Judging Jalopies: The 7 Worst Cars of All Time

Nov 28, 2023

a Suzuki X90

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When a car leaves the production line, you expect it to be a stylish and reliable machine to get you to your destination. Most vehicles fit the bill, but some makes and models fall short of expectations. We’ve driven cars for over a hundred years, with some great vehicles and some terrible machines. So, what are the worst cars of all time? Here are our picks, selecting one from seven modern manufacturers.

1. BMW Isetta

BMW Isetta drives up a mountain road in Portugal.

Let’s start by taking a time machine to the 1950s. The global economy flourished once World War II and the Great Depression ended. Automakers ramped up production of cars as more families could afford and needed transportation for work. In 1955, BMW began producing the Isetta, a microcar popular in Europe and Argentina. However, it didn’t work out so well. 

The Isetta made sense for the time and helped BMW stay afloat amid company uncertainty. However, the Isetta has aged poorly due to a lack of reverse gear, leading some drivers to get stuck in their garages. They’re also hard to enter, as they’re tiny and low to the ground. Driving the Isetta is frustrating, as its 0-60 speed was nonexistent. Its top speed was only 53 miles per hour (mph)! 

2. Chevrolet Vega

The golden Chevrolet logo with a red background.

Chevrolet is famous for the Corvette, the Camaro and Dale Earnhardt. With over 800 wins in NASCAR, they must be doing something right. However, even Chevrolet has some slip-ups occasionally. We could talk about the Chevy SSR because it looks cartoonish. However, the worst cars of all time from Chevrolet are its Vega models, produced between 1970 and 1977. 

The Chevrolet Vega initially succeeded by winning Car of the Year from Motortrend in 1971. However, the hype quickly faded as drivers reported problems all around the car. The most notable issue was its engine, which routinely caught on fire due to its cheap construction. Also, drivers had to worry about the wheels falling off the car due to abrupt rear axle failure.

3. Chrysler PT Cruiser

This entry may hurt some feelings, but the PT Cruiser is arguably the worst car from Chrysler (although the Imperial gives it a run for its money.) Chrysler only produced this vehicle from 2000 to 2010, leaving its mark on the decade. These machines may bring nostalgia for some but nightmares for others. 

The PT Cruiser was an inadequate machine, starting with its aesthetics. Chrysler aimed for a retro look with the Cruiser but made something tacky instead. Performance-wise, it didn’t get much better. These vehicles had only 150 horsepower and lousy acceleration. You’re not driving at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, but you’d like a little more power in your engine. 

4. Dodge Dart

Let’s stay in the Stellantis family and talk about the Dodge Dart. Dodge produced the Dart from 1959 to 1976 and gave it a hiatus for nearly four decades. It returned in 2012, but it got off to a very rocky start. Some Dodge Dart models are driveable, but the 2013 edition was a gigantic failure. If you’re in the market for a used car, steer clear of the 2013 Dodge Dart. 

The 2013 Dodge Dart came at a critical time in American history, just after the Great Recession. The automakers nearly collapsed but received a bailout to keep going. So, Dodge and Stellantis should’ve made a statement with a fantastic car. Instead, the Dart reeked of transmission issues, even for drivers who didn’t put many miles on them. In 2019, Fiat Chrysler had to recall 320,000 Darts due to the risk of rolling away.  

5. Ford Pinto

A blue and gray Ford logo on a vehicle.

Some say Ford stands for “Found On Road Dead.” While the Michigan-based manufacturer has plenty of quality machines, the Ford Pinto lives up to the negative nickname. Ford produced the Pinto from 1970 to 1980 as it attempted to enter the subcompact vehicle market. Is it a coincidence the Pinto rivaled the Chevrolet Vega during this time? Both are among the worst cars of all time, so it’s hard to envy car buyers of the 1970s. 

The Ford Pinto had a bad reputation because it was a dangerous car. Pintos were notorious for catching on fire due to the fuel tank’s location behind the rear bumper. A minor fender bender could quickly turn into an explosive disaster!

Ford rushed the Pinto’s development and landed itself in court with hefty lawsuits. In 1978, a jury made Ford pay $128 million in damages due to the Pinto’s fuel tank explosions. Ultimately, the judge reduced the award to $3.5 million, but the message to Ford was clear. 

6. General Motors EV1

Electric vehicles (EVs) are becoming more commonplace nowadays due to increased manufacturer support. These cars run on lithium-ion batteries and have no tailpipe emissions, making them an excellent purchase. However, they haven’t always been great. The growing pains were evident in the General Motors (GM) EV1. 

The energy crisis of the late 1970s re-energized the push for EVs due to high fuel costs. Twenty years later, GM debuted the first mass-produced electric car. Unfortunately, GM may have jumped the gun a bit here. The EV1 performed poorly and did not live up to expectations. Your average EV1 could only drive about 100 miles with conservative driving, so aggressive acceleration could take your range down to the 50-75 range. 

GM only produced about 1,100 EV1s and leased all of them, meaning there were no owners besides the manufacturer. It wouldn’t take long before GM took the EV1s back and destroyed them. You can find the EV1 at the Smithsonian, but you’d be hard-pressed to see it on the streets.

7. Suzuki X-90

Look up pictures of the Suzuki X-90. Doesn’t it look like something you’d see in a cartoon? You can just imagine a Whoville citizen driving this car around town while running away from the Grinch. Suzuki only produced the X-90 between 1995 and 1997, and it’s easy to see why. Aesthetics wouldn’t be a big deal if the car had adequate performance or a cult following. Unfortunately, it has neither. 

The X-90 sold only 1,300 units in Japan and a few thousand more in the United States. That’s it! Suzuki’s X-90 was a significant failure as the automaker attempted to bring something new. The X-90’s performance was underwhelming, with only 94 horsepower to drive around town. If you drove this car in 2023, you’d look like a Ken who has a hard time getting a Barbie. Plus, the vehicle does no favors for guys taller and larger than average.

Finding the Worst Cars of All Time

Sometimes, automakers hit the bullseye with their vehicles. The Toyota Camry, Ford Mustang and Chevrolet Camaro consistently wow us with their features. However, the manufacturers aren’t perfect and give us duds. These junkyard jalopies ended up as the seven worst cars of all time. Can you think of any worse models?


Author

Jack Shaw is a senior writer at Modded. Jack is an avid enthusiast for keeping up with personal health and enjoying nature. He has over five years of experience writing in the men's lifestyle niche, and has written extensively on topics of fitness, exploring the outdoors and men's interests. His writings have been featured in SportsEd TV, Love Inc., and Offroad Xtreme among many more publications.