The 1975 Bricklin SV1: A concept for a safer sports car, all the safety features weighed down the car 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, there was one glaring problem that 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 Edsel's gotten a Shout-Out in everything from Garfield to Destroy All Humans! as one of the worst cars ever made. Ironically, it wasn't that bad a car from a mechanical standpoint (it is said to have roughly the same level of reliability as other American cars of its day), it just was marketed wrong, priced wrong, named wrong and, most of all, just plain ugly. Said ugliness? In an effort to create a distinct look for the car, the designers incorporated a huge, bulbous, vertically-oriented chromed grille in the front fascia. The designers called this an "impact ring", the public just called it "hideous". Some said it looked like a "Pontiac sucking a lemon", others less-charitably compared it to a toilet seatnote Comedians have pointed out that, at a time when most auto manufacturers were designing cars as thinly-disguised phallic symbols, Ford introduced a car which had, dead center on the front, an enormous chrome-plated vagina. To make it even worse, Ford didn't have any dedicated factories for producing Edsels, so they were crammed onto existing production lines intended for Mercury and Lincoln vehicles. This led to a high number of manufacturing defects: doors that wouldn't open, trunks that wouldn't stay shut, push-buttons that wouldn't do anything, etc. This combination of building inexperience and confusion in the supply chains also meant some Edsels arrived at car lots incomplete, missing things like exhaust or bits of trim that had to be installed by the dealers themselves before they could even sell them. The Edsel line lasted only 2 and a half years and cost Ford a fortune. The Book of Heroic Failures quotes Time magazine as calling it "a classic case of the wrong car for the wrong market at the wrong time".
Probably the only good thing was how the Edsel was promoted — a TV special featuring a plethora of the era's biggest stars, including Bing Crosby. The Edsel Show did well in the ratings; the car itself didn't.
Much of the Edsel's misfortune was its introduction just as America was souring on huge over-the-top land yachts. Ford introduced the sensible compact Falcon for the 1960 model year and it was an immediate success - the fancier sibling Comet became a Mercury, but had been considered for the Edsel lineup, an interesting case of What Might Have Been.
The Edisons of Maniac Mansion also had an Edsel, although it wasn't bad (it just kept with the whole "Ed" theme) and even has rocket thrusters! It's a feature you need to use for one of the endings.
In the early 1970s, when the oil crisis forced American manufacturers to crank out small cars or die, Ford released the Pinto. When it first came out, the Pinto was fairly successful. However, it had a defect that caused the gas tank to be ruptured by a differential bolt in a rear end collision, coupled with a lack of a proper bumper, causing the fuel to ignite from the friction in a severe rear end collision (just fire, no explosion). The wagons and related Mustang II and Mercury Bobcat never had the fault, since the gas tanks were in a different location and the use of heavier heavier bumpers.
There were exactly 27 deaths from such accidents between 1971 and 1977 (out of over 2 million units sold), and overall, the Pinto was no less safe than any other compact of the era (the NHTSA deemed it to have no recallable faults in 1974), and the damages Ford was made to pay were $2.5 million in compensatory and $3.5 million in punitive in the Grimshaw v. Ford case, and compared that to recalling two million Pintos for barely justified repairs costing $11 per vehicle alone, plus the costs of a recall and all other associated costs, as detailed in the so-called Pinto Memo, which wasn't about the Pinto specifically, and addressed improving vehicle safety in rollovers, and was submitted to the NHTSA.
The 1980 Chevy Citation and its Pontiac (Phoenix), Oldsmobile (Omega), and Buick (Skylark) derivatives, intended as GM's answer to how Lee Iacocca's Chrysler corporation had managed to reduce its entire product lineup to just one car, the K-car, which they just put different bodies onto and marketed as entirely different vehicles. Chrysler managed to disguise the fact that all their '80s cars were in fact the exact same model under the hood, but General Motors, under Roger Smith, tried to really slack off, by just changing the brand-badges, headlamps and taillights, and pass it off as a completely different product. The result, was no Honda Accord, and ultimately was instead a world-beating mashup of poor engineering and atrocious build quality. Among its many flaws were over-enthusiastic rear brakes that would lock up and cause an "atomic death-skid" at the slightest provocation. If that weren't enough, they were also known to rust out quickly and have mechanical issues, particularly failing head gaskets. Having the same name as a term for a parking ticket probably didn't help, either. The hosts of Car Talk described the Chevy Citation and its brethren as all being built around the layout of "a front-wheel drive, rear-brake lockup".
