30 May 2014

You Paid What For A Yugo? The Priciest Examples Of Some Of The Worst Cars Ever

The classic car market has been on a tear for several years now. Some cars that you would never imagine breaking the five grand barrier have done so, often handily, with the best examples of some of the worst cars ever regularly breaking the bank on eBay. Here are some of our favorites:

1. 1990 Yugo GV ($9,100): Nobody restores a Yugo, right? Ummmm … wrong. This one was restored to better-than-new condition with great paint and interior. When new, these communist-made transportation appliances with funny-smelling plastic interiors and negative numbers in every relevant safety measure sold for about three grand. This one brought almost three times that on eBay in August 2012.

2. 1985 Trabant convertible ($18,900): Yet another product of European communism, the smoky, two-stroke Trabant was made from a resin-impregnated, cloth-based composite material that was rumored to be based on discarded East German military uniforms. A sign of the backwardness of the former Soviet bloc, the juxtaposition of Trabants against 7-series BMWs after the wall came down was particularly comical. While it was an unusual “beach car” convertible variant, this was huge money for a terrible car. Sold on eBay in October 2012.

3. 1979 AMC Pacer ($12,433): Pacers had a brief moment in the collector car sun after the movie “Wayne’s World,” along with other “nerd cars” like the AMC Gremlin.  This incredibly clean example with just 38,083 miles sold on eBay Motors in March 2014 for the huge sum of $12,433.

4. 1979 Ford Pinto ($4161): Saying that Pintos are “da bomb” is a terrible joke that we seem to have repeated. Known mainly today for their fuel tank positioning, which gave them explosive characteristics in rear-end collisions, they really weren’t bad to drive. But the attending bad publicity ensured that, along with Chevy’s ill-fated Vega, American compacts failed to stem the tide of Japanese imports. This disco-era Pinto wagon, complete with a factory porthole window, was just the thing for someone with a case of “Boogie Nights” nostalgia. Sold in November 2012 on eBay Motors.

