“There was a little girl, who had a little curl, right in the middle of her forehead. When she was good, she was very, very good but when she was bad, she was horrid!” So goes this nursery rhyme that fits Chevy to perfection. When they made good cars, they made amazing ones – think Camaro, Chevelle, Cruze, Corvette, Impala, Silverado, etcetera. But when they erred, they erred big time with cars that should never have made it into production – let alone hit the road.
What went wrong with these cars? Various things: bad timing, bad builds, not enough power, not enough brainpower… The list can go on. So let's take a look at the most disappointing cars Chevrolet ever built.
10 1975 Chevrolet Monza: Vega's Fan
Let’s start with the fact that the Monza’s design is centered around the Chevrolet Vega. Yeah, you get the hint, don’t you? The Monza was a bad car based on an even worse car and therefore the future wasn’t all that bright for it. Originally supposed to carry the Wankel engine, the Monza had to make do with a 4.3-liter V8 that gave lesser emissions and better fuel economy. Sadly, despite it being a V8, it was anemic at best. Replacing the sparkplugs either needed an engine tilt with a hoist or Elastigirl on a high. They called it a bad design. They were right.
9 1971-1977 Chevrolet Vega: The Rust Bucket
Most of us have never seen a Chevy Vega. Most of the people who were there in the 70s have also never seen a Chevy Vega running on the road. Why? Because most were seen being towed away with a smoking, over-heated hood; or parked on the side of the road with an expletive-spewing owner nearby. Again, why? Because the Vega was a slightly attractive rust-bucket that shook and rattled like a locomotive on roads.
It aggressively burned oil and overheated whenever it wanted. Despite some two million of these being sold, this was the most tantrum-prone car Chevy brought out. On the brighter side, the people who bought the Vega could have bought a Ford Pinto instead!
8 1980-1985 Chevrolet Citation: Cited As A Bad Car
The Chevrolet Citation is one of the most recalled cars ever. The 1980 model itself was recalled some nine times, once for bad fuel lines and another time for faulty brakes. Dangerous, or what? A perfect example of a car cited for more things bad than good, and probably a good reason not to use an ill-thought of nameplate like the Citation. It sold well in the first year of its birth and was a best-seller as well. Once the consumers got savvy and figured out that it was nothing more than an unsteady wooden crate on wheels – they moved on for better options. The Citation struggled for five years before thankfully leaving the dealerships forever.
7 1978 Chevrolet C/K Diesel: Worst. Engine. Ever
This is the vehicle that made many American states put down lemon laws which stated if a car company knowingly made and sold you a lemon, it was liable to pay. The C/K truck was a good looking one, but then they fed its gasoline-like engine diesel and killed it. The diesel power plant was weak, and when the ignition was struck, it blew a gasket.
We mean it did blow a gasket, or two, many times over. When it did manage to work, all it gave was a measly 125 horsepower and nightmares about diesel engines to its owners. They should have simply converted this diesel engine into a petrol one, and the truck would have run just fine.
6 1976-1987 Chevrolet Chevette: Not A Vette
When the Vega was on its way out, thankfully, Chevrolet decided to fill in its already small shoes with something even more insignificant. So came in the Chevette. Why was the Chevette ever made? Probably as a last-ditch effort by Chevrolet to keep afloat during the oil crisis. Or maybe because they couldn’t believe the Vega was the worst car they could make, so they tried a little harder and made the even worse Chevette. Or perhaps this was a cheap way people could own a “Vette”. At 52 measly horses, a cheap price, old tech and rear-driven – the Chevette floundered for a good 11 years. Slow torture, Chevy.
5 1960-1964 Chevrolet Corvair: Unsafe At All Speeds
“Unsafe At Any Speed,” said the Ralph Nader book, so pointing its pages at the Corvair. Even though the Corvair had just fixed the problem and brought out the Corvair Corsa. In the Corsa, the rear end of the car did not come running to meet its front end, but by this time the car was doomed. And hey, if Ford could bring out the Pinto to spar with the Volkswagen Beetle’s ever-growing popularity, why could Chevy not bring out the Corvair?
While the Pinto burst into angry rear-ended tantrums (read exploded), the Corvair only oversteered. Only. The famous swing-axle independent rear suspension was to blame – but never forget, Chevy put this in, realized it was unsafe at any speed, and still released it.
4 2005-2009 Chevrolet Uplander: Only A Downside
This is what you get when for some inexplicable reason, people take a minivan and stretch it out into SUV size. The result is nothing short of an eyesore, and that’s exactly what the Uplander was. It wasn’t uplifting or uppity, upstanding or upgraded. It caused upheavals and uproars, upchucks and upthrows of eyebrows instead. Everything in it screamed of desperation, that of a dying minivan division of Chevrolet making a shoddy last-ditch effort to compete with the better-looking and running minivan imports of the day. Think Japan. Thankfully, the lasting imprint the Uplander left was only four years. But it was a long, long four years.
3 1975, 1979, 1980 Chevrolet Corvette: The Bad Cats
Yeah, yeah, we know. A Vette cannot be a bad car, right? But when the giants fall, they shake the hallowed ground on which they stand and that’s what happened with three inglorious years of the Corvette. These three years of the Corvette, one of which is a best-selling year, made for beautiful cars with really bad catalytic convertors that killed all the goodness (meaning power) in the Vette.
So the 1979 Vette sputtered 185 horses, the 1975 one 165 horses, and the 1980 Corvette gave out no more than 180 horses. This, on V8 engines. People still bought them in droves, but once they drove these models, they cried.
2 1982-1985 Chevrolet Camaro "Iron Duke": Duped The Customers
A Camaro on a bad car list? Et tu, Brute? That too a model so dubbed the “Iron Duke” – which sounds like a lordly lord lording over his lordly domain with an iron-clad lordly fist. Yeah well, in name only. As far as the 1982 Camaro was concerned, the Iron Duke was like a cold oven that had no spark. The 4-cylinder base engine was called the Iron Duke and all it sputtered out in this so-called sporty coupe were 90 pedantic horses. A 0-20mph run took almost 20 seconds, which for a Camaro is unforgivable. Sorry Bumblebee, but you may be better off being the Beetle.
1 1982-2005 Chevrolet Cavalier: Careless To The Core
There are times bad cars sell well before people sit up and figure out that they have been driving lemons. The Cavalier tops the list of bad cars Chevy made simply because it took people a lot of time to realize how awful it was. It took 22 years, to be exact. But Chevrolet did not care, considering it named its car the Cavalier – which means careless or highhanded. It's just that when the Cavalier was launched, there were worse cars around. Like the Chevette, or the Citation. And people were just recovering from the Vega and Corvair as well. So the Cavalier seemed like the best out of the worst lot – a mediocre car that came cheap, ran okay and regular and did not rust much. Quite the haul for Chevy-stricken consumers.