Before the Citation, Chevy had the Vega. Just like the Citation, the Vega had a strong debut, winning the 1971 Car of the Year award from Motor Trend. 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 Cadillac Cimarron was derided by many critics because all GM did to make it was slap the Cadillac badges onto a Chevrolet Cavalier, barely modify the headlamps-and-taillights, and put a Cadillac price-tag on it. The idea was to pitch an entry-level luxury car to younger buyers and to answer introduction of smaller-sized luxury cars from BMW and Mercedes-Benz. However, many buyers were turned off by the car's unrefinedness and lack of truly being able to compete with the aforementioned rivals, plus the car clearly sharing its underlying commonality with the Cavalier, plus other J-car siblings (the Buick Skyhawk, Oldsmobile Firenza and Pontiac Sunbird). While the Cimarron was a mechanically competent car - despite having a rather anemic for its class 4-cylinder engine and a manual transmission which no Cadillac had since 1953, and no buyer expected or wanted - and well-appointed, its failure came in its humble J-Car brothers being nearly identical and having very little to offer for its high-for-1982 price tag of $13,000 over what a fully loaded Chevrolet Cavalier could offer for more than $3,000 lessnote $7,000, adjusted for inflation. To that end, Car Talk has noted that General Motors was unable to do the same as what Chrysler Corporation managed by at disguising the identical "skeleton" under a more varied gamut of body-stylings and decorative flourishes. (For instance, the basic Dodge Aries and Plymouth Reliant was also stretched and molded to create upmarket variations such as the Dodge 600 and Plymouth Caravelle, the Chrysler LeBaron and even the Chrysler New Yorker. (Although Chrysler never did create an entry-level Imperial sedan using the Aries-Reliant underpinnings as a starting point.) The Cimarron was such a disaster it nearly sank the entire Cadillac brand and remains an Old Shame for General Motors.
Ford (Jokingly referred to as an acronym for "Found On Road Dead" or "Fix Or Repair Daily") seems to have had a problem with quality control, at least at its British assembly plant, well into the 1980s; the phrase 'Friday afternoon car' is alleged to have originated with their products.
With Honda motorcycles you can occasionally encounter the 'Friday Afternoon Design': a part from one model that almost fits earlier or later models, but is subtly different for no apparent reason.
This typifies the whole post-war British car industry, resulting in Morgan being the only remaining wholly national car company, the rest either having gone under or being bought out.
The problems weren't exclusive to the British-produced Fords, either. Ford automobiles were well-known for electrical system defects well into the early '90s. The otherwise passable Aerostar minivan line was plagued with these up until it was discontinued in favour of the Windstar.
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.
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 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.
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".
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/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 1989 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 1989 Cutlass is thus considered to be the car that killed Oldsmobile. As a result, today they are undesired and valueless.
The 1920 Briggs and Strattonnote Yes, the lawn mower people Flyer: "...A motorized park bench on bicycle wheels."
The DeLorean DMC-12. Despite the Lotus Esprit-inspired design and gullwing doors, the car's production run seemed to be cursed from the word go. The factory was located in Dunmurry (a suburb in Belfast), Northern Ireland. This was in 1978, and it was placed right on a religious fault line; word is the factory had one entrance for Catholics and one for Protestants. The British government ended up underwriting a large chunk of the start-up costs because they were just that desperate to give the locals something to do besides take potshots at each other, desperate enough to ignore the fact that founder John DeLorean had approached several other European governments and been turned down. Making matters worse alongside budget overruns, engineering hassles and production delays was the fact that almost all the workers had never had a job in their lives, much less one producing cars. The inevitable quality control problems that resulted from this were so bad that despite each car having a 12-month/20,000km warranty, many dealerships refused to carry out any work on them because they weren't being reimbursed.
To add insult to injury, let's put it this way: if you can actually get it up to 88 miles an hour then that is some serious shit. Far from being the thinking man's supercar its creator envisioned it to be, the DMC-12's performance was quite lackluster, due to it being the victim of a watering down campaign. It was originally meant to have a rear-mounted rotary engine, but this was changed to a mid-mounted 2.8 litre V6 due to fuel consumption concerns; however, this reduced it from 200 HP to just 145 HP in 'dirty' euro trim (the US version was an even sorrier 125 HP due to requirements for catalytic converters and other emissions controls) and had a knock-on effect on the cars' already less than perfect 35:65 front/rear weight distribution. In the end the DMC-12 was too slow and sluggish to convince anybody it was the real deal, and allegations that John DeLorean had taken to drug smuggling in order to pay the bills were the final nail in the DMC-12's coffin.
Probably the only thing preventing the DMC-12 from becoming completely forgotten was its role in the Back to the Future films. Many people may not know that using a DeLorean as the basis for a flying time machine wasn't because it was a Cool Car, but because it was proof its inventor was a bit of a Mad Scientist.
However, as of 2013, DMC (not the original company) is back with refurbished DeLorean DMC-12s. They sell three versions: the classic engine, the stage two engine that is a higher-performing V-6, and the DMCEV that is all electric, has over twice the horsepower of the original, and a modernised interior that allows for GPS and smartphone compatibility.
The AMC Gremlin and Pacer. Underpowered, rust-prone, and homely-looking. Rightly or wrongly, they're blamed for killing off AMC as a car maker for good in the early 80's, as they were eventually bought up by Chrysler.
In actuality, it was just the opposite. The Pacers and Gremlins were no better or worse than any compact car of the era, and even developed a cult following. AMC's switch to even smaller, front wheel drive cars and discontinuing the Gremlins and Pacers in The Eighties is what clinched it for them.
Interestingly, no one ever complains about the Hornet, despite the Gremlin literally being a hatchback version of the Hornet.
The car that actually did kill AMC was the AMC/Renault Alliance, AKA "The Appliance". Yes, the company that built the ugliest cars in America teamed up with the company that built the ugliest cars in the world to build a car that combined the attractiveness of an AMC with the Gallic eccentricity of a Renault that could be outrun by a loaded Isuzu diesel pickup truck. As a result AMC went under and Renault promptly pulled out of the American market, never to return.
