The Alleged Car / Real Life

All of those crappy cars that appear in fiction have to come from somewhere, and there's no shortage of Real Life Alleged Cars to provide inspiration. But it's harder than you think to find a truly horrible, non-functional car. Many cars just have this reputation because they're cheap, foreign, underpowered, and ugly, and thus they aren't maintained properly or are driven by total maniacs. Other cars are horrendously mismarketed and thus driven by the wrong people for the wrong purpose.

But you do get some very very poorly designed or manufactured cars out there. They constantly break down, they're made of substandard materials and fall apart, they're ridiculously underpowered, and they might not even be legal to sell in certain countries for safety reasons. These are the Real Life Alleged Cars.

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    North America 


  • The 1975 Bricklin SV1 was a concept for a safer sports car, but all the safety features weighed it down to the point that it couldn't outrun a school bus.
    • One of the alleged safety features was the lack of a cigarette lighter or ashtray, as the car's creator, Malcolm Bricklin, wanted to discourage smoking and driving.
    • Despite the claims of safety, one glaring problem made the car downright dangerous. The doors were electrically operated and too heavy to open by hand if the motors failed, so a dead battery meant the only way to get out of the car was to climb out through the rear hatch.
    • The company's production process was so inefficient that the cost of building a Bricklin was over three times the price it sold for. (They probably expected to make it up on volume.)

