10 Worst American Cars in History

These lemons should never be forgotten!


American car manufacturers such as General Motors, Ford, Chrysler and others have certainly produced many marvelous cars. But they’ve also spit out quite a few lemons, some of which egregiously bad, and this list covers those infamous rust buckets, oil-leaking monstrosities and gutless wonders.

Perhaps you’ve owned such a car or two, and if you have, you’re to be pitied, for you almost certainly went ballistic every time you thought about how bad that car was and how much money it cost you. This list includes perhaps the worst of these troublesome pieces of crap, though many more could probably be listed.

Incidentally, this list does not include cars produced before the 1950s and does not include odd novelty cars that were meant for only a few people.

Please keep reading as we countdown on the list of 10 Worst American Cars in History:

10. 2002 Lincoln Blackwood


You know a vehicle is a loser when a manufacturer produces it for only one year! This is what happened with the 2002 Lincoln Blackwood - not quite a car and certainly no pickup truck, either. Designed to be a luxury pickup in competition with the Cadillac Escalade EXT, its list price was a whopping $52,500. But it had few options; you could only get it in black with black interior. Whose idea was that? Anyway, only 3,356 of these vehicles were produced in the U.S. and when they sold, it was often for below the invoice price. Intended to be a luxury-trimmed version of Ford’s famous F150 Crew Cab, this car/pickup will forever be known as an expensive oddity nobody seemed to want.

9. 1970 American Motors Corporation Gremlin


First produced in 1970, the Gremlin was billed as the “first American-built import” and comprised AMC’s challenge to the Japanese imports flooding the American car market. Considered a subcompact, the Gremlin was a two-door economy car with an unorthodox hatchback design considered cute or controversial, depending on one’s taste. Unfortunately, this wide hatchback made the so-called blind spot even bigger, which must have led to many accidents. The car had few extras but was designed to be an economy car, selling for around $2,000. At any rate, the Gremlin was produced for eight years, so some people must have liked this odd-looking metallic beast.

8. 2003 Saturn Ion


Replacing the popular Saturn-S Series, the 2003 Saturn Ion, as of 2006, was the longest compact car sold in North America. But production of the Ion was discontinued in 2007. Why? After testing one of them, Car and Driver reported that the Ion had a “pigheaded transmission, anxious steering, bar-stool seating, muddled styling and a cyclopean dash (one mounted in the center).” Its acceleration was dismal too: 0 to 60 in 10.2 seconds and 17.7 seconds in the quarter mile. Also, in February 2014, the Ion was one of many GM cars recalled because of faulty ignition switches, which have killed at least 13 people. Nevertheless, many people love their Saturn cars, though the franchise was discontinued in 2010.

7. 1971 Ford Pinto


A subcompact car designed to compete with AMC’s Gremlin and Chevrolet’s Vega, as well as the various imports, the 1971 Ford Pinto weighed less than 2,000 pounds and cost under $2,000. Incidentally, Ford billed it as “The Carefree Car.” Owing to the Pinto’s low price, it sold very well for many years, but critics generally slammed the auto, saying it was underpowered, had weak brakes and bad suspension. In 2004, Forbes listed the Pinto on its compilation of the Worst Cars of All Time. Certainly the car’s most damning criticism may have been the claim that the fuel tank could be easily punctured in a rear-end collision, increasing the possibility of a fire, a situation for which numerous lawsuits ensued.

6. 2006 Hummer H2


When gasoline prices are relatively low, the Hummer H2 would definitely seem a better option. Generally getting about 10 MPG, the decidedly military-looking SUV, weighs over 6,000 pounds, so fuel economy for this “tank” is just about impossible to provide. The H2 model was distinctive because the rear portion of the vehicle was modified to include a pickup truck bed so cargo can be easily loaded, enhancing its ability to be a commercial vehicle. Unfortunately, the H2 has been the subject of numerous recalls and complaints, producing a list of headaches way too long to put in this meager space.

5. 1997 Plymouth Prowler


You never know what crazy body style the American carmakers will come up with. The 1997 Plymouth Prowler had the retro look of a 1960s acid trip. This two-door roadster, which highlighted a definite “hot rod” appearance, was a high performance sports car similar in pep to the C5 Corvette and Porsche 944. It was also available in 12 different snazzy colors, including Inca Gold Pearl, if you can imagine that. One may adore the oldtimey look of this concept car, but the Prowler, like many cars on this list, has had a long list of recalls and complaints, some of which dangerous, such as a leaky fuel injection system that could start a gasoline-fed fire!