The early '80's Cadillacs were let down by manufacturer engine choices and arguably good ideas that were put into production 20 years too early.
The V8-6-4 engine, a V8 which used a crude cylinder deactivation system to try and save fuel. Such systems are common today, but 70's era electronics simply weren't up to the challenge and it gained a reputation for never working right that it never really shook.
To further compound problems, the engine in question (a decent all cast iron 368 CID V8 based on the venerable 472, at least without the V8-6-4) was offered alongside the infamous Cadillac 4100 V8, known for using iron cylinder heads on an aluminum block. Given the material technology of the time, such "composite" designs were notoriously unreliable and led to head gasket and mechanical failure after as little as a year in rather spectacular fashion, requiring a replacement of either the engine or the car (Swapping the motor for a proven Chevy 350 V8 will solve all those problems, though).
The other option, a Diesel Oldsmobile 350, which left buyers with a choice of buying a car that would leap and shake or one that wouldn't start if it was near freezing temperatures. Adding to the issues, the diesels had inadequate and badly-designed head bolts. Combined with aforementioned poor head gaskets, premature mechanical failure was almost unavoidable. Also, the conspicuous lack of a fuel-water separator meant that it was easy for the engine to hydrolock itself. If that happened, owners unfamiliar with the quirks of diesel motors could consequently damage or destroy theirs simply by trying to start it.
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 1974-78 Ford Mustang II. To start with, it was based on the aforementioned Pinto. This was supposed to make the new Mustang lighter and more nimble. Unfortunately, the Arab oil embargo and the advent of emissions regulations meant any benefits of the downsizing were offset by anemic engines-the most powerful option, a 4.9 litre V8, took 11 seconds to reach 60 MPH. While a big sales success in its day, the Mustang II is seen today as the Dork Age of the Mustang name.
It still wasn't a bad car for its day- just about every new car being sold in the 70's was plagued by anemic engines and questionable styling. It was still a very reliable, efficient, and yes, popular car in its time.
Ralph Nader would have you believe the Chevrolet Corvair is an Alleged Car, with claims (detailed in his book, Unsafe At Any Speed) that it would roll over on turns due to its suspensions and rear engine. The NHTSA found, after severe testing, that "the 1960–63 Corvair compares favorably with contemporary vehicles used in the tests...the handling and stability performance of the 1960–63 Corvair does not result in an abnormal potential for loss of control or rollover, and it is at least as good as the performance of some contemporary vehicles both foreign and domestic." Additionally, Car and Drivercritisized Nader for ignoring driver induced crashes from lack of adapting driving habits and maintenance to the rear-engined layout, and problems not found in Porsche 911s, which featured the same layout and a similar suspension, or the Type 1 Beetle, with Mercedes-Benz, Porsche and Volkswagen using very similar swing axles to the Corvair with no issues (the Corvair's swing axle was actually sourced from the Corvette, which also did not have any such problems).
This came back to haunt Chrysler again during The Seventies. In 1976, Chrysler introduced the Dodge Aspen and Plymouth Volare; a pair of new compacts designed to succeed the long-running Dodge Dart and Plymouth Valiant. The car was fairly successful at first; only to run into reliability problems and rust issues that led to their being the most-recalled cars in the industry until the Chevy Citation and the rest of the GM "X-body" cars (mentioned above)— something that Chrysler could ill afford as its financial situation worsened during the late 1970s.
The Pontiac Aztek was an Alleged SUV if ever there was one. It had a notoriously ugly exterior design that, in theory, was supposed to look "Futuristic" but invited ridicule instead, earning it the predictably derisive nickname "Ass-Tek". Also, because of all those weird angles, it would leave you a rolling snow bank if you lived anywhere where it snows. To add to the problems, the motor was too small and the chassis too heavy. In theory, using a V6 should have meant better fuel economy, in practice, the overworked motor had to burn through gas even faster just to reach and keep highway speeds. The not insignificant amount of aerodynamic drag created by the aforementioned awkward-shaped exterior did not help. It's telling when a vehicle with such a large gas tank still had to make frequent stops at the pump, making it an even worse liability as gas prices rose. Some members of the automotive press were openly comparing it to the Edsel as the true scope of its failure became obvious. As of the 2010s, Azteks are one of the cheapest used cars on the market because few people want them, the combination of notorious ugliness, anemic performance and poor mileage having doomed them. At the very least, they taught the major automakers of the world how to make a V-6 SUV, by showing them exactly what not to do.
The Ford Excursion, also known by the cynical nicknames of "The Ford Excretion" or "The Ford Excrement". The combination of its curb weight of 7230 lbs (making it about a ton heavier than even the biggest stereotypical "land yacht" sedans of the 1970s), and its 6.8L V-10 engine, make for the ultimate gas guzzling SUV, getting only a pathetic 9.6 mpg. It also comes with the option for a 7.3 L Turbo-Diesel V-8 engine, which gets slightly better fuel mileage at just over 10 mpg, but it's still rather wasteful. So what's the trade off for the single digit fuel economy? Well it's big. So big that parking it becomes difficult, and dangerous (assuming you can even find a parking space that it'll fit in). And it's loud. Extremely, ear damagingly loud. So if you like big, loud, wastefully gas guzzling SUVs, or if you're a Mexican drug lord looking for something to show off status and seat lots of goons with lots of firepower, then it's perfect; otherwise, avoid it like the plague, or the price of gas alone will bankrupt you. Simply put, it was a symbol of everything that was wrong with American consumerism of the early 00s until the Hummer H2 came out a couple years later, which gladly deposed the Excursion as the ultimate gas guzzling SUV.
