14 August 2007

Top Ten Questionable Designs

The results are in! Nearly 2500 Hagerty clients responded to our e-mail requesting nominations for “The Most Questionable Car Designs of All Time.” Citing poor styling and likening its design to a “pregnant roller skate” or “fish bowl on wheels,” you’ve chosen the AMC Pacer as the most dubious design in automotive history.

The timing of the Most Questionable Designs poll coincides with what is likely the most famous collector vehicle event, the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance on August 19th, a celebration of the world’s rarest and most beautiful automobiles. While the vehicles on this list aren’t likely to win any awards soon, some are paradoxically coveted and revered among select segments of the car collector community.

Here’s the list of “The Most Questionable Car Designs of All Time”:

  1. AMC Pacer – The Pacer’s interesting styling prompted one respondent to wonder “I’d like to know what planet the designers were from.”
  2. Yugo – Mechanical flaws and poor quality put the Yugo near the top. “My Yugo improved my mechanic skills greatly,” said one respondent. “Somedays I miss that car, but then I remember the bad ride, poor brakes, no guts and bad interior.”
  3. Ford Pinto – The majority of respondents cited a notorious design flaw that caused explosions in rear-end collisions. “Underpowered, cheap plastic, bodies prone to rust and, oh yeah, they blow up too,” said one.
  4. Pontiac Aztek – The unique styling of the latest model on the list prompted its addition, according to most respondents. “There must have been a front-end design team and a rear-end design team. And the two teams never spoke to each other,” said one.
  5. Chevrolet Vega – Poor design, construction and mechanical failure were the main reasons behind its inclusion. “There seemed to be a competition between the engineering and assembly teams as to who could be the bigger screw-up,” claimed one respondent.
  6. AMC Gremlin – Commenting on its styling, one person called it “the most hideously ill-proportioned car of all time.”
  7. Chevrolet Corvair – For most, it was mechanics rather than appearance at issue. “Reliability and safety mostly, as it wasn't that bad looking,” was the reasoning of one respondent.
  8. AMC Matador – Design was the main reason behind the Matador’s inclusion. “Even as a kid in the '70s, I recall it being particularly offensive to the eye, from its bug-eye headlamps, through the overly thick landau roof, ending with a droopy decklid and taillamps that appear sourced from a boat trailer,” said one respondent.
  9. Edsel – A notorious design and marketing failure, one respondent said the Edsel “equals the standard by which all other automotive brand failures have been judged (and ridiculed) for fifty years.”
  10. Chevrolet Chevette – Mechanical unreliability was the reasoning of most who voted for the Chevette. “When the car went into any type of water puddle it would suck water into the engine. They fell apart after 40k miles,” said one.