37 Reader Comments

  • 1
    John Fenrich Owasso, OK June 11, 2014 at 14:53
    I bought a brand new Pinto (my first new car) in 1973. It was a fun car to drive, but definitely had its quirks. One oddity was the sunroof that, when open, would suck your hair straight up.
  • 2
    Ross Peterson Eastern Shore June 17, 2014 at 09:36
    Why would you call the Pacer.."Worst Car", it had one of the best I6 Engines, Top Chrysler Trans, even V-8 Option in later years.....Rack a Pinion Steering. It had no reliability issues, to some the "fishbowl" styling was not a winner, certainly not in a catagory with a Yugo or Pinto!!!!!! Please do your home work, ow milage examples are rare not because they were poor but people used them up!
  • 3
    Chuck Lebanon PA June 11, 2014 at 15:40
    Hey now! the Pinto is not all bad, my buddy had one with a 302. Talk about a sleeper!
  • 4
    Ed Florida June 11, 2014 at 15:59
    I worked in Hungary during the 1980's and the Hungarians used to call the Trabants the "Plastic Jaguars"...
  • 5
    Cathy Powhatan, VA June 11, 2014 at 16:01
    I had a Vega GT and loved it. My kids just got too big for it. When I was in high school I also had a Gremlin. It to was fun to drive but mine had no A/C. Bummer !
  • 6
    John Clement Fort Worth June 17, 2014 at 09:36
    Hey, hold on a minute here... The Pacer ought not be on this list! Maybe on the list of odd - looking cars but certainly not on the list of WORST cars. The Pacer, for all its detractors, was extremely sound mechanically, a pleasure to drive, and was ahead of its time in terms of safety features. I have a friend that still has a Pacer (I think it's a 76 model) that remains his daily driver and it is rapidly closing in on 350,000 miles. Odd-looking? Yep. Bad car? Oh, H*** No!!!
  • 7
    don schmitz wi June 17, 2014 at 09:42
    Its getting old, slamming cars that someone else may like or collect. Or is it just poor journalism? The Pacer was not a bad car. You may not have liked the style but whats bad about different styles for different people? Then you tied the Gremlin into your hack job? The Gremlin is a cute car with no massive mechanical defaults. AMC sold 660 thousand Grems. Today you can't drive a Gremlin anywhere without people stopping you to relate a story about having had a Grem or a friend had a Grem or other personal stories about a Gremlin. The Gremlin chop-back style gave birth to half the imports on the road today. It would be nice if you knew what you were writing about.
  • 8
    Glenn McNeish Munhall, PA. June 11, 2014 at 18:30
    Not being a Ford fan I still must tell you that back in 1975 I rented a Pinto in Denver, CO. that I drove everywhere. Although underpowered it made it up to the top of Pike's Peak & down with absolutely no problems where Cadillacs & Lincolns failed miserably. I also think (other than rust problems) that Vegas were just fine doing what they were designed to do. I.E. be an inexpensive easy to repair everyday runabout car with reasonable gas mileage. I recall getting 30+ mpg out on the highway. At the right price I'd buy a new one today.
  • 9
    mad ky June 11, 2014 at 18:37
    As usual, you guys include/don't include great cars. .50 fixed the gas tank problem in Pintos. They got better fuel mileage and would out handle anything coming out of Japan at the time, and only 4k for a low mileage Crusing Wagon? A 2.8 L V6 and 4 spd Good by Corvette. A Bargin!
  • 10
    Steve Henrichs McAlester, OK June 11, 2014 at 18:44
    Ever wonder why there are so many vehicles made in such a wide variety of looks? This articles demonstrates that there is a car for everyone somewhere out there, and someone for every car made. There is no accounting for taste??!!?? Even I kinda dig the port hole window in the cute little Pinto wagon! That car gets me thinking about the hemi-Cuda! Is it possible...a hemi Pinto? Weird, huh?
  • 11
    Ryan Dinshah United States June 11, 2014 at 18:56
    Yea, I know this islike saying you have the upgrade model pigs ear purse, but that Pacer has the bump-center hood, so thats one of the rarer V8 models (prob 304), not the lesser in-line six (232/258?)
  • 12
    BIll Wartinbee LaFayette, OH June 11, 2014 at 22:12
    Yikes, you mean there are two restored Yugos? I just saw a dark blue one with spoiler and aluminum wheels at the SCCA races at Mid Ohio just a couple weeks ago. Actually it was kinda cute.
  • 13
    James Texas June 11, 2014 at 22:30
    I still question that the pacer is on the list of "worst" cars. My thought is that the condemnation is from those who never have driven one. Power from the big clunky six is on par for the times,keep oil and water in it and you can't kill one. The handling and ride are superior to any car of its size that I have been in. And that's a lot of them even when they were new. Odd , funky and a fishbowl yes it is. Worst car, not in my experience. Every time I talke the happy little yellow wagon out people all take notice and smile
  • 14
    Scott K SoCal June 17, 2014 at 09:49
