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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- 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 (which were gull-wing 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.)
- Asuna was not a bad choice of name for a slightly sporty brand sold only in Canada, but its first model wasn't as good as could have been hoped. The Asuna SE and GT - a badge-engineered version of the Daewoo LeMansnote sold in South Korea (and in the United States as the Pontiac LeMans), did not have a great reliability record, with some owners calling it the "Pontiac Lemons".
- Asuna also marketed the Sunrunner, a rebranded Suzuki Vitara built in Japan, between 1993 and 1995 which faded into semi-obscurity. It competed against the Geo Tracker, which was the same car!
- About the only thing in its favor, owners said, was the 2.0-litre/96hp 4-cylinder LT 2 engine, the Family II engine from General Motors, which owners said wasn't bad, but 96hp was anemic especially when European owners got the 2.0-litre/116hp 4-cylinder 20NE Family II engine which was far more powerful.
- In the U.S. and Canada, people are actually importing the Opel Kadett GS / Vauxhall Astra GTE, since it's seen as the more enjoyable, more preferable version compared to the versions sold in the U.S. and Canada!
- The Ford Model T. The very car that put the world on wheels in the nineteen tens and early twenties had become the alleged car by the late twenties to early thirties because they were primitive and funny looking. They quickly became a mainstay of silent comedies because they were cheap, disposable and their idiosyncratic controls made them ideal stunt cars. By the 1930s they'd become visual shorthand for fools and country bumpkins—try to imagine Buster Keaton or Laurel and Hardy behind the wheel of anything else. Ironically, they always were kind of an alleged car compared to their more expensive competitors (their reliance on "by guess or by god" pumpless themodynamic circulation made them particularly prone to overheating) but their primitive nature limited the number of ways they could go wrong and they could easily be kept running by anyone with very basic skills and a few spares.
- 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 an Oldsmobile sucking on 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 vaginanote .
- 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. Ford 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 the basis for the 1974-78 Mustang II, which was anemic compared to other Mustangs and is considered the brand's Dork Age.
- As famously documented by Ralph Nader in Unsafe at Any Speed, the first-generation Chevy Corvair was basically GM's version of the Pinto in the sense that it would become better known for its safety issues than for its merits as an automobile.
- Although popular, it quickly gained notoriety for its quirky handling characteristics resulting from its unusual (for a North American model) rear-engine layout and swing-axle suspension. But while the similarly-designed Porsche 911 was marketed to sports car enthusiasts who were experienced drivers to begin with and the also similarly-designed Volkswagen Beetle was too low-powered to reach a speed where the handling would be dangerous, the Corvair was sold as an everyday mid-market car whose purchasers assumed it would perform in a similar fashion as the front-engine vehicles they were used to and was to be maintained as such. This led many inexperienced motorists to treat their Corvairs as cheap sports cars and get themselves killed in the process. The most famous Corvair casualty was Ernie Kovacs, who was killed when he lost control of his Corvair Lakewood station wagon and slammed into a power pole during a rainstorm.
- And just as Ford had done with the Pinto, GM quickly figured that a cheap fix in the form of a front stabilizer bar could easily remedy most of the car's problems but ultimately decided it was even cheaper to leave the vehicle as it was and settle any future lawsuits, as revealed in Nader's book. (Contrary to popular belief, only the first chapter was about the Corvair specifically, the rest focusing on the American automobile industry in general.)
- While the accident rate for the Corvair was technically no worse than that of any of its contemporaries, these revelations left a bad taste in the public's mouth and the second-generation Corvair, whose design did incorporate the vital anti-sway bar as well as an independent suspension system, flopped hard. In the end, the Corvair was discontinued in 1969. The whole fiasco also practically killed the rear-engine automobile in North America, save for Porsche.
- 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. On top of that, the platform 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 sporty 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.