United States

  • The Edsel's gotten a Shout-Out in everything from Garfield to Destroy All Humans! as one of the worst cars ever made. It wasn't that bad mechanically; it was about as reliable as other American cars of its day. But it was marketed wrong, priced wrong, named wrong, and most of all, just plain ugly.
    • Most of the ugliness came from the "impact ring", a huge, bulbous, vertical chromed grille on the front fascia. Some said it looked like a Pontiac sucking a lemon. Others less charitably compared it to a toilet seat. Perhaps most damningly, as comedians have pointed out, when most cars of the era were thinly disguised phallic symbols, the Edsel had a prominent, enormous, chrome-plated vagina.
    • Ford introduced the Edsel without any dedicated factories to produce it. It crammed Edsels onto existing production lines for Lincoln and Mercury cars. This caused confusion both in the assembly process and in the parts' supply trains; it led to many manufacturing defects, such as doors that wouldn't open, trunks that wouldn't shut, and push-buttons that wouldn't do anything. Some Edsels also arrived at car lots incomplete, missing things like the exhaust system or bits of trim; dealers would have to install those themselves before they could sell the cars.
    • It also hit the market at the wrong time, right at the onset of the 1958 recession. Americans were just starting to sour on huge, over-the-top land yachts. For introduced the sensible compact Falcon for model year 1960 and it was an immediate success; its fancier sibling Comet was a Mercury, but was originally considered for the Edsel lineup.
    • Probably the only good thing about it was how it was promoted. The Edsel Show was a TV special featuring a plethora of the era's biggest stars, including Bing Crosby. It was a hit among the public, but it couldn't save the car.
    • In the end, the Edsel line lasted only two and a half years before Ford shut it down and ate their substantial losses. But these days, people realize that it didn't operate as badly as people thought, and its rarity makes it sought after among car enthusiasts.
  • The Ford Pinto came out in the early 1970s, when the oil crisis forced American manufacturers to make small cars just to survive. Although it was fairly popular, it was discovered to have had a defect where a rear-end collision could rupture the poorly-placed gas tank. The result was a hysteria that gave the car its reputation and named a trope for cars catching fire and exploding easily. It wasn't as unsafe as you might think; only 27 deaths were traced to accidents like that between 1971-77 out of over 2 million cars sold, and the government didn't think it needed recalling in 1974. What caused the panic was the "Pinto memo", as revealed in the Grimshaw v. Ford case, in which Ford allegedly claimed that there was a cheap fix that would solve the problem, but it was even cheaper not to fix it and settle future injury and wrongful death claims. That cheesed off the public and directly led to the court in Grimshaw slapping Ford with $6 million in total damages. (The memo itself wasn't actually about the Pinto specifically.) The Pinto would also be an inspiration for the 1974-78 Mustang II, which was anemic compared to other Mustangs and is considered the brand's Dork Age.
  • The Chevy Vega had a strong debut, winning Motor Trend Car of the Year in 1971 and being the first car offered (and won) on the 1972 debut of The New Price Is Right. Unfortunately, the aluminum-block engine was susceptible to vibration and overheating, which often resulted in oil leaking into the cylinders from cracked valve stem seals. On top of that, the body was very rust-prone. While GM was able to fix some of the problems later in the car's lifespan, it was too late, and the Vega was dropped after the '77 model year.
  • The 1980 Chevy Citation and its derivatives (the Pontiac Phoenix, The Oldsmobile Omega, and the Buick Skylark) were an ill-fated attempt by GM to catch up to the competition.
    • Chrysler had managed to reduce its entire product lineup to a single car, the "K-car", on which they put different bodies so they could market them as entirely different cars. GM saw that and tried to imitate Chrysler, but they put even less effort into it; they basically just changed the brand badges, headlamps, and taillights, and tried to claim they were different cars. And the car itself was extremely flawed.
    • Among the flaws were: overenthusiastic rear brakes that would lock up and cause an "atomic death-skid", a persistent and quick-onset rust problem, notoriously unreliable head gaskets, and atrocious build quality. Car Talk described it as a "front-wheel drive, rear-brake lockup".
    • Frustratingly, the press who actually reviewed the car got a much better pre-production model that was designed to look good for them. The car thus got rave reviews and was even the Motor Trend Car of the Year. That got a lot of people excited about something that turned out to be an Alleged Car.
  • GM made the same mistake with the "J-car", which was originally the Chevrolet Cavalier. The Cadillac Cimarron was particularly derided by many critics because all GM did to make it was slap the Cadillac badges onto a Cavalier, barely modify the headlamps and taillights, and put a Cadillac pricetag on it. The original idea was to pitch an entry-level luxury car to younger buyers, similar to an entry-level BMW or Mercedes. Buyers weren't impressed because the car wasn't friendly and was too similar to its J-car siblings; they could just get a Cavalier with all available options for $3,000 less than a Cimarron. It was mechanically competent, but it had an anemic 4-cylinder engine and a manual transmission, which no Cadillac had since 1953 and which no buyer expected or wanted. It's credited with nearly killing the Cadillac brand, such that a picture of a Cimarron with the caption "Lest We Forget" can be seen in some Cadillac executives' offices.
    • Chrysler had built 2 similar in approach, but not as well-known, cars on its K-car chassis:
      • The Chrysler Limousine, essentially a slightly longer K-car with luxury features, yet still a 4-cylinder engine. Not too many people bought this.
      • The Chrysler TC by Maserati was the American manufacturer's idea of a luxury car. A K-car built by Maserati in Italy, it essentially had nothing, except an opera window in the C-pillar, to disguise its humble origins, and was thought of as an overly expensive Chrysler, not a budget Maserati.
  • The Cadillac Catera was an attempt to release a sporty, modern car that could rival European sedans like the BMW 5 series or Mercedes E-class. Unfortunately, they again decided to do this by essentially re-badging another car, this time with the Opel Omega. Opel is not a luxury European brand, and it couldn't compete with BMW or Mercedes in this respect. The Catera also had problems with the oil cooler and timing belt, as well as a bizarre advertising campaign featuring an anthropomorphic cartoon spokes-duck. No wonder it was described by Regular Car Reviews as Cadillac's Chris Gaines album.
  • During the 1960s and 1970s, Chrysler foolishly took control of the Rootes Group in Britain, which supplied them with cars smaller than what Chrysler Corporation proper wanted to build, with generally poor results. The nadir was the 1971-73 Plymouth Cricket (aka the Hillman Avenger), which had poor workmanship and tended to rust like crazy. To add insult to injury to the Chrysler-Plymouth dealers, the Dodge sales channel got the far better Mitsubishi-sourced Colt.
  • The Dodge Neon earned large amounts of critical acclaim upon its launch in 1994 and was a huge success in both the showroom and on the track, as well as being a very influential design and concept that all of today's compact cars are modeled after to some extent. However, the quality and reliability problems that plagued early models (its tendency for head gasket failure being the most notable), its "cute" design, and the fact that many were turned into "rice burners" during the street racing fad of the mid-2000s, led to the Neon being a common Alleged Car today.
  • The redesigned, front-wheel-drive 1988 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme was praised by critics upon launch and is considered to be a good car in its own right, but the disastrous "This Is Not Your Father's Oldsmobile" marketing campaign used to launch it was a massive failure that caused sales of the Oldsmobile brand as a whole to crater, leading to the brand's eventual demise in 2004. The '88 Cutlass is thus considered to be the car that killed Oldsmobile, and as a result today they're undesired and valueless.
  • The 1920 Briggs and Stratton Flyer, described as "a motorized park bench on bicycle wheels," and brought to you by the people now more famous for lawnmowers.
  • The DeLorean DMC-12 is most famous for its appearance as a tricked-out Time Machine in Back to the Future, but despite its cool design and gullwing doors, it's notoriously unreliable and suffered from serious production issues.
    • John DeLorean couldn't find a place to set up a factory; he went all over Europe and was turned down. Finally, he got an offer from the British government to set up a factory in the Belfast suburb of Dunmurry, in Northern Ireland. It was right on a religious fault line, and the British were even willing to underwrite a big chunk of the costs just to get the locals to do something other than take potshots at each other. It was rumored that the factory had separate entrances for Catholics and Protestants. Many of the workers had also never had a job of any kind in their lives As such, build quality suffered.
    • Each car had a 12-month, 20,000 km warranty. But even that wasn't enough to convince dealerships to carry any work on them; they were notoriously unreliable, and the dealers couldn't be reimbursed. It underperformed so badly that it was rumored that John DeLorean had to take up drug smuggling to pay the bills.