19 Reader Comments

  • 1
    privateergm NY June 12, 2014 at 20:14
    You guys really are Pinto haters. I had a 78 new and a 80 CW new and they were great little cars. Easy to work on, they ran forever and unlike the cheap metal imports of the era didn't rot within a couple of years. I now have a mint 78 Ralley with a V6 and it is still a great little car.
  • 2
    Jack Jacobson roseville,mi June 12, 2014 at 09:00
    My wife had a used chevette four door with 140,000miles on it 1978 model year . She still ssays she loved it.
  • 3
    Heath Childs Tupelo, MS June 12, 2014 at 11:40
    Edsels failure was due in part to a recession during 57-58 time period. The teletouch proved problematic bit it was otherwise a fine car. The controversial vertical grill was polarizing but hardly unique; witness the overwrought 70s Pontiac grills. Today Edsels are regarded as beautiful, highly desirable cars.
  • 4
    Marty Houston,Tx June 12, 2014 at 11:57
    Come on guys - not every example of the Vega was bad, nor any of these cars. I had a 1975 Vega that ran and looked great for at least 15 years (maybe they'd worked out all the bugs by 1975). My brother had a 1973 that was a good car as well.
  • 5
    Shilo Florida June 15, 2014 at 00:04
    I think you got the list right. The AMC cars looked awful and were awful. Once I had a Chevette rental car and it had zero power, terrible interior and looked like a kitchen appliance on wheels. I floored the awful thing everywhere I went with gritted teeth. I just hated that slow thing. Probably could have added the K Car too.
  • 6
    P.Johnson Rochester Hills Mi. August 20, 2014 at 20:12
    True, AMC cars were ugly, but the interiors were something, I found a Hornet Sportabout with a Gucci interior, and their Gremlin had an option of Levi interior. Remember the early ones front seat would fold down to meet the rear seat and become a bed. One truley POS was that Vega, I remember a freind bought one and brought it over to show it off, (bad idea) as soon as he lifted the hood, I spotted something I've never seen on a brand new car...I ask him whats that? he looked down near the inner fender and what did he see? RUST
  • 7
    Bob Florida August 21, 2014 at 10:16
    My friends had 1970 Vegas and AMX Gremlins, it was a contest to see who's fenders would rust out first. I had a 1970 Pinto as my winter car, that one got a gallon or so of bondo in it around 1975 because of rust, The guy I sold it to was on a date, and when he opened the door for his girlfriend, he door fell off.The Pinto did have a fold down back seat that came in handy during my high school days !!
  • 8
    Archie FLorida August 21, 2014 at 12:35
    My wife did not stop bugging me until I found her a Pacer ('76). Although I bought it at a 'decent' price, I think I spent more than what the car cost new in 1976 to get it in 100% working order. Now I see the Pacer is #1 in at least something. Lesson learned: Do not place a price on happiness...
  • 9
    Stone United States August 22, 2014 at 15:32
    You left off the Datsun B210. And the Aztek should be moved to number 1.
  • 10
    Karl Haakonsen Boston August 25, 2014 at 05:08
    The list is somewhat of a joke.... One can take jabs at the AMC styling of the Pacer and Gremlin or even the Matador, though those cars have their fans; the Aztek is an easy target.... Vegas definitely had well-known mechanical and rust issues, but were beautiful little cars. But some of the other inclusions are just perpetuating ill-informed myths that have since been disproven. The Edsel? As Heath Childs pointed out, the Edsel's main reason for being a sales failure had more to do with timing and economics than the car itself, which is a highly sought-after classic today. The Pinto's alleged exploding gas tank was also largely disproven or at least highly exaggerated, though still a questionable design and Ford management's infamous quote about an acceptable amount of deaths added to its infamy; and anyone with any knowledge whatsoever about the Corvair should know that allegagions about its safety were debunked by the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration in 1972 (and that the allegations only pertained to models from 1960-63).
  • 11
    Steve Rothaug Baiting Hollow, New York August 26, 2014 at 09:34
    I once read that the Chevy Vega car body was made from compressed rust.
  • 12
    dr deKraut nyc September 4, 2014 at 16:27
    re: the design of the amc gremlin. it was a masterpiece (like one of picasso's one eyed models) designed on a cocktail napkin. unfortunately the napkin got folded before they realised it and the result was what we saw go to production.
  • 13
    DaGrump Pennsylvania September 5, 2014 at 09:52
    The AMC Pacer, designed for the GM rotary engine that never materialized, was a very nice car to drive. Long wheelbase (and wide) for its size, the ride was very smooth, especially on long trips. The biggest complaint (besides rust -- and show me ANY 70's vintage car that didn't rust) was a stalling problem after being driven for a while. However (again -- who designed this?), moving the electronic ignition module from next to the engine to the inner fender, where it received more cooling airflow, completely fixed the problem. Having owned a Hornet Sportabout in addition to the Pacer, both of these cars had well over 200k on them when sold (and now 20 years later, I just saw the Pacer again). I believe that any of the cars on this list can be loved or hated, since beauty is in the eye of the beholder....
  • 14
    Bob3b Ohio March 26, 2015 at 09:06
    You did pick out some ugly ones, but I can't imagine the Chevette being in this list while the likes of Nissan Cubes, Nissan Jukes and Smart cars ply our roads.
  • 15
    Chris CA March 30, 2015 at 03:49
    I find it interesting that the AMC Pacer was both on the list of the 5 best AMC designs, and the 10 worst all time auto designs. Clear sign that it was polarizing (love or hate). That's opposed to the Aztek, which was pure "hate." I did a survey of 30,000 people about vehicle designs in 2007 and the Aztek was so bad that when I graphed the results, I had to show the Aztek with an arrow pointing to the left (otherwise the scale would have been off). BTW, I own a Pacer (insured by Hagerty), with a LS1 out of a Pontiac GTO.
  • 16
    Wayne NY April 9, 2015 at 15:20
    If the AMC Pacer is so bad why do I get so many compliments on my '79 Pacer Limited hatchback at collector car shows. It's fun to drive, looks sharp, rides well, has a luxurious interior and good 4.2L six.
  • 17
    Jani NY December 30, 2015 at 17:57
    The Honda Element? YEEKS! BTW I have a SMART and it's usually called 'cute' or a 'Fred Flintstone car'. But, it could be on the ugly car list, though I go with cute.
  • 18
    James San Diego, Ca. September 10, 2016 at 17:54
    People keep saying that cars like these are so ugly, But compared to what the automakers are putting out today, I'd take just about any of the cars on this list over the ugly ,Eggs on wheels, or Boxes being sold today, I'd even take a Ford Farmont that some people say was designed by a 5yr. old over the cars of today.
  • 19
    Chris J Raleigh, NC November 29, 2016 at 08:10
    I really love all the Pacer haters. I never owned one, but I rode in one many times and there really aren't many cars as easy to enter/exit and comfortable to ride in, especially in its generation. Looks aren't everything and most of us should be very happy of that!

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