September 3, 2018

Here's a List of 12 Automobiles Considered the Worst of the 1970s

This is a list of automobiles considered the worst from the 1970s. They are judged by poor critical reception, poor customer reception, safety defects, and/or poor workmanship. For inclusion, these automobiles have either been referred to in popular publications as the worst of all time, or have received negative reviews across multiple publications.


Some of these cars were popular on the marketplace or were critically praised at their launch, but have earned a strongly negative retroactive reception, while others are not considered to be intrinsically "bad", but have acquired infamy for safety or emissions defects that permanently damaged the car's reputation. Conversely, some vehicles which were poorly received at the time ended up being re-evaluated by collectors and became cult classics.

1. AMC Gremlin (1970–78)


The 1970 AMC Gremlin, a shortened version of the AMC Hornet, was introduced for 1970 as an entry to compete in the emerging market for compact cars. However, its odd styling and out-of-date technology has earned it lasting derision. Named by Time magazine as one of the 50 worst cars of all time, Dan Neil wrote that "[Richard] Teague's design team basically whacked off the rear of the AMC Hornet with a cleaver. The result was one of the most curiously proportioned cars ever [...] Cheap and incredibly deprived — with vacuum-operated windshield wipers, no less — the Gremlin was also awful to drive, with a heavy six-cylinder motor and choppy, unhappy handling due to the loss of suspension travel in the back. The Gremlin was quicker than other subcompacts but, alas, that only meant you heard the jeers and laughter that much sooner."

Included on CNN's list of "The Ten Most Questionable Cars of All Time", it said of the Gremlin, "Like other AMC cars the Gremlin can be seen as either a daring leap forward by an innovative underdog or as a desperate attempt to do something - anything - that would stand out in a marketplace dominated by larger competitors."

The Gremlin also placed 4th on Car Talk's "Worst Car of the Millennium" poll, and named by CNBC on its list of the ten ugliest cars of all time. Including it in his book Automotive Atrocities! The Cars We Love to Hate, author Eric Peters wrote that the Gremlin had a "distinctive 'What happened to the rest of your car, buddy?' look that became the Gremlin's signature design feature." He also said that the 1970 Gremlin's lack of disc brakes, radial tires and electronic windshield wipers "hearkened back to the technologically sophisticated days of 1935." Edmunds.com ranked the Gremlin as the 19th worst car of all time, saying, "it runs second only to its brother the Pacer in Loserland."


2. Chevrolet Vega (1971–77)


While the Chevrolet Vega earned critical acclaim upon launch, was named the Motor Trend Car of the Year for 1971 and became a best seller, its reputation would be permanently damaged upon the revelation of severe quality and reliability issues. While its aluminum block engine and new method of rustproofing were initially praised as innovative, the Vega was proven to have an extreme vulnerability to corrosion and premature engine failure.

By the late 1970s, Vegas were being scrapped at such a high rate that many junkyards refused to purchase them. Autoblog included the Vega on its list "The 20 Dumbest Cars of All Time", saying that it "proved the point that American car makers did not make good small cars." It placed 2nd on Car Talk's poll of "The Worst Car of the Millennium," was named on Forbes' 2004 list of "The Worst Cars of All Time" and named by Car and Driver one of the 10 most embarrassing award-winning cars, stating, "The Chevy Vega is on everyone's short list for Worst Car of All Time. It seemed the only time anyone saw a Vega on the road not puking out oily smoke was when it was being towed."

Popular Mechanics named the Vega on their list "10 Cars That Damaged GM's Reputation" and later commemorated the 40th anniversary of its launch, marking the Vega as the catalyst that put General Motors on the downward spiral which culminated in its bankruptcy in 2009. The 2010 retrospective also took note of the Vega's high sales numbers in relation to its poor quality, noting, "Since the Vega sold so strongly (almost 2 million were built before it left production after 1977), the result was that literally hundreds of thousands of buyers were having awful experiences with the car. [...] Surely, those customers were then far more willing to consider the Japanese alternatives that were starting to arrive."

