The automotive industry has had its share of embarrassments. Some of them have come in the form of cars whose time never was. With thanks to Popular Mechanics and an apologies to the Ford Pinto, here are the 10 cars that most deserved to burn in the ash bin of history.
BMW Z3 (E36/4), 1996–2002
Some James Bond fans stand up for Pierce Brosnan’s tour of duty, but the same cannot be said for that 007’s ride, the BMW Z3. A 138-hp, 1.9-liter four-cylinder, the Z3 would have had barely had enough power to escape from villain Ernst Blofeld’s white lap cat, let alone the more supercharged forces of evil. Less-than-responsive handling made the Z3 only somewhat more maneuverable than a victim of Auric Goldfinger. According to Popular Mechanics, however, it sold well despite a coupe model known at BMW as “the shoe.”
Chevrolet SSR, 2003–2006
Chevrolet’s “Super Sport Roadster” had little deuce coupe style, but the fact that it was a big-block, hardtop convertible V8 pickup made it less than practical for the average beach jaunt. The jalopy with pop couldn’t make up its mind.
Mercedes-Benz C230 Hatchback, 2000–2007
A Mercedes hatchback simply didn’t fit the image fans were used to from the luxury auto maker. Even though the price was right at $24,950, this Baby Benz simply never caught on.
Ford Pinto, 1971–1980
An Internet meme before there was an Internet, the Ford Pinto went straight to court in 1980 because the gas tank exploded into a ball of flame when the car was rear-ended. While Ford was legally cleared of any negligence, the PR damage was done, and the Pinto was put to pasture.
Yugo GV, 1984–1991
Zastava Koral – or Yugo for short – hit the U.S. in 1984 at the Los Angeles Car Show, but did little damage due to its underpowered 55-hp engine. Sure, it got 30 mpg and cost only $3,990. However, consumers got what they paid for, as the Yugo was known for serious timing belt problems that could destroy the motor. By the time the automaker’s factory was bombed by NATO during the 1999 Kosovo War, Yugo was already on its way out.
Cadillac Catera, 1997–2001
Cindy Crawford cavorting with an animated duck wizard would sell cars, thought Cadillac TV advertising crew. Sadly, the Catera’s tires would go prematurely bald, oil would leak into the coolant, and the timing belt would fail. This pointed to a car that wasn’t all that it was quacked up to be, even with a supermodel in its corner.
Jaguar X-Type, 2001–2009
How a finely tuned sports car like a Jaguar could go wrong is anyone’s guess, but the X-Type simply didn’t fit with the company’s reputation. Like Mercedes-Benz C230, this “Poor Man’s Jaguar” was the wrong car for wrong audience.
DeLorean DMC-12, 1981–1982
John DeLorean opted to save money on production by using inexperienced assembly workers in Ireland, and the DMC-12 suffered for it. Dismal acceleration and a low top speed completely obscured an interesting concept car.
Pontiac Aztek, 2001–2005
“Smashed” is not a great way to describe the look of a new car, but that’s what Pontiac brought to consumers with the Aztek’s less-than-aerodynamic rear end. Perhaps it was a historical allusion to Hernando Cortes’ 1521 demolition of the Aztec empire.