We know, we know. Automotive designers and engineers spend many years in college learning their trade. They invest thousands of hours studying.
Sometimes it just doesn't work out.
Sometimes the final product emerges so unspeakably hideous, so whisperably annoying, so laugh-out-loud ugly that even their Mothers don't want one parked in the driveway.
The AMC Gremlin
Somewhere in the labyrinth of cubicles that comprised the American Motors Corporation resided a community of people charged with making up names for new models. Day after day they toiled. They bounced ideas off each other, off the ceiling, off the wall.
They came up with Gremlin.
To be fair... wait, it's impossible to be fair here. Even in 1970 the word gremlin brought to mind anything but a sporty reliable vehicle. Perhaps the advertising geniuses planned to target the burgeoning Dungeons and Dragons market.
Sporting pin stripes, fake vents, and a roof rack, the thing would lose a beauty contest with half a burnt-out Ford Pinto. Note the door 'handles' that AMC ordered by the million and by corporate fiat applied to every model they ever built. Each handle provided dual pinch points and a handy repository for ice and snow, which wasn't as problematic as you might think because the engine never started below 30 degrees anyway.
To spread the suffering, Gremlins were assembled in 3 different plants in 3 different countries. Perhaps AMC anticipated a demand that would require resources from all of North America.
If driving a Porsche sends a message that you have money, piloting a Yugo screams "I hate myself". A face tattoo would be less painful and at least you wouldn't have to look at it all day.
Imported from sunny communist Yugoslavia by businessman Malcom Bricklin, Yugos were sometimes given away by GM dealers as a spiff when customers purchased a new Cadillac. Second prize was two Yugos.
Rust was as inevitable as the pity looks from passing motorists while you sat by the side of the road, just far enough away from the dealership that you were no longer on their property. One could only hope that the corrosion would appear in places no one would look, like the inside of the vehicle. Forward-thinking Yugo designers called for rust-colored paint and interior fabric, but that simply confused the scrap metal dealers.
were built by the Zastava corporation, which also produces small arms
for military and sporting applications. Should you find yourself in
front of a firing squad, pray that Zastava products are aimed at you.
Ugly at any speed
The Early Model Corvair
Chevrolet spent years cultivating a loyal customer base with sporty Corvettes, cool Belairs, functional pickup trucks, and house-sized Cadillac behemoths. Evidently it is possible to have too much success. In an effort to compete with Volkswagen and Porsche, Chevrolet cobbled together an air-cooled rear-engine flat 6 chromified compact car that leaked oil, burned oil, and distributed oil vapor throughout the passenger compartment via what the engineers humorously called the heating system.
Sporting a one-piece steering column pointed
directly at the driver's chest (behind a mostly empty engine
compartment), early model Corvairs included an 80 horsepower engine in
an economy package. Convertible models were guaranteed not to admit
water when parked in the garage. Driven at highway speed, the fabric top
ruffled like Bill Clinton at a VFW Hall.
Power steering? Nope. You didn't need it because there was no weight over the front wheels. Air Conditioning? Sure, as long as you didn't mind lugging around a compressor from a GM Frigidaire home refrigerator.
Styling? Absolutely. Roughly a cross between a Ford Falcon and Grandma's living room furniture. Evidently somebody had a little too much chrome in inventory.
Difficult to find is an action shot of the Dodge Aspen/Plymouth Volare. These clunkers-to-be spent most of their useful (?) life parked next to a curb, gathering parking tickets and change from panhandlers. Perhaps boring is a better description than ugly. Showing off enough plain sheet metal and uninspiring monochrome color schemes to bring tears to the average circus clown, these four-wheeled atrocities depressed driveways across the United States from 1975 to 1980. Even the Carter administration looked promising when parked next to an Aspen.
These hapless beasts were saddled with federally mandated bumpers that extended into past and future time zones. To distract from the acres of faux chrome, Dodge topped the front bumper with a grille inspired by tedium and capable of swallowing insects of amazonian proportions.
Making this list twice, AMC achieves a dubious victory. The bulbous Pacer lumbered through 6 uninspired model years dressed in acres of drab colors and incongruous white wall tires. Designers somehow managed to create a vehicle that looked completely different from the front than from the rear. Twas a boon to bank robbers, but not much incentive for law-abiding citizens to drive/push it off the sales lot.
thing was offered as a hatch back and also as a station wagon. Few
station wagons exist to this day. They were driven/pushed to
third-world countries, where the glass was harvested to glaze entire
villages and the suspension held up as an example of what might happen
if you didn't stay in school.
Pacers increased the sales of Pintos. Economy car shoppers recognized the lesser of two driving evils; at last Ford would probably be around into the next century. AMC suffered (deservedly so, based on this carbuncle) the sad fate of being absorbed by a European manufacturer before being shut down in 1987.