    Typical "worst" article; usually these are filler in a broad interest magazine. Mr. Sass, don't pretend claims as an automotive historian. You unwittingly stated it in your article: nerd car. This is really about fashion statements, and a narrow viewpoint from one generation; all the 1970's economy auto orphans above are safe bets to shame. Twenty years ago it would be "Falcon, Corvair, Lark, Fiat". Thirty years ago it would have been "Henry J, Nash Rambler, Austin, Crosley". Fifty years ago it would have been "Durant, Dort, Erksine" See a pattern? All basic transpotation, now old used cars that "fashionless poor people" drive. Return to fresh paper and write a real article about worst cars- start with some overpriced high maintenance imports that enthusiast mags faun over, THEN work down to basic transportation that all can sneer at.
  • 15
    Nathan California June 17, 2014 at 09:52
    The Pacer was not a terrible car, neither was the Pinto. The Pacer was actually a very innovative, safe and durable automobile. Sure it was unusual looking but not nearly as awful looking as say a Nissan Juke, Pontiac Aztec or even a Hyundai Veloster. And even those vehicles are mechanically good vehicles. The Pinto gets a bum rap by ignorant folks who don't really don't know the truth about Pintos. Pintos are tough little cars. Mechanically they were excellent. There was never once any incident of a Pinto exploding upon rear end impact. What affected pre 1976 Pintos is that the fuel filler pipe could become dislodged upon impact allowing fuel to spill. Never any explosions. There was one incident of a death not because the Pinto exploded, but because the Pinto was struck so hard that the driver's door and passenger door wouldn't open, fuel did leak from the fractured filler pipe thus igniting. The car caught fire as a result and the driver couldn't release herself from the badly damaged vehicle. There were more deaths attributed to GM's latest ignition fires and steering column lock ups than deaths in a Pinto. Please educate yourselves regarding Pintos and Pacers. I'm surprised at Hagerty for their insolence in "journalism."
  • 16
    THE Rock Hill, SC June 12, 2014 at 15:39
    Believe the Chevrolet Corvair might qualify. It was my wife's car. The vehicle became so bad that the only garage in Nashville that would service it. It was a Ford dealership. The Chevy dealers wouldn't.
  • 17
    Bobby Bluegrass June 12, 2014 at 16:48
    More proof that the car snobs never know as much as they think they do. Though none of these would be my first choice to own, I would love seeing any of them at a car show. I had good friends that owned a Pacer and a Gemlin. Unique cars that carry a load of good memories for me. "One man's trash..."
  • 18
    Dave Btown Niagara on the Lake, Ontario June 12, 2014 at 07:09
    Hi guys, Interesting article - but the photos you probably intended to include with the descriptions didn't make it into the final product, at least not in the mobile version. I have to admit to a perverse fondness for some of the awful old crates you profiled here... there very dreadfulness and outrageousness make them valuable indicators of where market expectations were in in those days, as well as what manufacturers could get away with. Some of them did quite well in their day, too - Vegas, Pintos, Gremlins, Pacers, Astres and Bobcats filled the driveways of my neighbours in suburban Montreal, and owning a Trabant in Soviet-era Germany was a privilege people aspired to. Condemn if we must, and laugh wryly as we should - but we must remember to do it in context!
  • 19
    Todd indiana June 12, 2014 at 07:46
    I don't understand why the Pacer ended up on the worst car. I had a new Pacer Wagon. Great driving car with rack and pinion steering when most cars did not have this. Roomy, comfortable, trouble free and a nice car on long trips. My wife and I had two children, so we opted for the 1977 Wagon.
  • 20
    Car Collector Chronicles Milwaukee, WI USA June 12, 2014 at 10:16
    Hey, in my time I owned both a Gremlin and a Pinto! In fact, the Gremlin was the first brand new car I was ever able to buy. The Pinto was a replacement for the Gremlin which I totaled.
  • 21
    ed kemena ambridge,pa. June 12, 2014 at 12:01
    i had a 1971 pinto- 2 dr - 4 speed trans. - 2000 eng.- that got 25 m.p.g. -was perky and fun to drive ---the problem was rust! 71's were prior to the de-tuning, and catalic converters!
  • 22
    David Hines Sammamish June 14, 2014 at 15:54
    I sold my 1972 Pinto Runabout for $4000 a few months ago. That car turned heads. Every body had their own story about them.
  • 23
    Alberto California June 17, 2014 at 10:05
    Well done Hagerty. Considering you ensure all of my Pintos for several times the amount that the cruising Wagon mentioned sold for, each, it's interesting that such an article should be written. Honestly, why doesn't everybody get off these ridiculous articles rehashing the same asinine information about how the Yugo was bad, every single Pinto exploded, and the Pacer was weird? We have heard it before! If $4100 for a Pinto is ridiculous, why do you insures most of mine for four times that? Please fire the author of this article. They are an idiot and don't understand anything about cars. The world does not revolve around the Barracuda, Mustang, and Corvette. Ever hear about an Avenger? A Sprite? A Corcel? No? You don't know cars then.