- Chrysler had built 2 similar in approach, but not as well-known, cars on its K-car chassis:
- The Cadillac ELR could be called the 21st century Cimarron. Based on the first generation Chevrolet Volt plug in hybrid (Which wasn't so alleged itself), but sold at a staggering 76 thousand dollars (Double the base price of a Volt), with a less practical and roomy (If prettier looking) two door coupe body and no performance upgrades over the Volt. A price drop and performance upgrade after a one model year leave was not enough to bring in customers and the car was quietly discontinued.
- 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. But while European Omegas could be rather zippy on the road, for the Catera they used a de-rated version of the 3.0 V6 engine, a softer suspension, automatic gearbox only, and a bland-grey, no frills interior design. Just like they were trying to dull whatever good the Omega had. 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 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.
- As for the car's performance, let's put it this way: if you can actually get this baby up to 88 mph, you really are seeing 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 meant the very expensive DeLorean made only 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 didn't have all his screws in tight enough. 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 is considered an Alleged SUV if there ever was one.
- 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.)
- 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 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. To add insult to injury, the PT Cruiser was outperformed and outsold by its Alternate Company Equivalent, the Chevrolet HHR (designed by the same engineer responsible for the Cruiser).
- The third-generation Chrysler Sebring turned Chrysler into a joke during the late 2000s and all but destroyed the company's reputation, of which it is still trying to recover. While marketed as a luxury sedan with the most loaded models costing close to $40,000, its odd styling and the fact that its performance, ride, and build and material quality were below that of vehicles that cost half as much made it a universally panned bust. When Chrysler went asking for a government bailout in 2008, many commentators and opponents brought up the Sebring to dispute Chrysler's claims that the global financial crisis was the source of the company's cash crunch. While most of Chrysler's product lineup at the time was uncompetitive, the Sebring was the most prominent due to how spectacularly underwhelming it was considering its price, and given that Chrysler had the far superior full-size 300 in its lineup right next to it. The Sebring is almost universally considered to be one of the worst cars made in recent memory, and even Chrysler enthusiasts will admit that it is a terrible car (though there exists a Vocal Minority that defends it).
- 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. Some wags have dubbed it the Ford "Exploder."
- 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 engine was introduced in 1978 to give customers the option of a large car with good fuel economy during the '70s gas crisis. Unfortunately, while it did get better fuel economy than a comparable gas V8, the engine performed poorly (the biggest 5.7 liter variant had only 105 HP) and had no tolerance for water-contaminated diesel fuel, due to not having a water/fuel separator. They also failed to provide a properly winterized fuel system; the cars would either fail to start or die somewhere along the road in freezing temperatures. Finally, the fact the block (based on the venerable 350 cu. in. GM V8) wasn't quite strengthened enough to handle the higher compression of diesel ignition meant warped heads and coolant leaks that would destroy the engine as soon as 20,000 miles in. It is frequently listed as one of the reasons why Americans hate diesel cars.
- In 1975, the United States were the first nation to mandate installing catalytic converters in cars. Unfortunately the technology was not sufficiently mature and had a few shortcomings:
- The converters restricted the exhaust and required carburetion changes that reduced performance and worsened fuel economy.
- They could not stand continuous highway driving under heavy loads and might require stops every few hours to cool down.
- Heat shielding was often insufficient. Toasted carpeting and melted floormats were not unheard of, and if you parked on tall grass (or worse, dry leaves) the heat from the catalytic converter could set the grass on fire.
- Note that most of these problems weren't caused by the catalytic converters alone, it simply wasn't possible for any analog or carbureted fuel system to provide the fine fuel mixture control necessary. Too much oxygen or unburned fuel in the exhaust would cause the converters to overheat and the feedback nature of carburetors means they nearly always provide too much or too little fuel at any given moment.