The line about Mexican Drug lords isn't just a joke either. The Excursion's popularity with the Mexican cartels is one of the reasons why Ford continued to sell the Excursion in Mexico after it was canceled in the rest of North America. Talk about bad publicity.
The Excursion can also be seen as Misaimed Fandom. For agricultural or industrial use, it's an effective combination of passenger space and tow capacity (although it obviously can't use a fifth wheel), and its fuel consumption isn't out of place for a comparable 3/4 or 1-ton pickup, like the Ford Super Duty trucks it was based on. It's when people use them for day-to-day driving as opposed to say, hauling a horse trailer, that the weaknesses become apparent. Come to think of it, much of this can be applied to any SUV based on a light truck frame.
The EV1 was certainly a revolutionary car. It did more to advance electric car technology than any other vehicle. However, GM made the fatal decision to fit the first generation of them with the same lead acid batteries as the rest of their cars as a cost saving measure, which made them significantly heavier and severely compromised their range. By the time better batteries were put into the second generation (which due to the limits of 1990s technology still weren't particularly good), it was too late. EV1 sales were dismal even at a sticker price estimated to be less then one-tenth of what each car actually cost to build, as few people outside of Hollywood celebrities were actually willing to pay luxury car prices for a subcompact that provided little utility and even less range, so GM decided that the electric car's time had not yet come and went back to the drawing board. Thus, the company that did more to advance electric car technology than any other manufacturer also got the blame for killing the electric car for an entire decade. Of course that had as much to do with GM's decision to repossess and crush almost all the EV1s in existence as if they where ashamed of them (they had been made available only on lease and GM refused to sell the cars or renew the leases) due to future service and liability concerns over their lessee's often hysterical protests. However, all of that research was not wasted, and today GM actually builds more hybrid and pure electric cars than Toyota and Tesla put together, a position only made possible due to the things they learned from the EV1.
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, when GM recalled 700,000 Cobalts (i.e. more than 60% of them) in 2014 due to an issue where the car could be shut off, losing power steering and brakes, simply by bumping the ignition key ring with one's knee. The worst part was that General Motors' engineers knew about the problem, but with GM in such dire financial straits in the '00s, it was cutting costs wherever it could and decided not to fix it. The Cobalt came to be viewed as a symbol of precisely why GM wound up going bankrupt in 2009, requiring a federal bailout in order to stave off total collapse.
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."
Most versions of the iconic jeep were fine off road. On road, speed freaks trying to drift a jeep could get into a rollover due to most being topheavy. The Willys MB did find itself on the surplus market, but the latter M151 MUTT did not. It couldn't meet US highway standards and was rollover prone.
The HMMWV burst on the scene after The Gulf War. In The War on Terror, it's soft skin was vulnerable. First there was the "hillbilly armor", ad-hoc armor that was breaking drive trains and causing rollovers. Then the "up-armored" variant arrived with built in armor. It too was rollover prone, however the engines struggled under the strain of all that armor. Hence the MRAP program and the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle program to replace the HMMWV.
In China, the worst are the Xiali (based on a Toyota design) and Suzuki Alto, two of the first to enter market. The latter is often said to have been designed to drive on sidewalks, while the former is mocked for two decades of production without major change.
An Alleged Motorcycle is the Chang Jiang CJ750: a Chinese copy of a Russian copy of a pre-WWII BMW. Using tooling the Russians considered worn, having by then been in production use for 20 years already. Chang Jiang also builds a copy of the Jawa 353, again using the original tooling.
The Hindustan Ambassador is sometimes accused of this by Indian urbanites (the car is a licensed reproduction of the Morris Oxford and has been in continuous production since 1956), but consistently tends to outperform western imports or more modern Indian models (apart from SUVs), due to its spaciousness (8 people can sit in one more comfortably than four people can in a Maruti), easy repairability (Percussive Maintenance works here), and general hardiness on rural roads. Also, because the model is so old school, it remains a favorite for retro car enthusiasts.
The G-Wiz is a very tiny electric car. Okay, technically it is legally a "Heavy Quadbike" in Britain for its extreme lack of power (meaning it can skip all those pesky safety regulations for real cars). You can't use any of the electronics such as the radio, since it will kill the G-Wiz's already very short battery life. It has extremely poor acceleration and top speed, limiting its use to city use almost exclusively. At least the car's slowness decreases the chance of a crash, which is good thing, since the G-Wiz can take a crash with another car as well as a bicycle. An acid spraying bicycle. At one point, Jeremy Clarkson had a G-Wiz go up against four guys carrying a table in a drag race. The table won.
The G-Wiz got zero stars in Autocar magazine's review of it. When the people at Top Gear made their own electric car, the clearly awful Hammerhead Eagle i-Thrust (which has its own entry in Live-Action TV), Autocar reviewed it, too, giving the Top Gear car... half a star. Talk about a Take That.