  • 24
    N S TX June 15, 2014 at 21:22
    I owned a Pacer and it was the worst of all the cars I ever had. Constant mechanical problems.
  • 25
    Norbert Dexter, MI June 17, 2014 at 10:06
    Enough with the Pacer bashing- enough! I drove a number of Pacers as my father worked for AMC. I loved them just BECAUSE they were different. The defense of the Pacers written here are spot on. With a wide stance they did indeed ride like a big car and had virtually zero blind spots unlike the many fastback cars of the day. Our '75 company car was a sweet yellow, white vinyl top with all kinds of luxury features, aluminum sport wheels, raised letter tires- a gem. Wish I still had it. Gremlins were a solid car compared to the competitors. I proudly own a Javelin today because it is NOT one of the dime a dozen classics you see at any given car show. Pricing ridiculous? How about the $3.5 million some sucker paid for a Cuda at Mecum recently. What an idiot. I can reasonably claim Barracudas were plain jane overpowered rattle traps in their day, with an utterly impractical gas sucking monster hemi the only reason anyone would by one. Chrysler was saved from extinction on more than one occasion because they were poorly managed and strapped with big ugly cars that no one wanted to buy. Camaros, heck any Chevy from Generic Motors are about as as bland you can get. Some 6-figure European sports cars with the styling cues of a go cart command absurd prices which I affectionately refer to as overpriced VW's. See, I can bash away, too, Mr.Sass. I grew up in a big automotive family in an automotive neighborhood with siblings that worked for Ford, Chrysler, AMC, and various jobbing shops, Neighbors also worked for the Big Three. I too had summer work in those jobbing shops. The author of this supposed worst car list says "our favorites". Who makes up this "our" panel? Who are these people? Why not write about the insane prices that people with far too much cash to burn are spending on cars in the first place. I think spending more than $100,000 on ANY car is absurd. Seriously. The prices he quotes are very reasonable for a classic, especially a survivor. BTW, Chrysler had 11 years to sell just over 379,300 Barracudas while AMC sold over 280,000 Pacers in just six years of production. Not bad numbers in the real world, So which is more rare?
  • 26
    Rusty WPB, FL June 16, 2014 at 08:49
    I am a '76 Pacer owner & thank all of you who are defending her. She is a very comfortable, roomy, fast (258 I6) for a single bbl carb, looker. I take her to shows & they love her. Original Aztec-blanket interior & copper color. She sports original hubcaps w/ w-walls (rare these days). Originally slated for the GM rotary engine w/front wheel drive, but GM screwed up (again) so they had to scramble to put an engine w/ trans in a chasis designed for the rotary in order to meet the release deadline for 1975. If they were successful w/ the rotary, it would have been a rocket and an even more one-of-a-kind factory-designed car. It's shape is mimicked today (30plus years later) in practically every car on the road. AMC wanted to stand out from the pack & they did. Unfortunately the American public had their heads up their a##, with reminiscence of some other misinformed non-car guru Mr Nader, to analyze the Pacer for themselves, instead of following the crowd off the proverbial cliff. You snooze you loose. Pacers, Gremlins, Pintos, Vegas, Corvairs, Valiants are the next generation of affordable collectable cars. Get one before they get HOT..
  • 27
    Mark B Ocean County, NJ June 16, 2014 at 21:53
    I had a 1972 Grabber Green Pinto I used like a truck hauling bags of cement up 12 story buildings, and liked it so much I bought a new 1974 Pinto loaded with all options (A/C,Sunroof, Stereo etc.). I sold the 72 with 76,000 miles on it, Blew 1 engine in the 74 at 95,000 and blew the second engine at 108,000. Fun cars even at 90 mph.
  • 28
    gary ravenel sc July 27, 2014 at 13:03
    I own a 1977 pacer s/w and have driven it on the hot rod power tour in 2013 as one of the longhaulers. Drove from s.c. to texas and put 1400 miles on it in one week without any problems at all. Every day I had people coming over and telling about people they knew who had these cars back in the day. One stop had 35 couples take picts. ln front of it. It drives like a cadillac and is a refreshing change from the cookie cutters of today.
  • 29
    gary ravenel sc July 27, 2014 at 13:15
    I own a 1977 pacer s/w and have driven it on the hot rod power tour in 2013 as one of the longhaulers. Drove from s.c. to texas and put 1400 miles on it in one week without any problems at all. Every day I had people coming over and telling about people they knew who had these cars back in the day. One stop had 35 couples take picts. ln front of it. It drives like a cadillac and is a refreshing change from the cookie cutters of today.