4. 2001 Pontiac Aztek


Tagged as being “the most versatile vehicle on the planet,” the Pontiac Aztek, if anything, was supposed to have futuristic styling and be something Generation X would want to possess. Even though the Aztek ran okay and buyer satisfaction was reasonably high, Pontiac didn’t sell enough models to make a profit, and this failure essentially ended the Pontiac line of cars after 84 years. Often listed as one of the ugliest American cars ever made, Karl Brauer, CEO of TotalCarScore.com, said that the car features “atrocious proportions wrapped in plastic body cladding” and “looks like a station wagon stretched out by a car bomb.” Enough said.

3. 1979 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme Diesel


The Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme was a very popular American car for many years – 1966 to 1997, and the 1979 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme Diesel was the first diesel produced by Oldsmobile. Made during a time when gas prices were relatively high, the decision to produce a diesel-powered car wasn’t a bad one; unfortunately, the Cutlass diesel proved disappointing, at best. This noisy car was soon identified as being unreliable and lacked performance, thus leading to a warranty disaster for GM. The diesel engine in this car was so bad that the American people have rejected diesel-powered American cars ever since.

2. 1958 Ford Edsel Corsair


The 1958 Ford Edsel Corsair wasn’t a bad car – or was it? Some people thought it was ugly, while others considered it pretty. It had plenty of power - a 410 cubic-inch engine and a four-barrel carburetor. Also, it offered push button controls in the middle of the steering wheel, comprising the “Teletouch automatic.” But people often hit one of the buttons when they wanted to activate the horn. At any rate, the Edsel didn’t sell well and later became known, particularly in college business classes, as the quintessential American lemon. But if you owned one now in good condition, it could be worth a mint, though you may want to avoid that darn Teletouch automatic.

1. 1971 Chevrolet Vega


General Motors wanted a subcompact, economy car that would compete with Japanese imports, and Chevrolet’s Vega emerged. Perhaps the Vega’s most distinctive feature was its aluminum block engine, but these things often leaked oil like the Exxon Valdez. Numerous other problems plagued the Vega as well - rusting parts, defective axles, balky throttles and an inadequate cooling system - although improvements were done throughout its production from 1971 to 1977. There were numerous large recalls as well. The Vega was so badly made that an article in Popular Mechanics called it “the car that nearly destroyed GM.” It has since become known as the best example of a cheap, junky, American-made piece of s***.

Please leave a comment.

© 2015 Kelley

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Comments 11 comments

russinserra profile image

russinserra 20 months ago from Indianapolis, In

I love some of these cars. Of course I never owned any, s I didn't have to deal with the crappy quality. I would own a Pinto or a Gremlin in a second.

The Buick counterpart to the Aztec did ok. In fact, I still see a lot of used Rendezvous on the road. I think the ones with the third row seat are in demand. May be the smallest vehicle with a third row.

Loved the article!


suziecat7 profile image

suziecat7 20 months ago from Asheville, NC

My mother had a Gremlin and she loved that car. It lasted quite a long too as I recall. Fun Hub - thanks.


Kosmo profile image

Kosmo 20 months ago from California Author

Thanks for the comment, russinserra. I, for one, don't love any of these cars. Of course, I never owned any of them, so what do I know about them? The only one I ever drove was a Gremlin, and I definitely wouldn't own one now because of that experience. You can keep the Pinto too. Sorry. Later!


Genna East profile image

Genna East 20 months ago from Massachusetts, USA

What a fun and interesting article. I have to say that the gas-greedy Hummer is the ugliest thing they ever put on four wheels. What were they thinking? An enjoyable read…thank you.


Kosmo profile image

Kosmo 20 months ago from California Author

Thanks for the comment, Susiecat7. I'm sure many people have loved their Gremlins. Later!


Kosmo profile image

Kosmo 20 months ago from California Author

Thanks for the comment, Genna East. I agree with you about the Hummer. Who would want one unless he or she is planning on visiting Afghanistan or Iraq? Later!


John Albu profile image

John Albu 18 months ago from Albuquerque, New Mexico, 87102

That's the ugliest Hummer I've ever seen, for sure. The 1979 Oldsmobile looks quite classy, though, no matter how unreliable it might be!


Kosmo profile image

Kosmo 18 months ago from California Author

Thanks for the comment, John Albu. The Hummer certainly is one of the ugliest vehicles of all time and an egregious gas-guzzler as well. Later!


JimmyBee profile image

JimmyBee 10 months ago from southern Indiana

I'm so glad the Aztek made this list. I hated that car from the first moment I saw one. "Ugly" is too kind a word for it. I prefer "fugly." You can use your imagination to determine the meaning of that word.


Kosmo profile image

Kosmo 10 months ago from California Author

Thanks for the comment, JimmyBee. Yeah, the Aztek was a piece of crap, and "fugly" definitely seems a good word to describe it. Bye!


Kosmo profile image

Kosmo 3 months ago from California Author

The Ford Pinto is awesome?!... Surely you jest, sir!

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