- 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 Nissan Tsuru, an early 90s Sentra in the US and Canada, remained relatively unchanged during its 25 year production run; it was popular with Mexican taxi cab operators because it was cheap (under US$10,000) and reliable, which led to nearly 2 million sales in its lifetime. What puts the Tsuru into Alleged Car territory is modern safety standards; the Tsuru lacked certain safety features such as airbags and anti-lock brakes. In a head-on crash test against a 2016 Nissan Versa conducted by the IIHS, the Versa's cabin remained intact, protecting the dummy, while the Tsuru's cabin buckled with the dummy suffering life-threatening, if not outright fatal, injuries. The result of that test, 4,000 plus fatalities involving the car between 2007 and 2012, and the Mexican government tightening safety regulations finally led to the Tsuru's discontinuation in 2017.
- The Xiali TJ7100, based on the third-generation Daihatsu Charade, was one of the first Chinese cars to enter the market. It 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 Chinese 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.
- While the FD-series third-generation Mazda RX-7 is loved by many and it is most certainly a Cool Car, it's hard to deny that it 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. Many owners of the car have changed the sequential twin-turbo setup for a single-turbo setup, or take out the rotary engine entirely in favor of another engine (the Chevrolet Small-Block V8 seems to be the most common).
- 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".
- The Isuzu DMAX V6 diesel engine, used by Opel, Renault and Saab between 2002 and 2007, is notorious for the fact that due to inefficient cooling, it will probably require a total rebuild around the 100-130k mile mark. It also has problems with expensive fuel injectors failures.
- Honda's black eye is the GS-R and Type-R models of the Integra. Both were designed with sophisticated, powerful, efficient, and durable 1.8L naturally aspirated inline-fours that redlined with mean piston speeds comparable to an F1 engine. Both were also prone to leaky main seals and ate oil.
- 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.
- 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. Fondly parodied in an old Yellow Pages ad where a proud owner tries valiantly to find a mechanic who would know how to solve a problem with it.
- The one in the ad wasn't the Dart, though the actor concerned has done an ad featuring the Dart since (for Shannon's insurance).
- The Holden Camira. To start with, it was based on the above-mentioned J-car. By itself, that might not necessarily have been fatal, except that the Camira took everything wrong with the design and cranked it Up to Eleven. Within months of its introduction in 1982, owners were reporting a whole litany of problems, including but not limited to: smoking engines, insufficient drainage holes in the doors, poor paint quality, and lack of adequate fan cooling, the latter of which was especially a liability in a country where temperatures regularly exceed 40 degrees Celsius in some areas. All these things gave the vehicle a bad reputation among the Australian populace and directly led to it being taken off the market in neighbouring New Zealand, where it was replaced by the Isuzu Aska (using the Camira name). The fact that it replaced the popular and acclaimed Torana model probably didn't help matters either. Later editions attempted to fix some of the problems, but it was not enough to wash away the nasty taste in the public's mouth, and the Camira was dropped in 1989 due to poor sales.
- The Ford Laser didn't quite have this problem, however, owners in New Zealand considered the 1.1-litre/55hp 4-cylinder Mazda engine as tepid, insipid and too small for it. After 1985, Ford New Zealand never offered this option again on any model in New Zealand, perhaps for the best (although, nowadays, the European Focus with its 1.0-litre petrol, not sold in New Zealand, could count as a Spiritual Successor). New Zealand car culture is about large-ish engines, and this probably explained why it didn't sell so well. Not to mention that the Ford Laser 1.1 L hatchback was as basic as you could get for a family hatchback in 1981 - if you wanted a basic hatchback, you'd probably buy the Toyota Corolla or Datsun Pulsar, not the Ford, as these had more equipment for a supposedly "basic" model.
- The March 1980 edition of Australian car magazine Wheels controversially declared "No Car of the Year" for 1979, with the front cover featuring a giant lemon on four wheels. At the time, the magazine's editors felt that none of the contenders was even worthy of the honour. This prompted Ford Australia to hit back with an advertisement for its then-latest model Falcon, depicting a page full of literal lemons with popular car brands printed on them and declaring, "There are times when being a lemon is not a bitter experience at all". Wheels also declared "No Car of the Year" in 1972 and 1986.