The Truth About Cars named the Vega as one of the "deadly sins" that led to GM's downfall, "The Vega was GM's Watergate/Waterloo, the beginning of the inevitable end." Edmunds.com ranked the Vega as the 5th worst car of all time. In his 1979 book On a Clear Day You Can See General Motors, former GM executive John DeLorean devoted an entire chapter to the Vega, describing how the Vega did poorly in durability testing and that GM knew about its quality problems prior to launch.[


3. Ford Pinto (1971–80)


While the Ford Pinto was a strong seller that got a decent reception, its reputation was permanently marred upon the discovery that the car could catch fire upon being rear ended due to a defective fuel tank design, as well as the revelation of the infamous "Pinto memo", which revealed that Ford executives knew about the design defect and decided to do nothing after calculating that paying off lawsuits was cheaper than re-engineering the car.

Including the car in his book Automotive Atrocities! The Cars We Love to Hate, Eric Peters discussed the "Pinto memo", noted that it would have cost Ford $1 per car to reinforce the fuel tank, and summed up the Pinto's entry with the line, "See how much corporate America cares?"

Included on Time magazine's list of the 50 worst cars of all time, Dan Neil wrote of its inclusion, "They shoot horses, don’t they? Well, this is fish in a barrel. Of course the Pinto goes on the Worst list, but not because it was a particularly bad car — not particularly — but because it had a rather volatile nature. The car tended to erupt in flame in rear-end collisions."

Named one of the "Most Questionable Cars of All Time", CNN said of it, "Images of flaming Pintos are so seared into the public consciousness that it's probably hard for most people, unaided by a photograph, to conjure a mental image of the car while not on fire."

Autoblog ranked the Pinto #1 on its list "The 20 Dumbest Cars of All Time", taking note of the combination of the Pinto's dangerous defect with how Ford marketed it towards young drivers: "So, this car was aimed at the least experienced drivers in America and the most prone to being in accidents. And after the truth came out, it soured a lot of those kids and their parents on buying more Fords just as the Asians were rising and redefining quality in America."

Aside from the fire issues, the Pinto was also criticized for its poor name choice. It was named after the pinto horse, but "Pinto" is slang for the male genitalia in Portuguese, resulting in poor sales on the Brazilian market. International Business Times included the Pinto in a list of "The 5 Worst Name Oversights". The Pinto placed third in Car Talk's 2000 "Worst Car of the Millennium" survey and was ranked the 16th worst car of all time by Edmunds.com.


4. Morris Marina (1972–80)


From its release, the Morris Marina has been criticised for its poor performance, styling, handling and build quality. It was also considered outdated at the time of its launch as its technical layout was largely based on the Morris Minor whose development started in the 1940s.

The Telegraph included the Marina on its list of "10 Cars That Should Have Never Been Produced". British motoring journalist Jeremy Clarkson has criticised the Morris Marina on several television programmes: In Clarkson's Car Years, originally broadcast in 2000, he compared the Marina to the Austin Allegro to determine which one was worse, and he destroyed a Marina in an automotive game of Conkers on one of his DVDs. Clarkson has said of the Marina that "It cost 40 million pounds to develop, which since it was meant to be hopeless, was too much," and that its rear suspension "dates back to a medieval hand cart."

Destroying Marinas has become a running gag on the BBC series Top Gear, which has drawn the ire of Marina enthusiasts and resulted in complaints been made to the BBC. In addressing the complaints, Top Gear presenter James May has stated that at least one Marina needs to be preserved in a museum as "a warning from history". CarThrottle ranked it #1 on it's list of "10 Of The Worst Cars Ever Made In The UK".[30]


5. Reliant Robin/Rialto (1973–2002)


The Reliant Robin is a three-wheeled small car. It is the perhaps best-known and most infamous product of the British three-wheeled car industry that was very successful from the 1950s until the 1980s; mainly due to British tax loopholes that allowed three-wheeled cars to be taxed as motorcycles and be driven with a motorcycle licence. The Robin enjoyed sales success throughout its lifetime and has a special place in British culture. Its name was so popular that its 1982 successor, the Reliant Rialto, was renamed Robin again in 1989, thus making the Robin name live on for another thirteen years and even making it see the new millennium until production finally came to a halt in 2002.