    • Let's put it this way: If you can actually get it up to 88 mph, that really is some serious shit. Its performance was quite lacklustre, especially for an intended supercar, because it was watered down to save costs. It was originally designed for a rear-mounted rotary engine, but due to fuel concerns, it got a mid-mounted 2.8-litre V6 instead; this not only caused weight distribution issues, but also caused a drop to 145 HP (125 in the U.S. due to further emissions controls).
    • Back to the Future is the only thing keeping it alive now, especially when people realize that using it as a time machine was proof that Doc Brown maybe didn't have all his screws in tightly. A new company was formed in 2013 to remake the DMC-12 in several much more modern and reliable versions (including an electric one!).
  • AMC cars, in particular the Gremlin and Pacer, have this reputation. They were underpowered, rust-prone, and homely looking. They weren't as bad as people think, though, and they've since developed a kind of cult following. They're often credited for killing AMC as a company, but what really killed them was:
    • The AMC/Renault Alliance, a.k.a "the Appliance". Both companies were well-known for making... interestingly-styled cars, and when combined, the Alliance had the Gallic eccentricity of a Renault and the attractiveness of...well, a Gremlin. The Alliance could be outrun by a loaded Isuzu diesel pickup truck. AMC wound up being bought by Chrysler, and Renault would pull out of the U.S. market for good.
  • The Pontiac Aztek was an Alleged SUV if there ever was one.
    • Its motor was too small and its chassis was too heavy. It had a V6 engine, which in theory should have meant better fuel economy. In practice, the overworked motor had to burn through gas even faster just to reach and maintain highway speeds. It would become even more of a liability when gas prices rose.
    • It was notoriously ugly, earning the derisive nickname "Ass-Tek". It was full of weird angles designed to make it look "futuristic". Its awkward shape caused aerodynamic problems that worsened the car's performance, and it was also very good at collecting snow rather than shedding it.
    • The Aztek would become known as a crappy SUV with no re-sale value, and that's why Walter White drives one in Breaking Bad. Oddly, Walter's Aztek, despite looking even uglier than usual, manages to stay running in spite of all the crap it goes through, and it becomes kind of a character in itself. That said, it wouldn't have the cult following it did if not for the irony of it being an "Alleged Car". (And Walt ends up selling it for $50.)
  • The Ford Excursion (also known as the "Ford Excretion" or the "Ford Valdez"). Its curb weight was 7,230 lbs, making it about a ton heavier than even the biggest stereotypical 1970s "land yacht" sedan. It also had a 6.8 liter V-10 engine. That combination made for the ultimate gas-guzzling SUV, getting only a pathetic 9.6 mpg. Its only advantage was that it was big. It was also pretty good for agricultural or industrial use, which was fitting because it was based off a Ford Super Duty truck — it just wasn't suited for the everyday driving for which it was marketed. It exemplified everything wrong with American consumerism in the early 2000s (at least until the Hummer H2). It's big in Mexico, but only because it's real popular among drug cartels looking for high-capacity attack vehicles.
  • GM's EV1 was an attempt to make a revolutionary electric car, and it did indeed do more to advance electric car technology than any other vehicle. But GM wanted to save costs, so they fitted them with the same heavy lead-acid batteries as their other cars. This made them significantly heavier and severely compromised their range. By the time they could get better batteries, it was too late, and the car's value was trashed. GM responded by killing the EV1 — and thus the electric car as a whole for a good decade.
  • The Chevrolet Cobalt was never a very well-received car. It was viewed as mediocre-to-subpar at best by auto magazines when it was first released, and while it sold decently throughout its life cycle, that was more due to its low price than anything. It was only after it was discontinued and replaced with the (far superior) Cruze that it truly gained a reputation as an Alleged Car. It turned out to have an issue where you could simply bump the ignition key ring and send the whole car into a powerless state — driving, but with no power steering or brakes. This caused a 2014 recall of 60% of the Cobalts out there. GM knew about it for a while, but they decided not to fix it while they went bankrupt and asked for a government bailout in 2009.
    • On the other hand, the SS version of the Cobalt is liked in the performance car circles for its good acceleration and low price.
  • The Gamma Goat. To quote The Other Wiki:
    While the Gama Goat had exceptional off-road ability, its quirky steering made it hard to handle on pavement, and its tendency to flounder in amphibious operations required drivers to have special training in order to operate it. This meant it could not be the "general purpose" vehicle the Army had hoped for, and production was halted after the original contract expired. This is somewhat ironic, as some claim the problems were largely due to cost-cutting modifications made at the request of the US Army.
  • Once the initial novelty of the Chrysler PT Cruiser wore off, people quickly began to realize that they were terrible cars. The retro design and anemic performance did not endear it to younger drivers. The first generation were built like anvils which did not help them on the performance front, and the overstressed Neon-based running gear quickly gained a reputation for frequent and expensive mechanical failures (particularly the head gaskets, suspension bushings and transmission). Chrysler responded by "decontenting" later versions to make them lighter and more economical. The PT Cruiser's reputation is so awful that dealers won't bid on them at private auctions, and most of the drivers fit into one of three categories: people who couldn't afford a better used car, people who got them as hand-me-downs, and those rare few who actually like the aesthetic and are willing to overlook the myriad issues with the car. Between the ugly visage and godawful reliability, the vehicle is now frequently referred to by the colloquial label of "PT Loser"; oddly, since you can remove the back seats without tools, you can actually use it better as a small van.
  • The Ford Explorer has had its ups and downs over the years, but the 2002 model of Explorer is horrific, with the dishonor of being the worst vehicle on "Car Complaints". Severe transmission problems are the usual show-stoppers. Along with the already fatal transmission issues are a variety of reliability complaints about the rest of the vehicle parts.
  • Pontiac created several Alleged Cars with the "Iron Duke" engine, an iron-block straight-4 first built in 1977. It was intended almost solely to meet emissions regulations and burn less fuel; performance was basically an afterthought. This led to an output of only 85 to 110 brake horsepower, and a car with this engine would need nineteen seconds on average to go from 0 to 60 mph. It would remain in production until 1993, but not before being an option on powerful cars like the Chevy Camaro and Pontiac Firebird.
  • Chrysler's LH engine could also turn any car into an Alleged Car. Its oil passages were too narrow and tended to build up with sludge too quickly, causing easy clogging and killing the motor very quickly. It had leaky water pump gaskets that allowed oil and coolant to mix (which would also turn into the engine-killing sludge).
  • The Crosley "Co Bra" (Copper Brazed) engine, which was an engine with copper brazings inside the block. Unfortunately, it was warp-prone when exposed to excess heat, which, in its case, was not a lot.
  • The Oldsmobile diesel was introduced in 1978 as a remedy for the fuel crisis. Unfortunately, while giving better fuel economy, it also had bad performance (the biggest 5.7 liter variant had only 105 HP) and was able to easily break down when exposed to bad quality fuel, due to not having a water/fuel separator. It is frequently listed as one of the reasons for why Americans hate diesel cars.
  • In 1975, the United States were the first nation to mandate installing catalytic converters in cars. The problem was, the technology was not really advanced enough at this point and had a few shortcomings:
    • The devices severely worsened the vehicles' performance and fuel economy,
    • They could not stand continuous highway driving and required stops every few hours to cool down,
    • Good enough heat shielding was not available yet, so if you parked your car from that time on grass after driving it for a longer period, the heat from the catalytic converter could set the grass on fire.
  • Individual examples:
    • A contributor to Reader's Digest had her alleged car publicly displayed. She had driven to Florida to visit a friend just before a hurricane struck. When a news crew was speaking afterward of the devastation, they used a close-up image of her car. The car was completely untouched by the actual hurricane.
    • Conan O'Brien started a contest for people to send in videos of their alleged cars called "Conan, Please Blow Up My Car!" where the winner received a new Lexus HS 250h in its place (replacing a 1980 Toyota Corolla two-door with the roof hacked off to make a "convertible"). He also frequently mentions his own alleged car, a 1992 Ford Taurus SHO. A similar contest was held in Canada by Auto Trader, called "Cliff your Ride".
    • Yahoo automotive contributor Tim Cernea has several of these stories, the most tropeworthy being his 1965 Ford Falcon Ranchero. In true handyman fashion, he described the car losing its fuel tank on the highway as "a minor setback".
  • The Bradley Fighting Vehicle, as designed, was a deathtrap. The Pentagon Wars is pretty much a step-by-step guide to how a first-world nation ends up manufacturing an Alleged Car.
    Sgt. Fanning: ...A troop transport that can't carry troops, a reconnaissance vehicle that's too conspicuous to do reconnaissance...
    Colonel James Burton: ...and a quasi-tank that has less armor than a snowblower, but has enough ammo to take out half of D.C.