- Lightburn Zeta. Roughly wagon-shaped, but there is no cargo bay door, so you have to load luggage etc. by removing the seats, which, amazingly, was touted as a feature (well, maybe you will end up at a sporting event where there are no seats for spectators...) It was styled like whitegoods, which is what its maker was best known for; had "the kind of bug eyes you'd normally find in some dark corner of the fish market", and was woefully underpowered, having a garden tool engine, which was a common theme among micro cars of the era. Plus, to reverse, you had to cut the engine and restart the thing backwards. When the Mini came on the market, the Zeta's goose was cooked. Still, could be worse - you might have gotten the Sports, a tiny, doorless GRP-bodied thing with a dirtbike engine applying 15.5kW to its 400kg Gross Vehicle Mass; allegedly capable of 120km/h, but you'd have to be insane to want to try it. Both cars would be illegal to bring to market today, the Sports more so as its headlamps were too low to satisfy some states' laws even in its own time. The solution was a set of extra lights mounted higher which made it look even stupider.
- Leyland's P-76. It was too big, poorly made, draughty, the carpet tended to smoulder due to a design flaw in the exhaust system, and the choice of engines was between one that just wasn't powerful enough, and one that was but tended to cook itself. But, you could stow a whole 44-gallon drum in the boot!
- Ford's '88 EA Falcon fell apart in running, due to poor quality production. It was expensive for the customer to buy and expensive for Ford Australia to fix.
- Holden HDT Director. Racing legend Peter Brock wanted to market a new special edition Commodore with the Holden Dealer Team, which handled special editions. They didn't want to, as he had found some charlatan who'd sold him on some wire-and-crystal device intended to increase the car's performance and efficiency by aligning all the vehicle's molecules. The result didn't look as cool as the regular product, cost more and the device, predictably, did nothing. Some panelling was done in poor-quality GRP instead of the metal of the regular product. Brock ended up ditching it in favour of importing and upgrading - get this - Lada Samaras. These cost Brock's corporate entity several thousand each just to get running.
- Some Asian cars were made in Australia, due to laws in place at the time requiring a minimum of Australian content in all manufactured products. This led to some poor products, due to a number of factors; not that fully-Asian built cars were immune to hideous design flaws and failure to provide good reasons to buy them. Highlights include:
- Nissan Pintara. A revamp of the obsolete Bluebird, also released as the Ford Corsair, which sold worse even though they were both as clumsy and dull; not that they were badly built or performed poorly, but gave no reason to buy it over another car.
- Toyota Corona Starfire 79, originally a horribly dull Japanese car that could have been spat out of a vending machine in some corporate colony on some distant world in some Used Future setting, now a horribly dull Australian car that was terribly unreliable. Toyota thought they'd be saving money buying massive stocks of the Starfire (aka. Misfire) enigne from Holden, who neglected to tell them that the Starfire was the engine Holden most wanted to be rid of, as they only used it in the not-too-successful Sunbird.
- Working the other way around, we have the Holden Piazza, an obsolete Isuzu model, and when released the most expensive Holden-badged product. Its dashboard looked dated quickly, with its digital instruments and loose, rattly collection of pods and binnacles; it had a turbo engine in an old chassis that couldn't handle it, making it hard to drive; and it had a poor ride, rattled and didn't improve upon upgrading to the S version.
- The Valiant VH Hardtop from Chrysler Australia was trying to do the same job as the much-vaunted Valiant Charger. It cost much more, had a much larger footprint, was heavier; but was cramped inside and not too well equipped. It was uglier, but not very practical; noisy, but slow.
- Gray and Harper's Edith of 1952. It had a cartoon appearance, 250kg Gross Vehicle Mass, with a garden tool engine which could give it a 50 mile per gallon rate of fuel consumption (which isn't that impressive, when big Aussie sixes could do better than 30mpg), had a single rear wheel and appeared to be as well-developed as a 10-year-old's go kart project.