But despite its success, it has also become the butt of many jokes due to its three-wheeled nature, fibreglass bodyshell and primitive, old-fashioned technique and is often cited among the worst cars ever made. It is sometimes affectionately nicknamed the "Plastic Pig" because of it's distinctive shape and fibreglass body shell. It was also part of a famous episode of Top Gear (series 15, episode 1), in which Jeremy Clarkson drives a Reliant Robin and makes it roll over multiple times. He described driving it as dangerous as "inviting your mum 'round for an evening on chatroulette", and that the Robin "wasn't funny, it was a complete menace." The following two episodes featured racing driver The Stig and Ken Block on their test track in Robins, and neither of them could finish a clean lap in the specially doctored Robin.

Later on, Clarkson admitted that the Robin used in the show had the differential modified to allow it to roll over easily. He also admitted that he actually likes the Robin. The Robin was featured in the books The Worst Cars Ever Sold by Giles Chapman and Crap Cars by Richard Porter. It was voted the 8th worst car ever in an Auto Express poll, with the article saying "The butt of countless jokes, the Reliant Robin was missing more than a wheel and will be remember as one of the worst cars ever". In a 2013 poll, it was voted the worst British car of all time.

Edmunds.com ranked it the 13th worst car of all time, stating "Ludicrously unstable three-wheeler that turns turtle on its plastic body at the slightest provocation. Fortunately, with a 750cc engine, it was underpowered, too." CarThrottle ranked it number two on its list of "10 Of The Worst Cars Ever Made In The UK".


6. Austin Allegro (1974–82)


The Austin Allegro was launched in 1973, intended to be a radical clean sheet design by British Leyland. However, it has been strongly criticized since its reputation for its poor quality and odd styling.

In his book Crap Cars, writer Richard Porter says "the only bit of the Allegro they got even vaguely right was the rust-proofing". The Allegro was placed second worst in his list, beaten only by the VW Beetle. The poor reputation of the car and the inefficient production and management techniques in British Leyland at the time at which it was produced have meant that the Austin Allegro has become associated with waste, inefficiency and poor quality.

In Clarkson's Car Years Jeremy Clarkson compares the Austin Allegro to the Morris Marina. He concludes the Allegro was a better car than the Marina, because the Allegro was a horrible car in a more original way than the Marina. Clarkson further said of the Allegro that it was "hideously ugly", whoever proposed its square steering wheel should have had pens thrown at him, and that "it was more aerodynamic going backwards."

In 2007, Sir Digby Jones, in criticising the inefficiencies of the Learning and Skills Council, said, "It is what I call 'the British Leyland model' – you put a lot of money in at the top, and an Austin Allegro comes out at the bottom."

Edmunds.com ranked the Allegro as the 81st worst car of all time, and expressed gratitude that it was never exported to the United States.


7. Ford Mustang II (1974–78)


While the Ford Mustang II was well received by both critics and consumers upon its launch, today it is strongly criticized for being a poor-performing Pinto derivative, even though its good fuel economy made it popular after the 1973 oil crisis.

Car and Driver listed the Mustang II as one of the 10 most embarrassing award winners, stating, "Instead of the powerful car the Mustang had been, here was a poseur with wheezing four- and six-cylinder engines under the hood. And except for better fuel economy, there were no compensating virtues."

Autoblog named the Mustang II as one of the "20 Dumbest Cars of All Time" and claimed that for it to have been named the 1974 Motor Trend Car of the Year, "Motor Trend, back in the day, had to be trading annual honors for ad pages."

Eric Peters wrote of the Mustang II in his book Automotive Atrocities! The Cars We Love to Hate, "Reeling, wild-eyed and increasingly desperate [in the wake of the 1973 oil crisis and new emission requirements from the EPA], Ford belched up the Pinto-sourced, "downsized" Mustang II – a car with all the kick of a watered-down Shirley Temple."

Edmunds.com ranked the Mustang II as the 2nd worst car of all time, describing it as "instantly appalling to Mustang lovers."