  • 30
    gary ravenel sc July 27, 2014 at 13:18
    I own a 1977 pacer s/w and have driven it on the hot rod power tour in 2013 as one of the longhaulers. Drove from s.c. to texas and put 1400 miles on it in one week without any problems at all. Every day I had people coming over and telling about people they knew who had these cars back in the day. One stop had 35 couples take picts. ln front of it. It drives like a cadillac and is a refreshing change from the cookie cutters of today.
  • 31
    Roger Cunningham New Port Richey, FL August 7, 2014 at 23:29
    Don Schmitz said on June 17th: "Its getting old, slamming cars that someone else may like or collect. Or is it just poor journalism? The Pacer was not a bad car." There seems to be a certain snobbery among the authors and contributors to this blog; and like Don, I'm a little tired of it! Knocking another man's choice of cars (or any other collectible), seems a little sophomoric! Steve Forbes' father began collecting Faberge Eggs, now worth millions ...but how much fun can a jeweled egg be? I recall very well when my father was new-car shopping in '56-'57 and he was urged to consider an AMC by his crazy uncle who'd owned a string of Nashes and later, Ramblers. As a freshman in high school, I begged my dad NOT to buy an AMC, and to get a Chevy ...or even a Plymouth ...because if we got a Rambler, my friends would stop talking to me! At the same time, if you didn't wear "real" Levi 501 button-fronts, Pendleton wool shirts, and Jockey underwear, you lacked "class"! JCPenny and Sears didn't cut it. My dad ended up buying a '57 Chevy 4-dr HDTP with a "Turbo-Glide". The transmission regularly failed at about 15,000 miles each; (he replaced it 4 times), and the 7:50X14 bias ply tires didn't last much longer. The only way to reach the 2 front spark plugs on this factory air-conditioned car was to remove the right-front tire and use a double-wobble 3/8 socket wrench! I can understand the love-affair with Tri-5 Chevys, but they weren't as sensational, (then or now), as most believe. My predilection is for Studebaker Champions and Cameo Carrier pickups ...but if you happen to like Communist-produced Skodas, that up to you! rc
  • 32
    Robert Jenson Phoenix AZ August 8, 2014 at 15:05
    Interesting enough, the Trabbies seem to have a cult following in Germany. While in Dresden, we saw many of them, including a stretch limo Trabant. These wouldn't be a choice of a car for me, but there are many folks who love them.
  • 33
    Bob Phoenix August 10, 2014 at 20:45
    I once worked with a fellow who had a Pinto up in MN. The floor on it rusted out (which was common in MN). He poured cement in the floor, about 2 inches thick. The car was so heavy it sagged. Must've weighed close to 4000 pounds by the time he was done with it. It went through snow real well!!
  • 34
    John Hyde Boyertown PA August 10, 2014 at 21:27
    Come on, they were bad cars and leaked oil like crazy, they stalled out and broke down often,sure you could have spent the extra cash for a rubber valve cover gasket on the Pacer and then tried to get it back on under the windshield but it would only buy you an extra couple months before it started smoking again HA!! and the carbs on the Pinto's were junk with the heated spacer to prevent icing from a poor engine design, that was when the imports blew that decades junk away and we still haven't learned how to build something that doesn't get recalled every six months. The seventies were the end of the great American cars of the past.
  • 35
    Craig California August 10, 2014 at 23:58
    Had 3 pintos back east, always made through the winter snow where others cars got stuck,I still have a 1979 mercury bobcat with only 6792 miles on it ,( selling it soon ) the gas tank thing ,there are alot of bigger cars would Explode from getting hit in the rear, I had a 72 pinto got hit from behind from a big panel truck my car was ok ,enjoy you old cars everyone ,Craig
  • 36
    CB Syr N Y August 15, 2014 at 23:50
    Dad had a 76 Pacer drove it once scared to death on the highway I owned 2 Pintos got em cheap & liked em but lost the timing belt in both & they were never the same after
  • 37
    Carl Missouri June 4, 2015 at 06:22
    Pinto's were not bad cars. My wife had one when we got married a 79. There was an 8 mile section of road between Cuba,MO and St.James,MO that I loved to drive that car on. There were dozens of sharp S curves. There were curves where the max safe speed was 15 MPH. When traffic was light I would always try to make that 8 miles in 8 minutes or less usually less. It was fun. That section of road is long gone now. It was replaced with a new straight road. They had to blast through a lot of hills to do it but they did it. It's just another boring stretch of road now where the cheif danger is falling asleep at the wheel.

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