- Volkswagen's Australian manufacturing arm weren't doing too well with the Beetle, after an initially successful introduction; so they came up with the Country Buggy, AKA Thing. It was supposed to be an evolution of the WW2 Kubelwagen, even having the assistance of an engineer who worked on the original; a stripped out Beetle with amphibious capability which featured only RWD, but declared to be able to "go anywhere" due to the engine being mounted over the drive axle (?). It used Beetle parts for logistical reasons. The Amphibious feature was dropped quietly on request from Volkswagen in Germany; so quietly, in fact, that a motor magazine test crew ended up sinking at a boat ramp. The end result was a car that looked like it had been designed by aliens who never used the wheel but developed a car from the definition of one in the dictionary.
- Then there was the Australian arm of BMC:
- The Austin Freeway had dodgy, improvised production and poor engineering. It had a map of Australia in the middle of the steering wheel, which is not enough to help an Australian BMC product against what they saw as its main rival: Holden, which sold more in a week than this thing did in a year.
- The Austin X6 had an OK ride and handling, and looked so DULL. It had an inline 6 engine stuffed in the wrong way, necessitating an extra electric fan; 2.2L, and was front-wheel-drive, available in a 76kW version named the Tasman, or the 86kW Kimberly, which lacked the low-range torque that made Australian sixes easier to drive, and devoured fuel, such that it was no cheaper to run even though smaller and more cramped than its competitors. It had poor seating, wipers that didn't wipe the entire screen, controls for accessory functions that often didn't work, poor ergonomics and quality, with "thumping suspension" and "heavy kicking steering".
- 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 VWs; 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 Fisker Karma plug-in hybrid quickly gained this reputation. Owners reported a litany of problems, and Consumer Reports had their Karma die on them with only 200 miles on the odometer. It's not spacious, in spite of its swoopy body. It's not fast, requiring over seven seconds to go 0 to 60 mph in pure electric mode. And it's not even that efficient; it only gets 30 mpg on on electric, 20 mpg on gas, and about 60 mpg equivalent; for comparison, the Chevy Volt gets 90 mpg equivalent. It was enough to send Fisker into bankruptcy, where they were bought out by the Chinese.
- 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 called "Duroplast". This meant that you never needed to wash a Trabi because the rain could do it just fine, and no amount of scrubbing would do any better.
- 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 could 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 electical dynamo would fall out so often that the owner's manual contained instructions for replacing 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 dealerships 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. And of course the manual had instructions on refitting the dynamo; dealerships and even automobile workshops were few and far between. And all shortcomings aside they were actually useful, which is the primary measure of any motor vehicle.
- The Wartburg was basically the only other option to the Trabant in East Germany. It had an extra cylinder on 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 TDI's marketing campaign, at least in the US where diesels are far from the norm, aimed squarely at the overlap of the Venn diagram between "people who care about the environment" and "people who enjoy driving and are into cars". That group did not take well to being bamboozled.
- 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 at least 4 of them!
- The TSI (TFSI in Audi nomenclature) series of petrol engines also isn't trouble-free. The 2.0 had problems with piston ring failures, requiring expensive repairs, while the 1.4 had general engine failures and timing chains that failed before 100,000 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 late 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.
- Earlier, from 1993 to 1996, the German automaker introduced biodegradable wiring in their cars. That meant that Mercedes buyers got cars that had electrics made to essentially self-destruct. Replacing the main wiring harness is possible, but expensive and labor-intensive.
- 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. Unfortunately, after a certain number of brakingsnote , the car switches from SBC to standard, worse brakes, even if there was nothing wrong with the car. The only fix is to replace the (expensive) SBC module.
- 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 they needed replacements. After a few months, Mercedes decided to replace all the injectors with reworked ones 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 and is as small as a birdcage; good for parking but a deathtrap if it were ever to get into an accident.