8. AMC Pacer (1975–80)


Intended to be a radical new concept, as well as being the first automobile to use cab forward design, the AMC Pacer's odd styling has also been criticized.

A 2007 survey conducted of its clients by the Hagerty Insurance Agency named the Pacer the worst car design of all time. Including it in Time magazine's "50 Worst Cars of All Time", Dan Neil described the Pacer as a "glassine bolus of dorkiness" and that "in the summer, it was like being an ant under a mean kid’s magnifying glass. The air conditioning was non-existent. You could actually see fumes of volatile petrochemicals out-gassing from the plastic dash."

CNN named the Pacer as one of "The 10 Most Questionable Cars of All Time"; "The bulbous, blobby Pacer is remembered today as the ultimate example of 'the nerdy car my parents drove.' (Its starring role in the 1992 geeksploitation flick Wayne's World didn't help.)"

It is included in the book Automotive Atrocities! The Cars We Love to Hate, which prominently features the Pacer on the cover. Its entry says the Pacer "defined the 1970s even more than a Bee Gees 8-track, the "Farrah" hairstyle, or the leisure suit. In fact, wearing a leisure suit and listening to a Bee Gees 8 track while driving to your job as assistant manager at the local McDonald's was perhaps the ultimate 1970s experience." It also took note of the Pacer's newfound collector status as a piece of kitsch, saying, "As a car, it isn't much - but as a conversation piece, it's almost as good as having a restored Elvis: Alive! pinball machine in your den."

Edmunds.com ranked the Pacer as the 20th worst car of all time, describing it as "an icon of disenfranchised losers." The Pacer has also been notably lampooned in the 1992 film Wayne's World.


9. Bricklin SV-1 (1975)


The Bricklin SV-1 was brought to life by automotive entrepreneur Malcolm Bricklin, who funded development and production of the car from the government of the Canadian province of New Brunswick. Production stopped in early 1976 when the company went into receivership.

Including the Bricklin on its list of "The 20 Dumbest Cars of All Time", Autoblog wrote, "Memo to the world: When an automobile executive starts a new car company and proposes to name the car after himself, run like a stag in the opposite direction, lock your check book and credit cards in a safe and ask your best friend to keep the combination away from you no matter how much you beg for it. This scenario never turns out well."

Including it in his book Automotive Atrocities! The Cars We Love to Hate, Eric Peters acknowledged the numerous safety features the Bricklin helped to pioneer before writing, "In theory, it all sounded fabulous. ... But the SV1 was basically a kit car cobbled together using mish-mashed leftovers acquired from Ford and American Motors. Lack of money and technical and engineering resources was evident in the way the car was put together. It had the look and feel of a teenage hot rod project built in the backyard with a Sawzall and some RTV."

It was named one of the 50 worst cars of all time by Time magazine, with Dan Neil saying of it, "The SV1 was supposed to exemplify the safer car of the future; the name stands for “Safety Vehicle 1.” The bodies were made of brightly colored, dent-resistant plastic, like PlaySkool furniture. Another safety feature: incredible, crust-of-the-Earth-cooling slowness. All those resin panels and compressible bumpers added hundreds of pounds that the emissions-limited V8s couldn’t handle. This thing couldn’t outrun the Rose Bowl Parade."

Edmunds.com ranked the Bricklin as the 72nd worst car of all time, claiming it "makes the DeLorean look like an engineering magnum opus."


10. Triumph TR7 (1975–81)


The Triumph TR7 was one of the last models produced by Triumph before its demise in 1984. The TR7 was widely criticized and ridiculed for its styling, especially the strange curve in the side. A popular urban legend states that upon its debut, legendary Italian auto designer Giorgetto Giugiaro examined a TR7 at an auto show, walked around to the other side of the car and exclaimed, "Oh my god – they did it to the other side, too!"

Quality problems tended to undermine the car's image in the market place. This was primarily the result of the poor relations between management and workforce and frequent strikes at the Speke factory near Liverpool. Furthermore, the TR7 was designed to be a roadster, but at first was only available with a permanent roof as proposed new rollover safety regulations in the USA, its intended main market, threatened to effectively ban the sale of convertibles. However, this did not happen, so a convertible version became available in 1979.

