Some cars just take things to a whole new level. They go above and beyond what any of the competition has to offer and they're a driving force when it comes to innovation, though not always because of their own technology but rather because other car manufacturers have to come up with something new in order to beat them.
Those are the kind of legendary cars we want and need. Their mere existence just seems to make everything around them better. Well, apart from their competition of course—they look rather slow and useless when next to the legends and icons.
Cars of this caliber have always been rare, after all, that is what makes them special.
But there's another kind of legendary car out there. One that seems to come about much more often, and if nothing else, they do manage to make us laugh. We are, of course, talking about the cars that are legendary for all the wrong reasons.
Cars that look like they were designed while wearing a tie as a blindfold at the Christmas party, cars that would explode if stared at for too long, cars that were filled with the latest tech and gadgets, only for none of it to work together. These cars weren't all bad, though, they taught us to appreciate what we have, and some were actually so bad that laws were changed in order to keep us all safer on the roads.
25 Fiat Multipla
The original Multipla from 1956 was the world's first MPV. Basically, it was a stretched version of the Fiat 600, and it was probably the cutest little MPV the world has ever seen. It featured rear-hinging doors up front and, amazingly, it could fit six people. In 1998 Fiat, released a new Multipla but this one was not so cute. If anything, it looked like Quasimodo's version of a Batmobile. The reason the Fiat Multipla failed was purely down to its looks. There are some new car designs that just need some time to mature, like cheese. But the Multipla is still voted as one of the ugliest cars of all time. Clearly, this cheese has gone bad.
24 Yugo GV
Ok, we admit it, the Yugo is low hanging fruit when it comes to automotive horribleness. The Yugo wasn't well-received in its homeland of Yugoslavia. A country with no freedom of choice still chose to avoid the Yugo, so who on earth thought it would be a good idea to import it and sell it elsewhere? Just to put things into perspective; when it comes to the Yugo GV—with all its quality issues, lack of performance, and terrible reliability—it wouldn't matter if people got it for free, they'd still feel like they'd been cheated.
23 Ford Edsel
Ford's Edsel was so bad that to this day it remains synonymous with the "lemon" concept.
So what was the 1958 Edsel really all about? It had all the outer hallmarks of 1950s greatness: a body with fins on it, a boxy design, an elaborate front end including a suggestively shaped vertical grill, heck, it was even mechanically sound. The Edsel was marketed as the car-to-end-all-cars and Ford hoped it would redefine what automotive engineering really was. In reality, it was nothing more than another run-of-the-mill sedan. The Edsel is the perfect example of why you should under-promise and over-deliver, not the other way around.
22 GM EV-1
Giving credit where credit is due, GM didn't have to produce this weird little electric car and they certainly didn't have any real incentive to. If you're not into electric cars, you might want to thank GM for making this car with its weak (but low drag coefficient) styling, low range of about 80 miles, and lease-only option, as it probably caused some serious damage to the public’s perception of electric cars for years. These days, it's super rare since GM gathered almost all of them up in 2002, when they stopped the program, and had the EV1s unceremoniously crushed.
21 Bricklin SV-1
The Bricklin SV-1 sure was ugly. Whether the ugliness was a requirement for the car to be intended as a safe and economical sports car is unknown, but the fewer people who bought one, the fewer accidents it would be involved in. Created by Malcolm Bricklin, the SV-1 was powered by an AMC-sourced, eight-cylinder engine. The car performed just as bad as it looked, with frequent overheating and cracked body panels. Thankfully, the last of these plastic-bodied gull-wing horror shows was produced back in 1975, so you probably won't see one anytime soon.
20 Ford Pinto
It's impossible to compile a list of cars that were legendary for all the wrong reasons without including the Ford Pinto. It was such a PR-disaster that people who've never seen a Pinto on the road—even if they weren't born when they were in production—still know why it received its "legendary" status. Ford's little Pinto seemed to tick all the right boxes needed to become a huge success in the subcompact car market. There was just a tiny little problem. The gas tank was located behind the rear axle, which meant it could catch fire and even explode in case of a rear-end collision.
19 Chevrolet Corvair
The main reason the Chevrolet Corvair is now a legend is due to being featured in Ralph Nader's 1965 book, “Unsafe at Any Speed”. The famous and often outspoken political activist Ralph Nader claimed that the Chevrolet Corvair was the most dangerous automobile on the road in the 1960s. Sadly for Chevy and the Corvair, people listened to what Nader said—even if the car wasn't as bad as he claimed. Nader clearly had an agenda, and the Corvair has been deemed unsafe to this very day. In reality, it was no more unsafe than any other rear-engined car of its time.