The Tata Nano, a car manufactured and sold in India, designed to be the world's cheapest, and boy does it show. A tiny cramped interior, a two cylinder engine, no air bags, no power steering, no AC (which in India's climate is a HUGE problem, unless you enjoy dying of dehydration and/or heat exhaustion), and the trunk and engine can only be accessed from inside the car, because the rear hatch doesn't open. In fairness, its purpose is to seat an entire family of 6 inside the enclosed space of a car instead of having literally 2 adults and 4 children dangling from a dingy little scooter bike.
The Subaru 360. When it was imported, it had to lose weight to under 1,000 pounds. Why? Because then it could be exempt from the safety regulations and be considered a motorcycle! Consumer Reports labeled it "Not Acceptable"; with its laughably feeble 16 hp engine, it was more likely than not to stall while trying to climb a mildly-steep hill. Both the 360 and the Yugo were imported largely through the financing of Malcolm Bricklin (You'll see him again later on the list) who apparently never found a car he didn't think he could sell....
Thanks to some incidents involving malfunctioning gas pedals, Toyota's cars have started to take on this reputation, putting a huge black mark on their once world-class record for reliability. The nature of the problems has also caused their slogan, "Moving Forward," to become a bit uncomfortable. Though Only In America.
Despite its sleek Italian design, early versions of the Isuzu Piazza had handling that left much to be desired - it rode on a chassis that was copied from an economy car, and it showed. Later models had Lotus tuning, but not until near the end of its short production run.
As mentioned in the video game entry, the Datsun B-210, made by Nissan in the 1970s. It sold well given it always started and fitting the oil crisis used less fuel, but was ugly, fragile, and slow. Dave Grohl told on how he and Kurt Cobain tried to drive from Seattle to Los Angeles (where they'd record Nirvana's Nevermind) in Kurt's B-210. Throughout the entire journey, they had to take 10 minute-breaks because the car engine overheated, making them quit 5 hours later, as they just reached Oregon. So they drove back (as Krist Novoselic had rented a van to do the trip), making sure to stop at a quarry to stone the car in anger.
Less an alleged car than an alleged engine, but the FD Mazda RX-7, especially the turbo version, was effectively the car that cemented the rotary engines popular reputation for unreliability. While the previous generation was decently reliable even in the turbo, Mazda developed a sequential turbo setup for the FD to improve engine response. This worked by diverting the exhaust through a small, quick to spool turbo at low revs, and switching to a bigger turbo at high revs for power. While the idea is sound, Mazdas execution was severly flawed. The exhaust manifold was restrictive, and made of iron, one of the most heat retentive metals. This was bolted to the aluminum (a good heat conductor) rotor housings. Rotary engines tolerate excess heat badly, due to their sandwich-style, differing metal housings. Combine this with the high exhaust temps of a rotary, and heat death becomes an issue. It gets worse, however, as the tight packaging of the engine bay meant little cool air flowed around the engine, resulting in extremely high underhood temps, which exacerbated the problem, and played havoc with the overly complex rats nest of rubber vacuum tubes to control the whole setup. Mazda also fitted the car with a speed density setup for adjusting the fueling, which responded to mods by leaning the engine out, risking the other great killer of rotaries, detonation. Many FD owners deal with this by removing the sequential turbo system for a single turbo setup, and converting it to mass-airfow, or removing the stock engine entirely and shoehorning a V8 in the engine bay.
The North Korean Pyeonghwa Hwiparam, given the pathetic state of their automotive industry compared to the one south of the DMZ, is a good candidate for The Alleged Car. It's a rebadged version of the Fiat Siena by Pyeonghwa Motors as the Hwiparam. Despite Fiat's reputation at the time the Siena was in production the car itself wasn't an Alleged Car, being merely sub-par. Now take that sub-par design and build it using worn out tools, outdated manufacturing processes, cheap materials, poorly trained workers, almost no quality control, and with the sole purpose of having Kim Jong-un portrayed flamboyantly on propaganda signs saying something along the lines of "Best Korea has a car and it's better than those filthy capitalist Samsungs!". Yeah.
The Goggomobil Dart. "If you needed a sudden burst of acceleration, it was best to jump out and run."
A certified lunatic in Germany has fitted one with a 9-cylinder, 10-liter radial aircraft engine. It out-accelerates Porsches.
While Škoda actually did build good and reliable cars, it gained this reputation to some degree due to the dated looks of its 1970s and 1980s models. In practice, the rear-engined, rear-wheel-driven Škodas of the time had the snappy handling of the old Porsche 356s and might have been sportier than other Eastern Bloc brands. It has now lost it with better cars since becoming part of the Volkswagen-Audi Group. However, it hasn't lost its sense of humour, and it shows in many of its adverts: a popular one in the UK went "it's a Škoda, honest".
Recently, it seems Škoda vehicles are becoming too good, with parent company Volkswagen forcing Škoda to limit the quality of new models for fear of them competing with Volkswagen!
Rather amusing, since these days, most Škodas are built on last generation VWs. The Fabia, for example, is a Mark IV Golf underneath the skin.
