Cars are so much more than just simple modes of transport. People will try to argue this, and pretend like they could care less about the design in which they have to sit in as they motor to and from work every day. They say this because they’ll never face the likelihood of facing a day when that’ll happen. They’ll always have an ample choice of different automobiles to choose from. Why?
Because we love ourselves too much; not our cars. We do love our cars, but we love ourselves infinitely more, and we select our cars as an extension of our personality – an extension of us! Some people are Prius people, and they like the Prius (as hard as that is to believe). It suits them. Some people are luxury car people, and nothing less than an S-Class will do.
The Prius has its place in society; as does the S-Class. But there are others out there, that seemingly have no place. Sometimes, cars aren’t always as practical as the Prius, or as stately as an S-Class but they still “work.”
And then there are others, still; cars that are downright ugly, impossibly useless, and sinfully slow. Some of them are home-built. Some of them come straight from the most recognizable names in the industry. They come in all shapes, sizes, colors, and configurations. What does each and every one of them have in common?
They’re funny looking, for whatever reason or another. The harder they try to look “cool,” the harder we laugh at them.
20 Ford Pinto
The Pinto came to us at a time when fuel was scarce. The NHRA, wanting to allow the smaller-wheelbase to compete, allowed cars with less than a 100-inch wheelbase to run at 2,000lbs (rather than the 2,400lb minimum for longer-wheelbase cars).
This meant that provided competitors maintained a cubic-inch-displacement of under 366cid, they could run their cheap little Pintos, Vegas, and Gremlins much lighter; but they had to make them faster, also! As much as can’t stop laughing at it, there’s a ’79 Pinto with a twin-turbo LS that does 7.998-second quarter-miles at 172.43. We’re still laughing, but just a little bit more respectable this time.
19 Double-Axle Smart
There is a mathematical equation to explain how dumb this thing is, but we’re not smart enough to figure it out! With a shower rail for a tailgate grab handle and a light bar from a tow truck in the 1970s, this Smart looks like it’s ready to move a mountain.
The only problem is, with the extra drag of the additional axle, the Smart had trouble pulling its own weight. We’re not even going to mention how laughable the “receiver” is. By receiver, we mean the ball mount, hanging off of two, half-inch, no-grade bolts on the bumper. With a load rating of “less than your bodyweight,” is this hitch mount even fooling anybody?
When retro came back (circa the Prowler era) the designers were tapping a potentially deep well of consumer interest – but putting underpowered engines in retro “throwbacks” was a losing formula, ask the SSR; it only sold 24,000. The whole project would end in complete failure on GM’s part.
If that’s not already enough waste as it is, one guy chopped up an SSR, and piled the parts onto a Caprice chassis, chopped the top, and put 3,000 hours into what you see before you! Everything on this creator-proclaimed “ZZR” is 100% fabricated. Unfortunately, you almost can’t tell it is not a bone-stock SSR!
17 Ford Mustang Mach 1
If we’re talking about bad looking rides, one can’t help but mention a select pile of ugly Mustangs that started running off assembly lines starting in the early-‘70s. The first generation Mach 1s were essentially regular Mustangs, which is fine.
The second generation Mach 1, however, couldn’t decide if it was supposed to bust dust, or burn rubber; the infamously bad design would go down in history as a Mustang design anomaly. Today, they’re still bad looking, but people love their Machs! If one’s desire is truly to have an ugly Mustang, a lot more can be had with the Foxbody – arguably the best straight-line dominator to ever wear a Mustang badge.
16 Chevy Vega
We’ve all heard the name before. This is another notorious offering from our other favorite Big Three member. It would go down in history (and in our minds) as synonymous in operation with a mosquito fogger. Poor cylinder protection caused them to burn oil like a two-stroke, and the spectacle it would cause, driving down the road, didn’t earn the Vega any street credit with consumers.
Everybody who’s not a drag racer pretty much remembers it fondly, because they had one, or as a beater (also because they had one). Today, there are Vegas roaming around that would put Ferrari rides to shame; the people won’t let this car fade away!