  • The Xiali TJ 7100, based on the third-generation Daihatsu Charade, was one of the first Chinese cars to enter the market, wasn't reliable at all, and remained in production for two decades without any major changes.
  • The Jiangnan TT, based on the second-generation Suzuki Alto, is another early Chinese car. It is so bad that there are people joking that the car was built for driving on sidewalks.
  • The Shanghuan CEO is a Chines Hummer Dinger ripped off of the BMW X5. German auto magazine Auto Bild was so appalled, they blew it up.
  • The Chang Jiuang CJ750 is an Alleged Motorcycle. It's a Chinese copy of a Russian copy of a pre-WWII BMW. It was built using tooling the Russians considered worn and obsolete.


  • Indian urbanites think this of the Hindustan Ambassador, which is designed for rural India. It is spacious (comfortably seating up to eight people), hardy, and responsive to Percussive Maintenance. It's also old-school, being a licensed reproduction of the Morris Oxford (which was first produced in 1953). But it's very inefficient and impractical for a crowded Indian city.
  • The Riva G-Wiz is nominally a very tiny electric car. Legally, it's technically a "heavy quadbike" (which allows it to avoid regulations for real cars); to get there, it had to be ridiculously underpowered. It has extremely poor acceleration and top speed, limiting its use to the city exclusively. It has a very short battery life, which gets even shorter if you use electronics such as the radio. Top Gear was so disgusted with it that the presenters made their own electric car, the clearly awful "Hammerhead Eagle i-Thrust" (as described in the Live-Action TV section)
  • The Tata Nano is designed to be the world's cheapest car, and boy is it ever. It has a tiny, cramped interior, a two-cylinder engine, no air bags, no power steering, and no air conditioning — which, in India's climate, is a real problem. The rear hatch doesn't open; you can only access the engine or the trunk from inside the car. It did succeed at one of its initial goals, which is to transport six people more safely than a motorbike.


  • The Subaru 360 is one of the earliest kei cars, but it was so light and underpowered that it could more accurately be considered a heavy motorcycle — and indeed, that's how it was imported (with the help of the above-mentioned Malcolm Bricklin, who apparently never found a car he didn't think he could sell). It had a laughable 16 horsepower engine which made it more likely than not to stall while trying to climb a hill. It was so unsafe in a collision that the U.S. banned Japanese kei cars from importation. Given that the 360 was based off on the original Fiat 500 (see below), this isn't surprising.
  • The Isuzu Piazza, despite its sleek Italian design, left much to be desired. In particular, it rode on a chassis copied from an economy car, and it had the handling to match. Later models with Lotus tuning couldn't save the production run.
  • The Datsun B-210, a 1970s tiny car, sold well given that it always started and used less fuel — crucial during the oil crisis. But it was ugly, fragile, and slow. Dave Grohl told about how he rode in Kurt Cobain's B-210 from Seattle to Los Angeles (to record Nirvana's Nevermind) — or tried, because the car's engine overheated so much that they had to give up at the Oregon border. They rented a van to complete the trip, but not before stoning the car in anger.
  • The FD-series third-generation Mazda RX-7, especially the turbo version, effectively cemented the rotary engine's reputation for unreliability. Mazda developed a sequential turbo setup to improve engine response, but such an engine generated a lot of heat and couldn't handle it, which killed its reliability.
    • The same car also has the fuel filter placed in such a way that you have to disassemble the rear suspension to change it.
  • Mazda also has a history of bad rotary engine applications:
    • The Roadpacer was a full-size Holden sedan with a Mazda rotary engine inside. Unfortunately, the engine was lacking power and severely lacking torque for powering such a big car, leading to awful acceleration and worse fuel mileage than a big-block version of the same car.
    • The US-only Rotary Pickup had to deal with a known problem of the rotary engine - a low torque output, which is even bigger of a flaw in a pickup truck, as it hampers heavy-duty usage.
    • And the Parkway Rotary 26 was a rotary-powered bus, which was a terrible idea, due to the Mazda rotary engine not delivering one bit enough torque for a bus, which made the vehicle bad for driving up hills. What's worse, its only market was Japan, a mountainous country.
  • Newer versions of the Nissan Sentra are awful cars, according to reviews. in a 2016 comparison test of five small cars conducted by Car and Driver, the Sentra was included, and only scored 140 out of 250 (for reference the winner, the Mazda3, scored 203, and fourth place, the Hyundai Elantra, scored 192). Specific problems included a godawful CVT that always hunts for the right ratio, suspension that the car seems to sit on versus being connected to resulting in the car lurching around when turning and braking, terrible steering feel, hard seats and slow acceleration. The only positives they could come up with in their positive/negative caption were "faster than walking, keeps the rain off you".

