There are a few cars that have earned a dubious place in automotive history due to their questionable design, poor performance, or misguided intentions. These vehicles, spanning various decades and brands, serve as cautionary tales of what can go wrong in the world of automotive manufacturing.
From ill-fated attempts to capture the American market to misjudged entries in the luxury and sports car segments, these 13 cars stand out as regrettable creations in the industry.
Austin A90 Atlantic
Austin’s attempt to create an American-style car fell flat. The A90 Atlantic, while British-built, failed to capture the essence of American automobiles. It featured a weedy four-cylinder engine and a price tag that rivaled a decent Chevy. The lesson here is that British carmakers should have stuck to their unique Britishness, which had a more substantial appeal to American buyers.
British Leyland’s TR7 was intended to be a one-size-fits-all sports car but fell short in many ways. It struggled to outsell the dated MGB in the USA, was plagued by an unsightly design, and came as a hardtop when consumers wanted convertibles. Early models suffered from a poor four-speed gearbox and engine issues, ultimately leading to its downfall.
Renault’s Colorale was an ill-fated attempt to cater to ‘coloniale and rurale’ buyers. However, it was thirsty, slow, and had some unattractive designs for its wagon, van, and pick-up versions. Even changing the engine couldn’t salvage this vehicle, resulting in significant losses for Renault before its eventual discontinuation in 1956.
The Talbot Tagora, intended to be a flagship sedan, sadly suffered from a lack of demand. Its styling, while sharp, was undermined by an uninspiring interior, ultimately leading to its commercial failure for Talbot with only around 20,000 units produced between 1981 and 1983. Despite its shortcomings, the Tagora did leave a lasting impact on automotive history as a cautionary tale of misjudging market demand.
The AMC Pacer was known for its distinctive three-door hatch design but faced a few challenges beneath its unique exterior. It was criticized for its underpowered engine and declined in sales rapidly. By 1980, production was halted, marking the end of the road for the Pacer and AMC’s last chance.
Daimler’s SP250, aimed at the American sports car market, faced some issues with its flexing plastic body, unattractive looks, and mediocre road handling. Sales fell far short of expectations, resulting in only 2,645 units produced before its 1964 discontinuation, dealing Daimler a significant setback in the sports car segment.
Austin 3 Litre
The Austin 3 Litre was an executive sedan ordered by BMC but failed to attract buyers due to stiff competition from Rover and Triumph. Despite its reasonable qualities, it couldn’t compete with the trendier Rover P6 and Triumph 2000. Sales remained stagnant, leading to the model’s withdrawal in 1969 and eventual production termination in 1971.
The Lea-Francis Lynx was a sportster based on a questionable idea and rushed production. Its extravagant appearance and high price deterred buyers, and only three units were made. Despite talk of an Italian rebodying, it never materialized, making it a short-lived and ill-conceived project that left a limited mark on the automotive world.
BMW 501 & 502 ‘Baroque Angels’
BMW’s ‘Baroque Angels’ were too heavy and pretty costly, making them uncompetitive in the market compared to Mercedes. The decision to fit a V8 engine did not salvage the situation. Sales were slow, and BMW’s survival was actually in question until the introduction of new models that redefined the brand.
2011 Aston Martin Cygnet
The Aston Martin Cygnet, essentially a rebadged Toyota iQ, was created primarily to meet European Union emissions regulations. While it bore the prestigious Aston Martin badge, it was essentially a rebranded city car. With a steep price tag of around $50,000, it failed to gain traction and was discontinued after just over two years.
1995 Suzuki X90
The Suzuki X90’s unique design left many baffled, as it looked nearly the same forwards and backward, resembling a forgotten middle section of a car. Its unconventional appearance and lackluster performance contributed to its unpopularity. Despite its quirks, some found it endearing for its sheer oddity, gaining a small but devoted fanbase among enthusiasts of unconventional vehicles.
1982 Cadillac Cimarron
The Cadillac Cimarron was General Motors’ attempt to compete with BMW and Mercedes-Benz in the premium small car market. However, it was essentially a souped-up Chevrolet Cavalier with Cadillac badges and tacky accessories. It failed to live up to the Cadillac name and was widely criticized, earning a reputation as one of the most misguided efforts in automotive history.
1955 BMW Isetta
The BMW Isetta, a three-wheeled city car with a single-cylinder engine, was an unusual addition to BMW’s lineup. It lacked a reverse gear and had only one front door, making it challenging to maneuver in tight spaces. The Isetta’s unconventional design made it one of the most peculiar German cars ever produced.