15 Pontiac Aztek
The Mustangs and Vegas had a hard start in life, but they made it out okay; eventually, someone saw their beauty and turned those jalopies into legends in their own right. If that was the long game for Pontiac, they didn’t last long enough to see it through. The Aztek is still notoriously bad looking – and as subjective as the concept of ugly can be, the Aztek bathes in a universal cesspool of disdain from just about everyone who looks at it.
Azteks actually came with a tent enclosure that nobody seems to have ever seen before, for good reason. As if it were even possible, the Aztek looks even worse when you deploy it! (We wouldn’t brag about our Aztek tent, either.)
14 Застава Корал – (Yugo)
This little gem wasn’t even supposed to make it over here. It was a made by Zastava, in a land far, far away. A man by the name of Malcolm Bricklin literally made a fortune importing lackluster cars (such as this Yugo) from foreign manufacturers. He also built a cheap car that was supposed to be the future, but that didn’t take off so well.
Speaking of taking off; wanna know what the secret to making a Yugo take off like a rocket ship? A mortgage. If this thing doesn’t scare you away, a regular Yugo would actually be worse; At least this one goes fast.
13 PT Cruiser
If you read deeper into the mystery of the PT Cruiser, you’ll find a political tale of sabotage, lies, deceit, and two unsolved missing persons. Just kidding; it is not that deep. It isn’t what we thought it was though, either. The project was forced through, but many members of management tried to end it the entire time.
Unfortunately for Chrysler, the PT Cruiser was a thing and would become a stain on their already-hurting legacy. There were actually plans for a PT minivan, inspired by the Prowler! If this wasn’t a doomed project, covered in failure from the start, we don’t know what is!
12 Hummer H2
We don’t know what the bigger tragedy is; that the H2 ever existed in the first place, or that people put it up on a pedestal when it got here. It was instantly the symbol of gaudy excess, and if you had one, you were ballin’ son; except, to the rest of us, you were silly.
The H2 only came with 316hp the first go around, and that was with Chevy’s 6.0L! It would eventually get a boost to 393hp with a 6.2L, but the two seconds it gained in the 0-60mph were hardly enough to make up for all the status it lost every time we saw one roll by with $6,000 of Autozone chrome.
11 Euclid Beach Rocket
This thing comes from a huge amusement park, back when amusement park rides only put a light emphasis on safety. If you look closely, you’ll notice two large brackets to the front and rear of the passenger compartment. This stainless rocket car fuselage was actually designed, in the ‘30s, to swing from long cables around an upper attach point. All the original wood floors are still intact.
The rocket car mounts to a one-ton Chevy chassis with air ride suspension. Before you poke fun, realize there’s a 502 big-block somewhere inside there! When asked how fast the rocket car can go, in a Barcroft interview, owner, Joe Tomaro replied: “It goes as fast as the speed limit of the road it’s driving on.” (Sure, buddy.)
10 Das Pikachu
We’re not sure what possessed some people to do the things they do, but the kids who grew up on Ash Ketchum are finally old enough to make their own decisions. They actually have been for some time, but now they have the disposable income to build and customize hot rods. (Not the kind you think.)
No longer is an old Camaro with a hot 383 the hot rod to have! Forget your ‘32 Model As, this is your new reality, world; whether you like it or not. Many things are changing. Would you believe it if I told you this is a drift comp winner?
9 Front Lines
PT Cruisers can’t get enough punishment, can they? Here’s another one, this time in a battle-ready olive drab. And this illustrates the main problem with these jabronies when they customize their cars like this…it’s never done right. If they can’t buy it, they can’t build it.
What does this guy do when he wants black rims? Pulls the wheel covers off. Does he bother to clean, prep, and spray the rims? Nope. Does he bother to wrap the chrome door handles, so they match…something…anything? Nope. Wrap the mirrors? Still nope. The whole entire car is a half-hearted attempt to take an underdeveloped idea and cut every corner you can so that it looks good from across the parking lot.
8 Fallout Cube
Looking for a post-apocalyptic ride that won’t make it through the apocalypse? If your mind instantly darted to the asymmetrical design of the Nissan Cube, you found yourself a winner. For some odd reason, the designers thought that they were special and that people, for once in history, wanted an asymmetrical window configuration with their Cubes.
