.
3. 1971 Ford Pinto
The Ford Pinto is credited with doing great things for the American people and is generally remembered fondly. It is credited with stimulating the economy by being affordable and helping transform America’s highway system. For a cheap car, it performed decently well and generally had many fans.
However, the 1971 Pinto had a particularly insidious flaw. Most of the time the car was fine but occasionally one was involved in a rear-end collision on one of those roads that it helped to create. When this occurred, it had a tendency to blow up. Yes, blow up, as in explode.
4. 1958 Zunndapp Janus
Zunndapp was a German motorcycle manufacturer in the first part of the 20th century. In their quest to make a functional but small car they created the Janus. Only two model years and a total of some 6900 cars were made and it is easy to see why.
The Janus was a confusing car at best. It had doors on the front and rear of the car which often left people wondering how they got in. It was tiny, which could leave potential passengers wondering if they would fit. For the final insult to injury, it made a mere 14 horsepower and had a top speed of 50 miles per hour.
5. 1978 Fiat Strada
Before rust-proofing was invented it only made sense that cars would rust. However, the Fiat Strada was made after rust-proofing was invented and yet managed to rust in almost every conceivable manner. Not only did the floors rust but also the suspension, the wheel housing and much more. The list goes on and on.
In an amusing twist, the Strada was available in a color dubbed “rust brown.” Fiat’s attempt to hide the true nature of the car just a little longer? Perhaps.
Peter Wendt is a freelance writer and researcher living in Austin with a passion for automobiles. Peter doesn’t recommend purchasing any of these vehicles, but if you are trying to sell your junk car in Austin, he highly recommends selling or donating it to a local junkyard.