The Czechoslovak Velorex company 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. If you've looked at the pic and are unsure about what the bodywork is made of: yes, that's actually 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 (later models had a 250cc twin) driving the single rear wheel. Tiff Needell 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 Citroen 2CV fits this trope very well in some aspects, though others were averted; mainly, the 2CV was easy and cheap to repair and somewhat more reliable than its competitors, and with all the broken-down and abandoned ones, combined with minimal changes to its design over its production life, made it a good purchase for anyone with a low budget. Still, it did have extreme flaws: early models used a small engine and had doors without locks, so anyone could steal the car simply by opening the door and pulling the ignition cord, which might be indicative of just how confident the manufacturers were that thieves wouldn't find it to be a car worth stealing. It's also remembered for inspiring the term "lemon" ("citron" being the French word for it and obviously resembling the brand's name), though said term apparently dates back to at least 1906.
There was a parody of the famous Citroen "Dancing Transformer" ad that featured a 2CV. It held up surprisingly well until the end...
The 1956 Renault Dauphine: An alleged sports coupe variant of the otherwise popular Dauphine line, which turned out to be an ultra-cheap rust magnet that went from 0-60 in 32 seconds.
The Fisker Karma plug-in hybrid is quickly gaining this reputation. Owners are reporting a litany of problems, and Consumer Reports had their Karma die on them with only 200 miles on the odometer. Compounding matters is that the car isn't even all that efficient note (30 miles on electric, 20 MPG on gas, about 60 MPG equivalent- for comparison, a Chevrolet Volt can go 35 miles on electric, 35-40 MPG on gas, and has a 90 MPGe rating), fast note (a bit over 6 seconds to 60 in gas-electric mode, over 7 seconds in pure electric), or spacious note (that swoopy body gives it a subcompact classification by the EPA. For a car that costs as much as $115,000. Ouch.) The problems were enough to send Fisker into bankruptcy, and its subsequent buyout by the Chinese.
The Trabant, vehicle of "choice" for East Germans before the country collapsed. The only good things it had in its defense were surprisingly safe and stable handling (it actually beat some pricey European brands in obstacle avoidance tests) and that car dealerships would (allegedly) trade one for a pair of new western blue jeans. Production capacity at the factories was so poor that used Trabants sold for more money than new ones by dint of actually being available. The body was made of low-quality plastic due to a shortage of metal (though to be fair the cellulose-based polymer was also a clever way to recycle cotton garment factory waste.) It had a two-stroke, 15-20 horsepower, half-liter in-line 2 cylinder with a fuel efficiency of 34 mpg and a top speed of around 70 mph, and it took a minute to go zero-to-sixty. The gas tank was mounted in the cowl above the engine (and the driver's legs), guaranteeing any major frontal accident would be catastrophic. To fill it, you had to open the hood, pour gasoline in the 24-liter fuel tank, pour two-stroke oil, and mix by shaking the car. The gas "gauge" was a sightglass in the dashboard. The light dynamo would fall out so often that it got mention in the owner's manual. Worse, by the time production ended, the molds used had expired their expected lifetimes twice over, meaning late model Trabants had severely flawed and unreliable fit and finish. After the German Reunification, The Trabant's value dropped to as little as 50 cents American, and thousands were either junked or abandoned on the spot when they broke down. The rest were kept, either as nostalgia pieces or with the engine replaced—Suzuki Hayabusa engines were a popular substitute.
People by this point may be wondering why the Trabi was so popular - well, there is an answer. Part of the reason was that this was Communist East Germany and you had to take what you were given: a choice between the Trabant and the Wartburg, both of which used 2-stroke engines requiring one to add 2-stroke oil to the fuel-tank and shake the car from side to side whilst parked to mix the oil and fuel together adequately. Suffice to say, the only reason that many of the Wartburg's flaws weren't absolutely fatal was because the motor only had seven moving parts.
It would be unfair to call such a classic vehicle as the Volkswagen Beetle an Alleged Car — except that the earliest models had a crashbox transmission, hand-operated windshield wipers, no cabin heater, semaphore flags for turn signals, no fuel gauge (when the engine started to cough, you switched to the two-litre backup tank and looked for a gas station), and a starter crank hole. (On the other hand, those very same early models would climb a 1:1 grade in first gear. That's a forty-five degree slant.)
** But the German armed forces used the VW Beetle as their standard jeep during WW2 - with a boxy angular military chassis, the Kubelwagen was a versatile, rugged and much-loved all-purpose light car. No crap car would have lasted long in this role.
Even a VW with all the above faults was just the most basic model imaginable - a normally equipped Bug had exhaust-(or engine-block-)heater, pneumatic windscreen washer (running off the pressure in the spare wheel) and electric wipers. There was a worse moment in its history yet: the cars assembled hastily from leftover parts in the bombed Wolfsburg factory between 1946-1949 had engines which barely lasted 30,000 km, upholstery glued with horribly stinking fish glue, matte paint mostly in maroon, black or grey...
During First World War Germany, the Rumpler aircraft company found itself in a similar predicament, and turned out a car whose Cw (coefficient of air resistance) was only equall`ed 50 years later for your average family car, when CAD and windtunnel testing became commonplace.
