The Most Embarrassing “Dream Cars” of My Youth

A closeup image of a Corvette door

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Every kid has a dream car, but exactly what that car is can change often over the years. Some kids dream of Corvettes and grow up to like pickups. Others are enamored with sleek imports as children, but love American muscle as adults. Personally, I’ve had quite a few dream cars over the years. Some of them I still like to this day. Others … well, they didn’t exactly live up to the dream.

Here are five cringe-worthy car crushes I had when I was young.

Plymouth Prowler

The Plymouth Prowler was a great-looking car to 10-year-old me. The open-wheel front and split bumper took their cues from old-school hot rods, and the sleek curves had a more modern aesthetic. Unfortunately, there was one big problem with the Prowler. Despite being heavily inspired by the hot-rod look, they forgot to make the car an actual hot rod.

Under the hood, the Prowler had a 3.5-liter V6 engine, which churned out 250 hp. That would be pretty good for an economy car, but this car deserved so much better. The Prowler’s looks were making promises its engine couldn’t deliver, and a hot rod without the roar of a V8 just felt wrong. To add insult to injury, the car didn’t even come with a manual transmission option.

1973 Mustang

You know how I feel about the Ford Mustang. It has been an icon of American automaking for decades, but you don’t make cars for 50 years without a few slip-ups along the way. The 1973 was one such mistake.

For one thing, Ford had apparently given up on making powerful cars. The base model contained a V6 engine that couldn’t even produce 100 hp. That’s less power than the low-end models of the very first Mustangs in 1964. Instead, Ford tried to make the car more “luxurious” through additions like wire wheel covers, a vinyl roof, and a cloth and vinyl interior. Although the ‘73 Mustang’s facelift is debatable, it still retained that classic muscle car look. For a kid, sometimes looks are all that matters.

PT Cruiser

No doubt some of you are already groaning in pain, but it’s easy to forget that when it was first revealed, the PT Cruiser was immensely popular. The unique body style took some design cues from the classic 1932 Ford, AKA the deuce coupe. When it comes to lasting impact, however, the PT Cruiser went in the exact opposite direction, garnering a reputation as one of the most hated cars of all time.

For one thing, the Cruiser only had a four-cylinder engine. And although the technical specs claimed it produced 150 hp, it felt like even less. The build quality wasn’t very good, either, and the car had a tendency to break down far more often than you’d expect. As it turns out, that might have been a blessing in disguise, as it helped get more of these dream cars off the road and into the junkyard.

Dodge Neon

This is one of the most embarrassing. I honestly thought this car looked cool. With a slightly longer hood and sportier stance than other sedans at the time, as well as round headlights reminiscent of old muscle cars, the Dodge Neon actually looked like it might have a bit of zip in it. And with a price tag starting at under $10,000, that almost seemed too good to be true. As it turned out, it was.

With a 132 hp engine taking it from 0-60 mph in under 8 seconds, the Neon was a step above your average low-budget car, but not by much. More importantly, you paid for that extra step in a lot of other places. The car’s low price tag could be felt by anyone who stepped inside, with cheap, low-quality materials covering every surface. The four-cylinder engine was also louder than it had any right to be, with the loud buzzing at full throttle making you pray every second for the roar of a V8.

1975 Corvette

The word “Corvette” brings one thing to mind: Speed. The entire brand is built upon being among the fastest cars on the road, and the 1975 Corvette certainly looked the part. It kept the sleek aerodynamic lines of previous years, but unified the rear bumper into a single piece, removing the unsightly line in the center.

Unfortunately, this car was all show and no go. At only 165 hp, this was one of the least impressive Corvettes ever built. That’s just 15 more horsepower than the first Corvettes back in 1953, and the ‘75 was carrying an extra 827 pounds. All this added up to a 7.7-second 0-60 time, leaving the ‘75 as a shameful mark on the Corvette name.

Our Forgotten Dream Cars

Most of us have had dream cars we’d rather forget about at one point or another, and sometimes it can be a bit embarrassing to think back on the lemons you used to think were cool. However, these missteps can serve to remind us of an important lesson: You won’t truly know what your dream car is until you drive it.

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