- The earliest A-Class infamously flipped during an "elk test" by Swedish automobile publication Teknikens Värld. Mercedes recalled the car and modified the suspension as well as adding electronic stability control. To add insult to injury, the same test was carried out in a Trabant (mentioned above) — with far more primitive technology — and it passed.
- The 1.0, 1.6 and 2.0 Ford Ecoboost engines are very lacking in durability. Mechanics estimate their lifespan at about 125k miles.
- 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. Similar rust issues plagued the Alfa Romeo Alfasud.
- 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. Later on, attempts to rebadge the Chrysler Voyager and 300 — courtesy of the FIAT-Chrysler joint venture — as Lancias for the European market failed to convince buyers. As of 2017, Lancia only produces one model, the Ypsilon supermini, and is sold only in Italy.
- 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 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, with the price being an equivalent of a current $2500.note 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 FSO 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. By the 2000s, you could get a running one for as low as 50 PLZ, which is about $15 in today's money.
- 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 against 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. And like a BMW, it came with a complete toolkit which unlike a BMW, could be used without invalidating the warrenty.
- 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 Gürsel 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.
- The 1976 Aston Martin Lagonda was a beautiful supercar filled with cutting-edge electronics and gadgets, all of which refused to work. Apparently for 1970s engineers nothing was more cutting-edge than cramming multiple hundred-watts CRT screens in the small space beneath a car's dashboard.
- The Austin Allegro is one of the most famous British examples of this. The Allegro was widely derided on it's launch for it's odd styling, quirky "quartic" steering wheel (it was square) and early models suffered from numerous design problems, very likely caused by the issues with British Leyland that are mentioned further down. Richard Porter once wrote that "the only bit of the Allegro they got even vaguely right was the rust-proofing", Hilarious in Hindsight considering that Allegros are now well known for having rust problems. The Allegro's issues were so widely publicised that British Leyland actually created new training videos for its workers to show them how to put cars together better than they were currently doing. The Daily Telegraph wrote that "the most charitable explanation for how this car entered production is that it was part of a successful Communist plot to destroy Britain's motor industry."
- You only have to see Top Gear's Running Gag about the Morris Marina to know how awful the car truly is.
- 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. The Robin became something of an icon in British pop culture due to this.
- 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. Predictably, it rolled over in mid-flight, crashed, and exploded.
- After World War II, 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.
- While the third-generation Vauxhall Viva performed reliably on its own market, it quickly gained notoriety in North America 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.note GM tried to salvage the car's reputation driving four Firenzas from Halifax to Vancouver in the dead of winter in order to demonstrate that they were ideal for cold, tough Canadian conditions; even though the cars had been modified with block heaters for the trip (which GM claimed they didn't have), two of them still had trouble starting, and one of them caught fire. When GM tried to cover this up, they got fined for false advertising. The car was the subject of Canada's first ever class action lawsuit, and lasted two years before it was withdrawn, having utterly destroyed the already-shaky reputation of British manufacturing in Canada in the process. To quote the Canadian car magazine Autofocus, who referred to the car as "Canada's equivalent to the Nader-Corvair affair":
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 A38 Valiant was an Alleged Tank. Intended to be a lightweight yet heavily armored infantry support tank, in its one test in May 1945 (a short drive on level ground), the test driver reported that he had exhausted himself simply operating the controls, and that several items inside his station, including his own seat, were liable to cause physical injury! The examining officer halted all further testing on the spot, and recommended that the Valiant program be ended immediately, which it was. For many years the Valiant prototype was displayed to engineering students as an example of how not to design a tank. It now resides in a museum.
- 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 they will also handicap anything that looks like it's going to be too much of an overdog. (In the original race before it became a series officials were allowed to make random superficial modifications that amused them during the race itself.) The race itself isn't taken seriously, and you can get prizes for being the least likely to finish the race.