Quality also improved when production was moved to the Canley plant in Coventry, and later Solihull, but it was too late to save the car's already damaged reputation. In its Frankfurt Motor Show preview edition of September 1977, the German magazine Auto, Motor und Sport reported that the engine of a TR7 press car had broken down and "started to boil" while undergoing a maximum speed measurement exercise over a 4 km (2.5 miles) stretch of track as part of a road test.

It was included on Time magazine's list of the 50 worst cars of all time; automotive journalist Dan Neil wrote that the main issue with the TR7 was that "the cars were so horribly made. The thing had more short-circuits than a mixing board with a bong spilled on it."

Jeremy Clarkson criticized the TR7 and destroyed one in his DVD special Heaven and Hell. Edmunds.com ranked the TR7 as the 47th worst car of all time.


11. Chevrolet Chevette (1976–87)


The Chevrolet Chevette has commonly been criticized for its poor performance, poor build quality and general cheap feel. It has been included in Time magazine's list of the 50 worst cars of all time, it placed 5th in Car Talk's poll "Worst Car of the Millennium," and is included in the book Automotive Atrocities! The Cars We Love to Hate by Eric Peters.

In its inclusion, Peters poked fun at the Chevette's name, suggesting, "Owners of Chevy's austere little econobox could also casually mention their "'Vette" parked outside to comely (if gullible) prospects at singles bars – though it was critical that said prospects consume a minimum of three double-strong Long Island Iced Teas before suggesting a ride back to your parents' basement."

CNN included it on its list of the "10 Most Questionable Cars of All Time" – where it was described as "Pathetic". CNN expanded describing the Chevette as, "Another GM attempt to compete against small, inexpensive imports. And, again, this one wasn't a market flop. In fact, the Chevette was the best-selling small car in America for the 1979 and 1980 model years. Ultimately, 2.7 million were produced over its lifetime. But it is remembered today for being mechanically troubled, poorly constructed and underpowered, a sad reminder of the trouble Detroit automakers had (and still have) in responding to the flood of small, cheap cars from Japan."

Popular Mechanics named the Chevette on their list "10 Cars that Damaged GM's Reputation" due to it being utilized as GM's response to advanced, front wheel drive subcompacts such as the Volkswagen Rabbit and Honda Civic despite its poor performance, technologically crude rear wheel drive platform and poorly packaged interior: "it was always a car that sold strictly on price, with no real virtues of its own." Popular Mechanics also noted how the Chevette's success and long production run allowed GM to not develop a proper front wheel drive subcompact, instead utilizing a series of badge engineered captive imports from Suzuki, Isuzu and Daewoo to serve as Chevrolet's entry level models after Chevette production ended, something they described as "one of the company's greatest missteps of all."

Edmunds.com listed the Chevette as the 53rd worst car of all time.


12. FSO Polonez (1978–2002)


The FSO Polonez was largely based on the Polski Fiat 125p that had already been manufactured in Poland by FSO since 1967, but featured a completely new hatchback body designed by Giugiaro. It was rather ambitious for its time, being the first Polish-built car to feature a hatchback body and the first mass-produced Polish car to have its own design, but it was largely panned in most markets outside Eastern Europe due to its poor quality, poor design and poor performance.

Jeremy Clarkson said about the Polonez: "Built by communists out of steel so thin you could use it as a net curtain, it is as reliable and long lasting as a pensioner's erection", "Of course history has served up many cars that drove as badly as this, but few looked quite so terrible" and "Its did have a redeeming feature - it was cheap. But it had to be, because it was a car that wasn’t really a car at all. It was a box under which the careless car buyer would discover a ’40s tractor."

It was also featured in a Top Gear episode titled "The Worst Car In The History Of The World" in which Clarkson is seen driving a Polonez on a country road where it breaks down twice.

TheStreet.com ranked it 6th in its list of the 20 Worst Cars of All Time, and it was voted the 9th worst car of all time in a poll by Auto Express.




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