North Korea

  • North Korea gave us the Pyeonghwa Hwiparam, the best its pathetic automotive industry could muster. It's a rebadged version of the Fiat Siena, a sub-par car to start with. Then it was made in North Korea with worn-out tools, outdated manufacturing processes, cheap materials, poorly-trained workers, and almost no quality control. Its sole purpose was to have Kim Jong-un have something to wave in the faces of the filthy capitalists across the border who make nice Hyundais.

South Korea

  • Early Hyundais had a terrible reputation. The Hyundai Excel in particular quickly gained a reputation as a shitbox that was cheap, but would fall apart at the slightest provocation. This gave Korean cars in general a bad reputation, and even later, better cars had trouble with this because owners treated them like Alleged Cars.

  • The Goggomobil Dart. "If you needed a sudden burst of acceleration, it was best to jump out and run." The only decent version was made by a certified lunatic in Germany, who fitted one with a 9-cylinder, 10-liter radial aircraft engine. It out-accelerates Porsches.


Czech Republic

  • Škoda gained this reputation with its dated 1970s and 1980s models. It was somewhat better than other Eastern Bloc brands, with rear-engined, rear-wheel-drive designs giving it snappy, Porsche-like handling, but who are we kidding; it was a Communist car. After Communism fell, Škoda was bought out by Volkswagen and now makes decent cars which are effectively V Ws; but the company remembers its reputation and advertises them with the tagline, "It's a Škoda, honest". note 
  • The Czechoslovak company Velorex is a respected name in motorcycle sidecars. They also built something that might be described as a car, but which is basically a motorcycle sidecar without the motorcycle. It's vinyl-coated canvas over steel tubing. The frame is attached to what is effectively the rear end of a motorcycle with a 125cc or 250cc two-stroke single-cylinder engine driving the single rear wheel. Top Gear's Andy Wilman took one for a spin once, and reported (yelling over the din of the engine) that "braking is accomplished by writing a letter politely asking to reduce your speed, oh, sometime next week".


  • The Citroën 2CV is the actual car model that became the Trope Namer. More commonly, it's also credited for introducing the term "lemon" (citron in French, although the term apparently dates back to 1906) to refer to an Alleged Car. It was easy and cheap to repair, so it was popular as a low-budget car, and it was slightly more reliable than its competitors. But it was still a piece of crap with a tiny engine and required frequent maintenance. Its biggest flaw, in early models, was that its doors didn't have locks, so anybody could steal one by opening the door and pulling the ignition cord. Whether anybody would want to steal one is a different question.
  • The 1956 Renault Dauphine was an alleged sports coupe variant of the otherwise popular Dauphine line. It turned out to be an ultra-cheap rust magnet that went from 0 to 60 in 32 seconds.
  • The second-generation Renault Laguna was outfitted with a lot of optional cutting-edge tech, including GPS, hands-free entry, a state-of-the-art de-pollution system, and a power tailgate. Unfortunately, the tech rarely worked like it was supposed to. Lights would go on and off, it would have trouble starting, and the de-pollution system would fail and generate a lot of smoke.