Nobody even noticed the window feature, and the Cube just faded into the masses of unimpressive cars on the road. But, if you’re a Fallout fan, you may be able to appreciate what this Cube was trying to do. Although it’s probably one of the coolest Cubes (for that reason only), it’s still a cube.
7 Subaru WRX
What’s wrong with this picture? What’s NOT wrong with this picture? What you’re looking at is one of the most beloved Subaru models of all time; it truly was one of their most iconic cars. We can dog it all day long for the million things the WRX isn’t (or won’t ever be), but in the right hands, with the right parts, it’s faster than it can even handle.
So why take all that performance, and fizzle it away with some kind of ridiculous alignment angles? The best part about this car, the mods just cancel each other out. It wants to go so fast, and be so low, at the same time. (It only does one of those things well.)
6 Stance Beemer
It’s not only the Subaru kids doing bad things to their cars. BMW guys will tuck a chrome lip so hard into a fender; it’ll roll itself out on its own as you put miles on it. Does this sound like a good idea? We don’t think so.
But he did it anyway, and probably enjoyed about 47-problem-free miles before he dropped a ball joint and chewed up a tie rod end. In all actuality, he drove it around for a year or two, got tired of throwing a used set of tires at it every 400 miles, and sold the haggard chassis for a big loss.
5 Hellcat Toyota
Sometimes, bad looking rides come across our face so random; we wonder why we didn’t think about it ourselves. This thing is one of the most insulting things we’ve ever seen anybody to do with a Dodge Hellcat powerplant; it could have gone to so many other better uses – like a lawnmower.
But; you have to marvel at a Prius, with a set of drag radials, rumbling like an erupting volcano as it pulls up to the box. It sounds just like you’d expect any respectable strip car to sound, but our favorite part comes from the fuel economy; one run down the drag strip would send a normal Prius straight to the gas station on electric mode.
4 Nissan Juke
This car was a silly design from the start. In the designer’s credit, building a car is like walking through a maze. The more you do it, the easier it gets. But a new design – a new platform, for that matter – is like walking that maze in the dark. Sometimes you don’t know if you’re going the right direction.
The Juke, was one such car. Nissan’s studios worked with their northern counterpart to concoct this little Brazilian beauty, and somebody signed off on the concept drawings; but even in rally dress, the Juke leaves us wanting so much more. This is one of those “universally ugly” designs that people love, or hate needlessly.
3 光岡大蛇 (Mitsuoka Orochi)
The Mitsuoka Orochi was built as a concept design early in the 2000s, but development would take almost seven years for a production model to hit the streets. The car was almost like the Edsel, Henry Ford’s biggest commercial failure. Both cars were supposed to be fashion statements; both cars were supposed to be advanced and cutting-edge; both cars were to supposed to rubberize necks.
In all actuality, both cars were found to be nothing short of extremely ugly, and a superior disappointment to just about everyone who saw them. The aging NSX platform from which it was based was bad enough; but a puny, 233hp, 3.3L V-6 was the mill of choice for the Orochi. 0-60mph? As fast as your bone-stock Mazda6.
2 Caparo T1
The 575hp Formula for the street was about as promising as cars got a few years ago. Sure there were other supercars of the time, but the T1 was as close to “open-wheel” as we’ve seen in a long while; the aerodynamic body, bubble canopy, and minimally-encumbering strut-style suspension gave the car promise of handling of the likes we’ve never seen before.
You saw this thing on Top Gear. Luck would not last for the car or the founder of the project. He’d go completely broke and shortly after the entire company came to an end.
1 Hofstetter Turbo
When you are being oppressed by those in charge (and their extreme import tariffs on cars), the local dealership’s offering tends to get a little meager from time to time (or, in other words, always). Nobody wanted to import cars, and nobody had cars. So, one man, Mario Richard Hofstetter, took matters into his own hands.
Using a 1.8L Passat motor, he began building a “supercar” of his very own. The Volkswagen motor he used only produced around 140hp in the beginning. A “torque-daddy” 2.0L pushed power ratings up to 210hp, which was supposed to top the rocketing doorstop out at around 147mph. Would we trust it?... Would you trust it?
Sources: NPR, Curbside Classic, Hagerty, AutoEvolution.