60 Minutes did a special on Audis in 1985 that showed the gas pedal would fall to the floor when the brake was pressed and the transmission shifted to reverse. Problem is, they lied. There is nothing wrong with those cars, just a lack of familiarity on drivers' parts with the closer and smaller pedals on European cars. Audi's sales have never recovered. note The controversy was sparked by a woman who ran over her own son when her foot slipped off the brake and slammed onto the gas while shifting into reverse. The 60 Minutes "test" was actually a demonstration using a transmission that had been specifically rigged, which was not disclosed in the report. Unfortunately, Audi publicly stated it was the drivers' fault. The upside, though, is that it inspired a US regulatory requirement for idiot-proof shift locks on that require the brake to be pressed before the transmission can be shifted into reverse, a good idea that many other countries have also adopted.
Ten years earlier, Audi gas tanks had an explosive problem that got them up to the Supreme Court. Long story short, it was deemed the speed of the drunk driver's car, rather than the design of the fuel tank, was responsible for the fire.
It has recently been proven the 2009-10 "Runaway" Toyota controversy was caused the same way: drivers mistaking the brake pedal for the gas.
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.
The Lamborghini Espada. Don't let the maker fool you out that it's a Cool Car, because this bull sucked; the glass in the door panels can shatter if bumped in a car park, the engine starved itself of oil, body corrosion 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.
For added fun, the name "Espada" is also the Spanish term for a bullfighting sword. Guess what the Lamborghini logo is?
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.
Coolant regularly leaked into the oil, until they got it fixed in 1984.
And it leaked oil like a sieve.
The valves had to be adjusted each 30,000 miles. The engine had to be removed from the car for this. Of course, since you were changing the timing belt anyway...
The front wheel bearings were so poorly made they had to be changed once a year.
The rear section of the bodywork rusted quickly.
It was rear wheel driven, yet too light in the rear, and it snapped accordingly in tight turns.
It got such honors as "Crap Car" from BBC and "Worst Car of The Year" from Time Magazine.
The Biturbo, expensive as it was, was a huge reach downmarket for Maserati, who up to that point had built exotic two-seaters of the sort that were driven a few thousand miles a year as toys. They had no idea how to engineer and build a car to the standards of reliability expected of a daily driver, and wouldn't have had the resources to test it before launch even if they did.
The Fiat Ritmo/Strada, which, due to using Soviet steel, was infamous for quickly rusting away, due to the metal being heavily recycled and not zinc-plated. Dunno if any exist anymore, much less working ones. By the way, FIAT was often backronymed as "Fix it Again, Tony/Tomorrow", or "Failure in Automotive Technology".
The Alfasud had similar rust issues despite some decent engineering and design.
Fiat, even the desirable Spyder and X-1/9 models, earned a well-deserved reputation for corrosion problems (Car And Driver magazine deemed them "biodegradable") due to the lightweight, high-carbon steel used in their unibody construction, Unfortunately combining corrosion resistance with high strength and light weight was simply beyond the metallurgy available at the time. This was not helped in the US market by the salt exposure the cars received by being shipped across the ocean and the comparatively large amount of snow (and hence road salt) they encountered on American roads. Note that many Japanese brands, including the highly desirable Datsun Z cars, also suffered the same problem.
The Lancia Beta, which rusted to point of scrap, ruined the reputation of Lancia (a manufacturer of otherwise decent cars) in the United Kingdom, forcing the company to pull out of the UK entirely, much to the chagrin of Top Gear's presenters years later.
The Lancia Gamma wasn't a hell of a lot better. Its engine overheated very easily, wore out its cams fairly quickly, and if you turned the wheel to full lock on a cold day, it could lunch the engine, because the power steering was driven by the left timing belt.
The DAF was a Dutch car which, due to its terrible styling and being available with automatic transmission only, was soon deemed unsuitable for anybody under 65. But as the transmission is a CVT (Continuously Variable) (nicknamed the Jarretelle Drive) they can drive backwards just as fast as forwards. And despite its rather modest engine power, due to that CVT it could out-accelerate most contemporary cars from a standing start. Today, DAF just focuses on transport trucks.
As a result, they provided for a lot of entertainment, races driving them backwards were popular for some time. Today, most DAF's are gone for rather obvious reasons.
Lada Classic was actually a state-of-the-art European car when introduced in 1970 as VAZ-2101/Lada 1200, being an updated, sturdier version of the award-winning Fiat-124. It was not only an instant hit on a Soviet market, with the manufacturing not able to meet the demand, but was also a notable export success (even if was a bit downrange on most foreign markets). The problem was that quality control was often lacking (need to meet a production quota, comrade!), and it remained on the assembly line with minor facelifts and redesigns until 2012, a production run second only to the Beetle, and a living fossil of the Cold War era.
In Russia, Alleged Cars are still commonly called "Antilopa Gnus" Whatdoes ittake tostand out as an Alleged Car in Russia? Those, for all their shortcomings, at least were the popular production models, with parts widely available, and their simple and sturdy construction meant that everybody and their dog could fix them anywhere.
Lada 1200 / 1500 (a bit modified Fiat 124) were actually good cars when designed in The Seventies: thicker and stronger bodyshell compared to the original Fiat, elegant faux-leather interior, chrome, large interior and luggage space, strong suspension. Continuous service for 20-30 years (it was pretty hard to acquire a new car in the Eastern Bloc), daily driven in an unforgiving climate with no maintenance to speak of turned them progressively into (still-)running trashcans. It also managed (with minor updates) to stay on the assembly line for the whopping 42 years, becoming steadily more archaic and a target for the jokes.