  • The Trabant is a legendary East German car known for three things; barely functioning, being so demanded and scarce in East Germany that people lined up to buy one anyway, and being the subject of an entire subgenre of "Trabi jokes".
    • The body was made of low-quality plastic due to a shortage of metal. The East Germans had found a clever way to recycle cotton garment factory waste into a cellulose-based polymer. This meant that you never needed to wash a Trabi because the rain could do it just fine.
    • It had a two-stroke, 15-20 horsepower, half-liter in-line 2-cylinder engine. Its fuel efficiency was 34 mpg, its top speed was around 70 mph, and it took a minute to go from 0 to 60 mph. After reunification, many Trabants had their engines replaced, especially with Suzuki Hayabusa engines.
    • The gas tank was mounted in the cowl above the engine — and the driver's legs, meaning any major frontal accident would be catastrophic. You filled it by opening the hood, pouring gasoline in the fuel tank, pouring in two-stroke oil, and mixing it by shaking the car. There was no gas gauge, but there was a sightglass in the dashboard.
    • The light dynamo would fall out so often that the owner's manual would teach you how to fix it.
    • Production capacity at the factories was so poor that used Trabants would sell for more money than new ones by dint of actually being available. Car dealearships would also sometimes be willing to sell one in exchange for a new pair of Western blue jeans. The government didn't want to spend valuable foreign currency to get technological advances for it. And by the time production ended, the tooling had more than doubled its expected lifetime, meaning late-model Trabants had severely flawed and unreliable fit and finish. After reunification, you could get a Trabant for as little as fifty cents, and many were simply abandoned to rust when they broke down.
    • What good was a Trabant? It was better than other Eastern Bloc brands. It was surprisingly safe (other than the gas tank thing). And it handled so well that it could even beat out some pricey Western brands in obstacle avoidance tests.
  • The Wartburg was basically the only other option to the Trabant in East Germany. It had the same stupid engine design as the Trabant, it was made from a polymer so soft that livestock could eat your car, and the only reason its flaws weren't fatal was that the motor had only seven moving parts.
  • It's unfair to call a classic like the Volkswagen Beetle an Alleged Car. But the earliest models really were pieces of crap. It had a crashbox transmission, hand-operated windshield wipers, no cabin heater, semaphore flags for turn signals, no fuel gauge (you just switched to a two-litre backup tank when the engine started to cough), and a starter crank hole. Some late 1940s cars were assembled hastily from leftover parts from the bombed-out factory in Wolfsburg; their engines barely lasted 30,000 km, the upholstery stunk of fish glue, and they were in uniformly ugly colors. But the Beetle could climb a 1:1 grade (i.e. a forty-five degree slant) in first gear and was a reliable all-purpose light car.note 
  • During World War I, the Rumpler aircraft company came out with the Tropfenwagen, a car whose coefficient of air resistence wouldn't be equaled for fifty years. Unfortunately, the engine was poorly designed and prone to overheating, and it didn't have a trunk (meaning luggage could only go on the roof). It would up being used as a taxi in Berlin, and several were burned in Metropolis because they were dirt cheap and looked futuristic. Only one has survived to this day.
  • Narrowly averted by the Audi TT, which required a hasty recall and some modifications to correct a nasty habit of rolling if the driver took a sharp turn at motorway speeds. They corrected it just a bit too well, though, as the production TTs got a bit sluggish in steering afterwards, and enthusiasts had no more of the original suspension parts to retrofit as they had been sent to scrap metal.
  • Volkswagen's TDI has slowly gotten this reputation. Its big upside, the relatively low emissions, was shot when it was discovered that Volkswagen had rigged the car to pass emissions tests.
    • The previous series of the TDI engines was notorious for failures of the pump injectors, a then-new technology. A replacement for just 1 used to cost $600 - and the engine had 4 of them!
    • The TSI (TFSI in Audi nomenclature) series of petrol engines also isn't trouble-free. Some models had problems with piston ring failures, requiring expensive repairs. Others had general engine failures and timing chains that failed before 60,000 miles.
  • Volkswagen is also the manufacturer of the Touareg, a car that has held the Consumer Reports' most unreliable car title for the biggest amount of consecutive years.
  • The Hoffmann was a small two-stroke metal egg made shortly after the war. It's a weird paradox of surprisingly good build quality combined with just about every design decision being the absolute worst one that could be made.
  • Minis have had this problem since BMW bought the brand. Parts would break on a monthly basis, and plastic pieces in the engine would cause it to break down faster. But since this was now technically a BMW, repairing it got a lot more expensive. Consumer Affairs lists a ton of complaints.
  • Even Mercedes cannot stay free of problems. The most notorious of them:
    • In the 1990s, Mercedes decided to save on rustproofing. Nowadays, if you buy a Mercedes from that time period, you should be prepared for a lot of corrosion, including perforative.
    • At the same time, the German automaker introduced biodegradable wiring in their cars. That meant that Mercedes buyers got cars that had electrics made to essentially self-destruct.
    • The SBC system. It was an electronic system designed to increase braking force, fitted in mid-2000s to the most expensive models of the brand. Umfortunately, after a certain number of brakings, the car swithces from SBC to standard, worse brakes, even if there was nothing wrong with the car.
    • The early version of the 2.1 diesel engine was notorious for its awful fuel injectors. Sometimes it took only a few hundred kilometres before the injectors needed replacements. After a few months, Mercedes decided to replace all the injectors free of charge.
    • Mercedes also produced the Smart Fortwo, which is notorious for its bad semi-automatic gearbox and not that good fuel consumption. It does not help that the car can only seat 2.


