4 frumpy cars you love to hate
“When the International Criminal Court at The Hague levied charges of crimes against humanity against Pontiac for its role in the Aztek affair, it forced a reckoning within automotive world. That the charges and subsequent massive legal fees bankrupted Pontiac and forced GM to shutter the division forever is no secret. It is also no secret that tens, possibly hundreds, of Azteks still roam the streets of America, offending any and all citizenry with at least one good eye and even an ounce of good taste.”
That quote—yes, it’s a real quote—from a scathing report in the August 4, 2012, issue of the Auto Times Herald-Tribune, the newspaper of record for all things automotive, is perhaps unfair to the much-maligned Aztek. Surely it wasn’t that bad. Surely it offered something no other car could. Surely Pontiac execs knew that by spelling it with a “k,” they were already on the back foot. But that old report has us wondering about other candidates for “worst car ever in the entire history of cars,” as the paper so unfairly labeled the plucky little funky little sport ute.
To satisfy our own curiosity, we spent countless hours at the public library scrolling through reel upon reel of microfiche (from auto rags past and present) in order to find particularly unflattering stories about widely panned cars. And then perhaps to offer up some defense.
1989–91 Chrysler TC by Maserati
Hagerty Price Guide value in #3 (Good) condition: $5900
“The sad reality of the thing is that you’re getting the worst of several worlds. On the one hand, by its very association with the AMC ownership era, it’s riddled with Pacer DNA. Add to that its K car underpinnings, its sad little engine, and its Maserati ‘cachet’ during a time when no one save Chrysler pined for Maserati’s off-brand Euro luxury, and there’s little to recommend it.”—Yopar: The Journal of Chryslers for You and Me, January 2002
Hagerty says: That seems like a harsh oversimplification to us. Although to be fair, Lee Iacocca believed the TC would change the way the world looked at Chrysler, and he sure was right.
1974–90 Aston Martin Lagonda
HPG value in #3 (Good) condition: $40,400–$79,500
“Let’s keep the low wedge confined to mid-engine supercars, huh? And if you’re going to stuff your odd, angular luxo-sedan with the early ’80s electronic guts and digital displays of ten-cent Chinese calculators, don’t say we didn’t warn you when the whole contraption fails to work. No wonder James Bond threatened to quit when Q proposed the Lagonda as his next ride.”—EuroCar Monthly, April 1997
Hagerty says: We think the Lagonda looks like nothing else. That’s not necessarily a bad thing… right? As for the electronics, we’ve priced those calculator innards, and they cost at least 20 cents back then. It’s called research, EuroCar Monthly. Try some.
Note: Values on these Lagondas took a startling leap in 2015–16, but the buzz has since leveled off.
1982–88 Cadillac Cimarron
HPG value in #3 (Good) condition: $2800
“Overheard at Cadillac, circa 1980:
‘Let’s turn the J-body into a luxury car.’
‘That’s a terrible idea. Who’ll buy it?’
‘Wait, say that again, but faster.’
‘Let’s send it up to Pete for approval!’”
—Auto Informer, March 15, 1991
Hagerty says: Yeah, the Cimarron was a terrible idea. Sadly, we’re inclined to believe that conversation actually took place.
1985–92 Yugo HV
“We were led to believe by factory marketing materials that the Yugo GV represented a fierce new entry into the burgeoning hatchback segment. We should have guessed by the many typos that it was all a sham. Speaking of, why is it that Malcolm Bricklin—who imports the Yugo to the U.S.—only seems to back cars that are doomed to fail? That’s like supporting the Cleveland Browns. Or just the city of Cleveland in general.”—Hatchback USA, May 1987
Hagerty says: Today, Yugos are the joke that everybody gets. Back then, they seemed to elicit the same response that lower-back tattoos do: You just kind of wince and know that someone got drunk and made some poor choices, and they had to live with that. At least until the payments were made. Because you can’t wear a shirt long enough to cover up a Yugo.