No one wants to drive a lemon. You know, the car you buy, then as soon as you take it off the lot something fails. The engine goes kaput, or the brakes don’t work. This list will show you the worst cars ever made, so you don’t end up trying to make lemonade out of a lemon.
1. 1971 Chevy Vega
Back to the US. Back to the 70s. Don’t say we didn’t warn you.
The Chevrolet Vega has perhaps the most dramatic story arch of any car on this list. With its lightweight aluminum alloy engine block and unique inline four-cylinder design, it initially received great praise - even getting Motor Trend magazine’s Car of the Year award during its introduction in 1971. However, those glory days didn’t last. The Vega had nearly every problem a car could, short of just exploding on ignition: reliability issues abounded, engineering flaws led to part failure, rust was a constant battle, and the safety standards were well below what even the 1970s expected. Unlike the star for which it is named, the Vega faded quickly and for good reason.
2. Plymouth Prowler
A quick time hop to the other end of the 20th century shows us that the 1990s weren’t short of silly designs for automobiles—but they were more willing to look back in time to find them. Inspired by the hot-rodding roadsters of yesteryear. However, this is less “American Graffitti” and more “An American Tail”. It seems that the geniuses at Plymouth forgot to make the Prowler a hot-rod, instead installing a pitifully underpowered 3.5 liter V6 pushing a mediocre 250 horsepower. Visually intriguing but lacking in performance, the Prowler was a rolling metaphor for the decade from which it spawned.
3. Aston Martin Lagonda
You may not be old enough to remember, but the 70s were a happenin’ time. Disco was in full swing, funk was fresh, and hip-hop was on the horizon. Everything was fueled by cocaine, which may explain the razor like design of the Aston Martin Lagonda. It may also explain the gap between ambition and performance—the electronics were computer-run, the displays all CRT based rather than gauges, and the whole thing was intended to push the limits of what a car could achieve with the technology of the day. Unfortunately, none of the “advanced” gadgets worked, and Aston Martin scored a major case of “equipment failure.”
4. Suzuki Samurai
Like so many cars on this list, the Suzuki Samurai sums up its decade—in this case, the 1980s. Colorful, sporty, overblown, and with a penchant for being a bit too rambunctious, the Samurai fully embraced the twin mix of optimism and fatalism that defined the end of the Cold War. A chic little 4×4, the Samurai was just beginning to find its place in the market when drivers noticed that it had a tendency to—flip over and roll while taking perfectly normal corners at average speeds. Clearly not a win for Suzuki, and another rolling metaphor for Japan’s decline from dominance of the automobile industry.
5. Saturn Ion
Saturn was a company born of optimism—the idea that a new American automotive manufacturer could break into the market with made-in-the-USA vehicles seemed like a pipe dream. But they did it, broke through, and for a while succeeded. With no thanks due to the Ion. The Saturn Ion was under-performing, with a smaller-than-average engine pushing what at the time was one of the longest four door sedans on the market.There was also the small issue of side impact—specifically the frame did very little to protect passengers from a good t-bone wreck. For these reasons and more, the Ion vanished in 2007.
6. Ford Model T
The Ford Model T also known as the Tin Lizzie, Leaping Lena, or flivver was produced from 1908 to 1927. It was widely known as the first affordable car for the American Middle Class.
7. Briggs and Stratton Flyer
This two-seat vehicle was originally called the Smith Flyer which was renamed to the Briggs & Stratton after the rights were sold. This vehicle was produced from 1915 to 1925.
8. Desoto Airflow
The Desoto (Chrysler) Airflow was produced from 1933 to 1936. At the time the Airflow was revolutionary due to its price structure compared to other more expensive Chrysler cars.
9. 1958 Edsel Corsair
Up next is an American contribution, this time from Ford, and one so bad that it remains synonymous with “lemon” to this day. The 1958 Edsel was a machine designed to . . . well, we’re not sure. It had all the outer hallmarks of 50s greatness: fins on the body, a boxy design, an elaborate front end including a suggestively shaped vertical grill. And while mechanically sound, the Edsel was the victim of media over-hype: the marketing campaign presented it as the car-to-end-all-cars, but rather than defining the decade in automotive engineering, the Edsel was just another run-of-the-mill sedan. There’s a lesson there: under promise and over deliver, not the other way around.
10. Waterman Arrowbile
The Arrowbile was a tailless aircraft built in the late 1930s. The vehicle was the first of its kind but very few people were interested. Only 5 were produced.
The Amphicar was an interesting vehicle seeing as its big characteristic was that it was an amphibious car. The vehicle debuted at the 1961 New York Auto Show. The vehicle was in production from 1961 – 1968.
12. 1947 Davis D-2 Divan
We were wrong earlier about the Reliant Robin. Not about its many flaws or anything like that, but about the role of three-wheelers in American motoring. As it turns out the Davis Motor company of Van Nuys, California built a three-wheeler back in the 40s in the form of the D-2 Divan.
We’ll never know how the D-2 would have fared, however, because its demise was guaranteed early due to the shady practices of the company’s founder and the overly ambitious estimates for both performance and production. When investors got cranky, the whole thing tanked. With only 12 surviving examples, this is also one of the rarest cars on this list.
13. Lotus Elite
The Lotus Elite was produced by Lotus Cars from 1957 to 1963. The Lotus Elite Type 14 was designed by Peter Kirwan-Taylor.
14. MGA Twin-Cam
The MGA Twin Cam was a produced from 1958 to 1960 as a high-performance roadster. Its maximum speed was 113.5 mph.
15. 1998 Fiat Multipla
Fiat has long used the Multipla name for its vans and mini-buses, dating back to the 1950s. The 1998 addition to the family was supposed to be the heir to a storied legacy, but instead became the punchline in more jokes than any American minivan design.
There’s no way to say it politely: this thing looks bizarre. The front end appears to have been assembled out of leftovers from various model kits, the wheels are too small, and the back end could double as a greenhouse. Whether it was ahead of its time or just went too far is immaterial: the end result is that this Multipla divided by zero.
16. Chevrolet Corvair
The Chevy Corvair was a compact car produced from 1960-1969. The Corvair came in numerous models including a two-door coupe, convertibles, four-door sedan, four door station wagon, passenger van, commercial van, and pickup trucks. The big negative mark against the car was written in Ralph Nader’s 1965 book “Unsafe at Any Speed”.
17. Peel Trident
The Peel Trident was a three-wheeled microcar produced by the Peel Engineering Company from 1965 – 1966 and resurfaced in 2011 to now. The vehicle debuted the 1964 British Motorcycle Show.
18. Triumph Stag
The Triumph Stag was a sports tourer that was produced from 1970 – 1978 by the British Triumph Motor Company. This vehicle was designed by Giovanni Michelotti. There was only 25,939 were made.
19. Bricklin SV1
The Bricklin SV-1 was a sports car assembled from 1974 – 1975. The designer of this unique car was Malcolm Bricklin who was also the founder of Subaru of America.
20. Lamborghini LM002
The Lamborghini LM002 was an off-road sport vehicle also known as the Lamborghini truck. The Vehicle was produced from 1986 – 1993. Only 382 of these were produced.