  • Lamborghini is rightfully known for making Cool Cars, but the Espada was anything but. The glass in the door panels was so fragile that it could shatter if someone just bumped into the car. The engine would consistently starve itself of oil. Body corrosion would set in quickly, causing electrical faults to all the switches, which had a goofy placement layout as well. Proof that anyone who isn't careful can build an Alleged Car. And although Lamborghini's logo is a bull, espada is the Spanish term for the sword used to kill bulls after bullfights.
  • The Maserati Biturbo series almost buried the brand by the end of The '80s. It was a huge reach downmarket, an attempt for the supercar maker to build, for the first time, a car that would be used every day (rather than as a rich guy's toy). They proved that they had no idea what they were doing:
    • The timing belt had to be changed every 30,000 miles - for this, the entire front section of the car, bumper, grill, radiator, intercoolers, fuel system, fuel and air ducts, and plenty of small parts had to come off. Once a year.
    • The valves had to be adjusted every 30,000 miles. The engine had to be removed from the car for this. Of course, you were changing the timing belt anyway, so you might as well.
    • The front wheel bearings were so poorly made, they had to be changed once a year.
    • Coolant leaked regularly into the oil, at least until they fixed it in 1984. And it leaked oil like a sieve.
    • It was rear wheel-driven, yet too light in the rear, and it snapped accordingly in tight turns.
    • The printed circuit board fusebox melted itself often for no reason whatsoever, leaving the car with no electrics running.
    • It got such honors as "Crap Car" from the BBC and "Worst Car of The Year" from Time magazine.
  • Fiat earned a reputation for making cheap, tiny, unreliable cars such that "FIAT" was said to stand for "Fix it again, Tony" or "Failure in Automotive Technology". Most of their cars were notorious for using a lightweight, high-carbon steel in their unibody construction, making them so prone to rusting that Car and Driver called them "biodegradable". They had an even worse reputation in the U.S. and Northern Europe with more exposure to snow. The Ritmo/Strada used Soviet steel that was heavily recycled and not zinc-plated; as such, the car was infamous for rusting quickly. Very few even exist anymore, much less function.
  • The original Fiat 500 might be called "adorable", but trust me, it is not. The body is made out of rust-prone and unsafe thin steel, the foldable roof frequently leaks rain, the interior is cramped, the trunk/boot is smaller than 100 litres (ca. 4 cu.ft.) and the car is unable to reach 60 mph.
  • Lancia was an erstwhile respected manufacturer who was forced to pull out of the United Kingdom thanks to two alleged cars, the Beta and Gamma. The Beta had a severe rusting problem to the point of many having to be scrapped; the Gamma's engine overheated very easily and had severe handling problems.
  • The VM Motori 2.5/3.1 diesel engine, made in Italy and an option in the European versions of the Chrysler Grand Voyager, Jeep (Grand) Cherokee and Range Rover, was an Alleged Engine. Not only it has problems with connecting rod bearings, it has 4 or 5 (depending on version) head gaskets, that are, to top it all out, not too durable and need replacing pretty often.

The Netherlands

  • The DAF 600 was a funny little car. It had a continuously variable transmission (or CVT), enabling it to drive backwards just as fast as forwards. It could out-accelerate most contemporary cars from a standing stop. And they provided a lot of entertainment. But because of the modest engine power, terrible styling, and automatic-only transmission, it was seriously uncool for anyone under 65. These days, DAF just focuses on transport trucks.


  • The Tarpan 237D and 239D were 1980s Polish diesel trucks created in response to a petrol shortage in Poland. They were built by taking a Tarpan (a Polish pickup truck) and fitting it with a tractor engine instead of a dedicated diesel engine. The final product had 3 cylinders, 2.5 litres of engine displacement, 42 horsepower, and a 52 mph top speed. Loudness was also an issue; there is an urban legend of a guy who did three hours of highway driving in a diesel Tarpan and ending up half-deaf. Even the low fuel consumption (33 mpg) and being, well, a car in a communist country weren't able to cover the flaws.
  • The Fiat 126p was a licensed version of the Fiat 126 made in Poland since 1973. The only problem was that it was intended to be a car that would be affordable to a typical Polish family. Yes, a barely ten-foot-long hatchback-bodied "family car", which resulted in many, many horrible holiday road trips. The car's performance was also dreadful, with a top speed of 65 mph, making it slower than such "supercars" as the Trabant or Yugo. Build quality simply sucked too. They kept making it until 2000, even as build quality declined; at least it was cheap. When Fiats made for export in Poland replaced the Italian-made ones in 1980, the Germans, who were the first to get the new model, deemed them all faulty.
  • The Syrena started production in 1955, and at the time, it was not a bad car, apart from unreliable drive joints. But the production continued until 1983, by when the Syrena was hilariously outdated and badly built.


  • The Oltcit/Citroen Axel was a paradoxical endeavour of a car. It was very high-tech for the time, with a four-wheel independent suspension with torsion bars, an air-cooled flat engine, and a highly efficient braking system. It was extremely lightweight and very manoeuvrable. Unfortunately, it was made in The '80s in Romania, when practically everything was rationed and the Communists insisted everything be cheap as possible. This led to a car whose brake rotors wore themselves thin and cracked, whose bodywork could rust to flakes, whose ignition system would absorb water and stall the car, and whose carburetor would mis-adjust and draw fuel like crazy. The few that survived into the 1990s would be fixed by enthusiasts and can now compete with Lamborghinis.

Russia / Soviet Union

  • The classic Lada 1200 was not a bad car when it was introduced in 1970, being essentially a modified Fiat 124. But it quickly gained this reputation because (a) it was still based on a Fiat, (b) it had horrible fuel economy and handling, (c) Soviet production lines lacked any real quality control, and (d) thanks to production quotas and such, it received practically no updates or redesigns until the fall of the Soviet Union (and beyond, as production continued until 2012). Most export versions were considered disposable Communist cars, and it was treated as such — except in Finland, where they were impressed with its ability to start even in the coldest weather.
  • Within Russia, the most famous Alleged Car is the Zaporozhets ZAZ-965, an ultracompact inspired by the Fiat 600. It wasn't a bad car per se, but it was incredibly small and cheap even for a Soviet car. Because it was a Soviet car, no one cared about performance, speed, or handling, and things kept falling off. But being a Soviet car also meant that it could take some level of abuse and be fixed with Percussive Maintenance.


  • Devrim, the first Turkish-produced car, had this reputation despite not really deserving it; in particular, its first test drive by then-President Cemal Gürsoy was a disaster because they forgot to fill the gas tank, and it very publicly stopped after only a hundred meters. This caused the press and the public to think of it as an Alleged Car, and it never sold well.

