Top 10 disastrous cars
September 15 2005
Scan through any list of modern motors and it's unlikely you will come across a truly unloved car. That is not always the case though, as occasionally makers face the horrible realisation that they have given birth to an automotive lemon...
Here are ten of the most notable motoring mistakes, with links to finding them second-hand if you still can, and want to...
10. Renault Avantime
We have a lot to thank Renault for. The Espace, the Scenic and the Modus have influenced other manufacturers in a big way. The Avantime caused a reaction too, but it was mainly the sound of laughter. A giant two-door coupe that looked like an Espace but with only four seats, it was expensive and quite baffling to the ordinary car buyer. Within two years they pulled the plug with less than 8,000 sold.
9. NSU RO80
An advanced saloon with aerodynamic styling, disc brakes all round and a high-tech engine – how could it possibly go wrong? Unfortunately, the sophisticated Wankel rotary engine suffered from rotor tip wear, which caused them to disintegrate. NSU did the honourable thing and replaced them under warranty, but it ruined the firm financially and they were absorbed by VW.
8. Ford Edsel
Perhaps the most famous failure of all time, the Edsel was preceded by an advertising blitz that it could never live up to. 2.5 million punters arrived in showrooms on ‘E-Day’, only to discover an underwhelming and expensive saloon was behind all the hype.
7. Austin Allegro
Look at the original design drawings of the Allegro and you’d be gobsmacked at how something so stylish could end up looking so comically frumpy. The body shape was changed to accommodate the archaic engines, thereby eliminating any semblance of grace. It rode relatively well and avoided rust, but it looked dated within minutes of being unveiled. It also showcased the first, and unsurprisingly the last, square steering wheel. Need we say more?
6. AMC Pacer
If nothing else, the Pacer proved that US buyers know a dud when they see one. Designed to be wide rather than long to suit American highways, the stylist Richard A Teague clearly forgot to make it attractive. Its stumpy looks weren’t helped by the miserable performance – the biggest 5.0-litre V8 engine option produced only 125bhp, giving it a top speed of 106mph and making a mockery of its name. The production run lasted five years, with just over 200,000 made.
5. Ford Scorpio
Which is more worrying; that the finished product was miles away from the original idea, or that this is actually how they wanted it to look from the start? Underneath the shell, the well-proven mechanicals and comfortable interior were effective, but the sheer horror of the gaping front grille and bulging headlamps were too frightening for most. The chintzy chrome strip across the boot was little better, though this styling trick is successfully employed by many manufacturers today.
4. Triumph Stag
The recipe sounded perfect – a gorgeous Michelotti-designed convertible with a sonorous and powerful V8 engine. When Triumph finally took it out of the oven, it was decidedly half-baked. Instead of using the Buick-developed V8 used by partners Rover, two Triumph four-cylinder engines were spliced to create an eight-cylinder powerplant. Numerous teething problems resulted, and despite its loyal following today, it never fulfilled its potential.
3. Morris Ital
The Morris Marina was never a good place to start, but this redesigned version was even grimmer. The original Marina was developed in 18 months, and some of its components could be traced back to the 1948 Minor. By 1980, something desperate had to be done to keep up with the competition, and the Ital was the result. £5 million was spent on a facelift and bottom tuck, which managed to eliminate what little charm was left in the shape, but the pensionable engines and crude suspension remained. At least Morris tried to blame it on Ital Design by using their name, even though they had next to no input.
2. Delorean DMC 12
Delorean DMC 12
John Z Delorean, who died in March 2005, is famous for many reasons – some unrelated to the car named after him. However, the fact that the Belfast factory absorbed truckloads of government cash should not obscure the hopelessness of the product. The clever original design became a distant memory, and the result was unreliable, underpowered and over budget. Demand tailed off rapidly, and despite the massive investment, only 6,500 cars were built.
1. Alfa Romeo Arna /Nissan Cherry Europe
Alfa Romeo Arna /Nissan Cherry Europe
When manufacturers get together and pool resources it can produce great results, or complete disasters. The Arna/Cherry hybrid sits firmly in the latter category. A mix of Italian flair and Japanese expertise should have been made in heaven, but they clearly decided to divide the tasks by means of a lucky dip. Alfa ended up doing the electronics while Nissan took care of the styling, resulting in an ugly car that didn’t work properly.