18 Pontiac Aztek
Some cars divide people, with some people loving them and some people hating them. The Pontiac Aztek isn't one of those cars. The Aztek actually brings people together, seeing as everyone hates it. It was hated ever since it made its first public appearance and as time has passed, that has never changed. The design is ludicrous, especially the front end. The plastic body made it appear as it was built on a very low budget, and the over-thought features and engine didn’t impress anyone with its lackluster performance. It did receive a bit of added fame when it appeared in Breaking Bad, though.
17 Audi 5000
The Audi 5000 caused a huge reputation problem for the car manufacturer in the 1980s. A faulty system on the car meant that while the engine was idling, it was possible for it to unexpectedly rev up and lurch forward. Audi's solution to the problem was to argue that the idling issue was not serious enough to cause any accidents on the road by itself, but they did acknowledge that it may surprise and shock drivers into panicking and accidentally pressing the accelerator. Estimates indicate the car could have been responsible for almost 1,000 crashes. Now, that's legendary!
16 Mercedes A-Class
The A-Class, and the infamous moose test fail of 1997, was the greatest debacle in Mercedes-Benz's history. The automaker's new A-Class compact car rolled over during tests designed to simulate a driver swerving to avoid a moose that runs into the road. Two things happened after the news of the accident broke; Everyone in the world learned about the moose test (something most car manufacturers back then had only heard rumors of). And Mercedes showed the world that honesty is the best option. After the crisis, it turned out their reputation was stronger than ever, but the first A-Class will always be that moose test car.
15 Chevrolet Vega
The Chevy Vega should be a success. It had everything going for it: it received great praise from automotive journalists, it even received Motor Trend magazine's Car of the Year award when it was introduced in 1971. Well, it didn't last long before it went bust, though (or actually, blowing up like a grenade was perhaps the one thing it didn't do). The Vega had tons of reliability issues and engineering flaws that led to part failures. There was always something that would rust and even the safety standards were below what you would expect from a 1970s car, which says a lot.
14 Aston Martin Lagonda
The Aston Martin Lagonda looked razor sharp and was filled with cutting edge technology. All the electronics were run by computers and all the displays were CRT-based rather than gauges. The Lagonda truly was intended to push the boundaries of what a car could achieve with the technology available at the time. However, there was just one tiny problem. Unfortunately, none of the "advanced" gadgets worked. When Aston Martin dreamt of creating a legendary vehicle, we don't think they wanted it to be legendary for these reasons.
13 Suzuki Samurai
The Suzuki Samurai was obviously a child of the 1980s. It was colorful, sporty, up for a challenge, and at times, it could be a bit difficult to handle. Just as the chic little 4x4 was finding its place in the market, some drivers noticed the Samurai had an unfortunate tendency to flip over and roll. Not while being driven by some crazed maniac, mind you. Oh no, we're talking during perfectly normal cornering at just average speeds. The Samurai has redeemed itself as an off-road warrior, but its on-road abilities are still the butt of many a joke to this day.
12 Reliant Robin
For most people in the US, the Reliant Robin is one of those things that has to be seen to be believed. The Robin's unique design and fiberglass body earned it the nickname “the plastic pig”. Luckily, three-wheeled cars never caught on in the States, although trikes based on motorcycles were popular for a while. The problem with having just one wheel on the front is that the vehicle will fall over. Not roll, not slide, just fall. A lot.
Thankfully it’s light, so you can easily flip it back onto the wheels again. Things are pretty bad when that’s the car's redeeming feature.
11 Geo Metro
A joint venture between Suzuki and GM resulted in this little bad boy, a three-cylinder, bean-shaped economy car that has had the dubious honors of littering “worst car” lists all over the internet, even in countries where it was never sold. There was never any doubt that the Geo Metro was slow, considering the pathetically tiny engine barely produced 50 horses. To keep the price low, its interior was shoddy and cheap. There is one good thing to report about the Geo, though; apparently, there are examples out there that have been driven way past 250,000 miles. Could it be that this is the best worst car ever made?
10 Cadillac Cimarron
The story of the Cadillac Cimarron is the kind of thing automotive engineers tell their children on dark, stormy nights before bed. It was an attempt by GM to move the Cadillac brand into the small-car market, but the awfully-designed and poor-performing Cimarron made use of the already unpopular J platform sedan as its base. How bad could it possibly be? Bad enough that the good folks at GM apparently considered ending the entire Cadillac brand over the debacle. You know it's serious when they start talking about shelving an entire motoring icon.