United Kingdom

  • The 1976 Aston Martin Lagonda was a beautiful supercar filled with cutting-edge electronics and gadgets, all of which refused to work.
  • The Reliant Robin can't easily be considered an Alleged Car, because it's hard to classify it as a car. It has two defining features: It has only three wheels with a single wheel in front, and it rolls over a lot. It may be the only car in history to roll over 360 degrees from turning too hard. In the U.K., it was officially classified as a motorcycle and only required a motorcycle license, which made it more popular, especially Oop North. It's also something of an icon in British pop culture:
    • Mr. Bean's blue van and the yellow van from Only Fools and Horses are commonly mistaken for Robins (but are actually Reliant Regal Supervans). They share the same tropes, though, including the frequent rolling.
    • The opening of the 2012 Olympic Games in London had a Robin in it, which didn't tip over — just exploded.
    • Somehow, this did not stop Top Gear from turning one into a space shuttle.
  • After World War I, Bristol Aircraft Company found itself with a lot of time on its hands and tried to make a civilian car with its aircraft technology. Unfortunately, said technology was based around radial engines, which are about the most unsuitable shape possible for mounting in a car. The only way to do it was to mount it above the rear axle rather than alongside it, which resulted in a ridiculously high centre of gravity. Going around any corner at any useful speed while remaining upright was more or less impossible.
  • The AC Invacar, universally known as the "spaz chariot", was a light blue plastic yogurt pot on wheels designed for disabled drivers which was nevertheless produced in large numbers in the UK. Considered a death trap by everyone who drove it, nearly all existing examples were recalled by the government (who owned and distributed them through the National Health Service) and scrapped.
  • Lucas Industries was a major subcontractor for several British auto manufacturers, including British Leyland. They had a spotty reputation for building nearly non-functional electrical components, even in otherwise nice British sports cars; enthusiasts called the company founder "the Prince of Darkness". It's so legendary that when Lane Pryce of Mad Men tried to commit suicide by running the exhaust from his brand-new Jaguar into the cabin, everyone got the joke when the car wouldn't start.
    • British cars also had another problem - many electrical circuits in them did not have fuses. That meant that when something in the electrics went wrong, there was nothing to protect the system, possibly even causing a fire.
  • The Vauxhall Viva gained notoriety for its disastrous attempted export to Canada through GM in The '70s. GM called it the "Firenza" and marketed it as a "tough little fun car". But it was downright dangerous, with brake failures, accelerator pedals getting stuck, total steering failure, parts falling off, and engine fires. GM tried to salvage the car's reputation by driving four Firenzas across the entire country; two of them had trouble starting, and one of them caught fire. GM tried to advertise them as being ideal for cold, tough Canadian conditions (presumably because it can catch fire), which got them fined for false advertising. The car was the subject of Canada's first ever class action lawsuit. It lasted two years before it was withdrawn. To quote Canadian car magazine Autofocus:
    On May 14, 1973, three days after the [Ministry of Transport] closed its investigation, the Dissatisfied Firenza Owners Association in Ottawa staged a 32-car protest outside of the House of Commons on Parliament Hill. Two of the Firenzas caught fire during the protest.


  • The export version of the the Zastava Koral, better known as the Yugo, is the Hollywood benchmark for the Alleged Car. It was considered the epitome of the tiny, inefficient, undrivable Eastern European car. It was better than most other cars from the region; Americans are familiar with it because it was pretty much the only such car that could actually pass safety and emissions tests and be allowed to be imported and sold for so long. It was treated as a cheap, disposable car and rarely properly maintained, exacerbating its poor reputation, and it didn't help that it came from a country that ceased to exist by the 1990s. On its reputation alone, Car Talk rated it the "Worst Car of the Millennium".

  • The Andrea Moda and the "Life" cars from the 1990s rarely made it beyond the end of the pitlane. One of the Andrea Moda's unfortunate pilots was Perry McCarthy (aka "The First Stig"), who posed for photographers in a faux-triumphal pose next to its silent form when it ground to a halt after a few hundred metres. The Life car was a repurposed Formula 3000 chassis with a W12 engine instead of the conventional V8/10/12, and was usually about twenty seconds off the pace.
  • Despite decent pace, a supposedly huge budget, and 1997 driver's champion Jacques Villeneuve on their side, British American Racing had a disastrous debut season. The car had frequent technical issues; both drivers could only finish twice, but they retired six times. Villeneuve in particular was forced to retire from twelve of the sixteen races.
  • The Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR performed well in the 1955 World Sportscar Championship season, but it had a flawed braking system (oversized drum brakes with a wind brake spoiler). It's best known for causing the worst crash in the history of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, when it flew off the track during a crash and landed in a spectator's enclosure, causing the deaths of 84 people, including the driver. This forced Mercedes-Benz to withdraw their entire racing program immediately and not return until The '80s.
  • The Mercedes-Benz CLK GTR/LM enjoyed decent success in 1990s sports car racing, winning the first two manufacturers' championships in the now defunct FIA GT championship. Its follow-up, the CLR, was much worse. Despite performing decently in testing, its debut at the 1999 24 Hours of Le Mans revealed some minor aerodynamic issues. This lead to one of the more memorable moments in the history of the race. Understandably, that was the car's only competitive appearance.
  • The 24 Hours of LeMons (no, that isn't a typo) involves racing an entire field of Alleged Cars for between 14 and 24 hours over two days. The car must have a net value of $500 at the time of the race, not counting the cost of safety equipment. You can sell parts of the car to "lower" its value. If you exceed the value, you're charged one penalty lap for every $10 over, so you effectively can't win by spending money. They're willing to waive those rules for sufficiently awesome cars, though. The race itself isn't taken seriously, and you can get prizes for being the least likely to finish the race.