Although for the Russians themselves, there's a single model whose Alleged Car fame far surpasses all other Soviet/Russian cars combined. That's the infamous ZAZ-965◊, an ultracompact inspired by FIAT-600. Its brand name Zaporozhets is usually shortened to Zapor (Russian for constipation). While not that bad a car per se, it still was "no frills" even for a Soviet vehicle, while its size and cheapness made it a prime target for ridicule (Russians love big cars no less than Americans, it's just that they usually couldn't afford them).
Devrim, the first Turkish-produced car, had this reputation although it was the result of a botched public display rather than a genuine fault with the car. Four prototypes were built and two were brought to the capital for display. The engineers left the fuel tanks mostly empty for safety while the cars were transported. So, when the then-President Cemal Gürsoy got in one of the cars to drive around the Parliament, the car only went for a hundred meters before stopping. The other car, now fully fueled, was brought and driven around with no trouble but the damage was already done and the newspapers had a field day mocking the car's performance. Its successor, Anadol, had better luck and became fairly popular in the following years until being discontinued in 1991.
The 1976 Aston Martin Lagonda: A beautiful supercar filled with cutting edge electronics and gadgets that refused to work.
The Reliant Robin can't be easily considered an Alleged Car, because it's hard to classify it as a car. It has two defining features, one being the fact that it only has three wheels, the single wheel is in the front. The other? Rolling over. One takes a sharp turn in a Reliant Robin at their own risk. It may be the only car in history to roll over 360 degrees from cornering too hard. In the UK, especially Oop North, the Robin became popular as it only required a motorcycle license to operate and thus avoided many taxes that car owners were saddled with. In spite of—or because of—this, the Robin has become something of an icon of British popular culture. The yellow van in Only Fools and Horses is commonly mistaken for a Robin (it was actually a Reliant Regal Supervan), as was the light blue van that was always getting tipped over. Top Gear has done several segments on the Robin (and its tipping over) and the Robin even has a racing circuit where tipping over is so common there are established techniques for righting oneself right there on the track. The London Olympic opening had a Reliant Robin that... just exploded.
Following World War 1, the Bristol Aircraft Company found itself at a loose end and decided to make use of its aircraft engine technology in producing cars. 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 fit the three-cylinder radial they used into the car was to mount it with the crankshaft vertical, above the rear axle (in contrast to the above examples where the engine is on the same level as the axle). This resulted in the car's centre of gravity being ridiculously high and going round any approximation to a corner at any useful speed while remaining upright was more or less impossible.
The AC Invacar, universally known as the "spaz chariot", a light blue plastic yogurt pot on wheels designed for disabled drivers which was produced in large numbers in the UK. Considered a death trap by everyone who drove it. Eventually they were banned from the road and nearly all existing examples were recalled by the government and scrapped.
A major subcontractor and suppler for Leyland and other British cars, Lucas Industries either cut costs or Leyland cut corners, depending on who you ask. The company foudner, Joseph Lucas, got a Fan Nickname from the British sports car American fanbase "The Prince Of Darkness". This was due to the electrical problems in cars with Lucas designed and/or supplied electrical systems.
The Hollywood benchmark for the Alleged Car is the Yugo, as the the Zastava Koral was branded when imported to North America, or one several other Eastern European Cold War era cars that were exported to the West to raise foreign currency; the Yugo was merely the one that was actually sold the most, and the first since The Sixties to make it to the United States, and was thus the best known. Ironically, quite a few of these cars were licensed copies of Western European cars, most notably Fiats. Original Eastern Bloc exports were the Trabbi, the Skoda or possibly the Wartburg, though these seldom appeared outside Europe.
The Yugo, based on its reputation, was voted Worst Car Of The Millennium by Car Talk. (Truthfully, there have been worse cars. Not many, but they exist. While hardly a stellar machine, the Yugo wasn't a genuine disaster. Its poor reputation is often explained by it being uncaringly treated as a disposable car and never given even the most basic maintenance, like, say, an oil change.)
Jason Vuic, who wrote a book chronicling the history of the Yugo, noted that the Yugo at least passed U.S. safety and emissions tests, meaning it was at least better than the cars that didn't get to be imported to the US because they couldn't meet basic standards. He also points out that the Yugo may have been a victim of bad timing more than anything else. Most customers who bought them were aware they were buying a "no frills" economy car, and were quite happy with them. But the Yugos began arriving in the US just as other major car manufacturers were beginning to see the market demand for cheaper vehicles and in the cost-cutting that followed, an upstart import brand had little chance. Ironically, the Yugo doing just well enough to survive for a few years means it's mostly remembered for it's eventual failure, whereas car makes/models that fail spectacularly from the get-go just vanish into consumer history without a trace.
The Hispanias in the 2011 season Formula One, compared to the rest of the cars in the series, definately count as this.
At least the Hispanias can qualify for the race. 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, to the point that they had both drivers finish (twice) fewer times than they had both drivers retire (six times, seven if you include Interlagos where one driver failed to qualify). Villeneuve in particular was forced to retire from twelve of the sixteen races.