9 AMC Pacer
AMC’s troubled history was not helped by the Pacer, a two-door compact car released just as the compact car craze was coming into full vogue. When the Pacer was first unveiled, it was hailed as the future of driving due to its fuel economy, compact size, and relative economy in a market still dominated by Detroit-built land yachts. The problem was that those massive land yachts would still out-brake and out-turn the little Pacer—apparently, one needed to be a professional racer in order to keep the Pacer on the road. The Pacer soon disappeared from showrooms, as did AMC.
8 Chrysler PT Cruiser
There is a chance you've heard of this formula being used before: a Detroit car company tries to recapture some of its former glory and decides to introduce retro designs, hoping it will trigger a wave of nostalgia to capitalize on. Welcome to the Chrysler PT Cruiser, close cousin to the Plymouth Prowler, and just like most other retro hotrod-look projects, the PT Cruiser didn't live up to the public's expectations. It's no wonder, really, as it has the soul of a minivan, but with an even smaller engine.
7 Ferrari Mondial
A good salesperson will tell you that the Mondial is considered one of Ferrari's most reliable models, as well as being the least expensive to maintain, while also offering a lot of practicality through its 2+2 layout. In other words, it's the perfect car for those wanting to be classic Ferrari owners. What they won't tell you is that it's so painfully slow, especially with the automatic, and that it'll struggle to keep up with even the most average of hot-hatches—which kind of defeats the point of having a Ferrari.
6 Lincoln Blackwood
Who knows what the guys at Ford were thinking when they came up with the Lincoln Blackwood? It is the result of combining ideas that shouldn't be mixed; Ford’s Lincoln division and this country's most iconic pickup truck. Someone back in the year 2002 thought this country needed a luxury pickup to capitalize on the fading redneck fad! The result was a utility vehicle with posh features, luxury trim, fine upholstery, and wood accents, things that could rival many a luxury vehicle...all in a rear wheel drive pickup! Less than a year after it saw the light of day, the whole project vanished, giving it the dubious honor of the shortest run of any Ford production vehicle.
5 Ford Mustang II
Who doesn't love the Mustang? It's an icon, and even those who don't love them still respects the Mustang for what it is. Enter the Mustang II, an attempt to capture the success of the Mustang brand in compact car form while tearing down everything that was good about the original in the process. Based on the infamous Ford Pinto platform, the Mustang II suffered from a number of flaws compared to, well, any comparable car on the market. Critics at the time suggested that the AMC Gremlin offered performance that was as good or better than anything the Mustang II could deliver. And it doesn't get much worse than that.
4 Chevy SSR
There's a possibility the Chevy SSR is the reason why there's now a “truth in advertising” law; SSR apparently stands for "Super Sport Roadster" but there's nothing super, nor sporty, about this monstrosity. The Chevy SSR was yet another attempt at capturing an audience with what was, admittedly, a cool-looking retro design. But then it proceeded to fail in the exact same way all other similar attempts do...by focusing on appearance rather than performance, leaving everyone who fantasized about a modern hot-rod severely disappointed. A heavy body, underpowered engine, and sluggish performance meant Chevy’s SSR quickly lost all street cred.
3 Plymouth Prowler
The Prowler sure had the looks of a real hot-rod, but the geniuses over at Plymouth forgot an essential ingredient in the recipe. Any real hot-rod needs a huge, powerful engine, but instead, they decided to install a pitiful and underpowered 3.5-liter V6 with a mediocre 250 horsepower. Proving the car was just built to look good, with performance being an afterthought, the Prowler was given 295 rear tires, which was hardly necessary. Visually intriguing, but severely lacking in performance, the Prowler can be said to be a rolling metaphor for the decade from which it was spawned.
2 Jaguar X-Type
In 2001, Jaguar wanted a piece of the compact executive car market, so they introduced the X-Type. It was available with a wide range of engines, and even four-wheel drive, just like the Audi Quattro. But even if the X-Type was a quality car, it did have two problems. The classic Jaguar styling wasn't a hit with those who bought BMWs and Audis. A much bigger problem was the fact it was not a real Jag. Jaguar was owned by Ford, and the X-Type was based on the second-generation Ford Mondeo platform, known as the Ford Contour in the States. Customers felt cheated and the X-Type ended up being a financial disaster for Jaguar.
1 Ford Bronco
The Ford Bronco was designed to be agile and rugged, and while it was an excellent car in many ways, there's an unfortunate incident that makes us remember it for the wrong reasons. We all know why the Bronco is legendary and it has nothing to do with how it drives or its build quality. There was a white Bronco involved in a low-speed chase which was broadcast live across the United States. That's right, O.J Simpson singlehandedly ruined the Bronco's reputation though even without him, we might've remembered that some versions of the Bronco were susceptible to rolling over when going through tight turns.
Sources: Road and Track, CarBuzz, and Drive Tribe.