Hooniverse Asks: What's the worst production car ever built?

Friend of Hooniverse Jason Torchinksy is a connoisseur of crap. Crappy cars, that is and Mr Torch recently spent time with Jay Leno for a segment on the great Denim One’s television show. The subject of the segment is the Hoffmann. This is a car which Jason considers to be the worst of all time, and with good reason.
You out there reading this are a fountain of knowledge though, and I wonder if you know of anything even worse? I am counting a production car as anything that was sold to the public, be it in a run of 300,000 or 3.
Shout out with your best worst cars below.  

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50 responses to “Hooniverse Asks: What's the worst production car ever built?”

  1. Victor Avatar

    The CitiCar was an electric car produced between 1974 and 1977 by a U.S. company called Sebring-Vanguard, Inc., based in Sebring, Florida. Sebring-Vanguard was sold to Commuter Vehicles, Inc., which produced similar vehicles (the Comuta-Car and Comuta-Van) from 1979 to 1982. Its exterior design lives on in the Norwegian Kewet. Accounting for all CitiCar variants, a total of 4,444 units were produced up to 1979, the most since 1945 for an electric car assembled in North America until surpassed by the Tesla.
    They were terrible cars that needed constant upgrades and had a diminishing range. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/c653152506def6f6b9053dbf7672b53080fd19a7515a67c4101ea745d2591a52.jpg

      1. Victor Avatar

        Looks like something you would see at the mall, put in the kids and 4 quarters.

        1. nanoop Avatar

          It seats three abreast, legally. There is still one hauling kids in the neighborhood, the perfect car for highway-free commutes under 10 miles. It’s orange with black rally striping – a touch I tend to deem silly on sporty cars, but totally in order here.
          They are still like 4-6kUSD for 8yo examples here…

    1. Peter Tanshanomi Avatar

      The local power equipment dealer was a CitiCar dealer. I remember them having one out front, along with the lawn tractors, dune buggies, and Tri-Sport ATCs. I don’t imagine they sold more than 2 or 3.

  2. tonyola Avatar

    The made-in-India Sipani Badal from the turn of the 1980s. On top of everything else, including the 198cc two-stroke engine mounted in the rear, the single front wheel must have made for “interesting” handling. What do I win? https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/0010fc24500c12925c38705b5103a85cab394ea8c51d34e5b831d534a84da846.jpg

    1. Rover 1 Avatar
      Rover 1

      Before I saw this I was sure MD Harrell would win.

  3. P161911 Avatar

    1923 Chevrolet M-Series Copper Cooled. Despite not passing internal testing, this thing somehow made it into production. 759 were made before production halted, 500 left the factory, 300 made it to sales, and 100 made it to customers. All but 2 were destroyed after they were recalled by GM.

    1. mdharrell Avatar

      The Pioneer Auto Museum (a.k.a. Pioneer Auto Show) in Murdo, South Dakota, has a Chevrolet copper-cooled engine on display, which is the only one I’ve seen. I assume the complete car in Reno was inherited from the former Harrah collection but I don’t recall having seen it when I visited the Harrah collection back in its heyday, which admittedly was a while ago.

    2. nlpnt Avatar

      Fun fact; the Henry Ford Museum example was the car bought new by Ford for evaluation, the other survivor belonged to the *one and only* private owner who insisted on keeping his Copper-Cooled.

  4. mdharrell Avatar

    I’m not entirely comfortable calling three-wheelers “cars” if for no other reason than the fact that I personally benefit from their legal status in my state as “motorcycles” in terms of cheaper registration and insurance. Nonetheless I am prepared to compromise:
    The worst production car of which I am aware is the Dunkley Moke, a diamond-configuration four-wheeler with back-to-back seating for exactly two people. The forward-facing operator controls the steering while the rearward-facing operator controls the brake. Not only does this make the presence and cooperation of the second, poorly situated operator necessary, but the wheels on each end are placed so that only one of them typically will be in contact with the ground at any one time, depending on the relative weights of the two people involved and the extent to which the car is accelerating, decelerating, or traversing uneven ground. Thus, in use, it tilts back and forth between being a front-steering delta-configuration and a rear-steering tadpole-configuration three-wheeler. Consistent steering (left for left, right for right) is maintained by crossed steering linkage underneath the vehicle, at the expense of severely limiting the turning radius before the linkage binds. My understanding is that production may have reached into the very low double digits. It’s British.
    The wickerwork looks nice, though.

    1. P161911 Avatar

      So when are you going to combine some Craigslist wicker patio furniture and your golf cart/caddy gizmo to make a replica?

      1. mdharrell Avatar

        If I ever replicate a Dunkley it would have to be the Pramotor. I mean, heck, I don’t have kids anyway.

        1. P161911 Avatar

          The sane way to do that would be to use one of those unicycle hoverboard things. The fun way would be to use the back half of a Honda Ruckus.

        2. tonyola Avatar

          You could even get a hardtop version of the Pramotor. The scary part is that Pramotors were forbidden to operate on sidewalks, so they had to run on the streets with all the other traffic. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/b84bd35f168a2dac634b25e5e9ded932c507d47a5cd9abbd72c360884288e1f8.jpg

        3. Rover 1 Avatar
          Rover 1

          Who would have thought that they knew so much about aerodynamic downforce back then?
          That is so like a sprint car.

    2. neight428 Avatar

      At least you don’t have the ability to look in to your co-operator’s eyes when your error ends up killing you both.

  5. neight428 Avatar

    In terms of the whole story, I might nominate the DeLorean. They snookered their way in to a taxpayer subsidy to start the project and overpromised/underdelivered the rest of the way through. It accelerated slower than a 1980 Chevy Citation and cost more than a modern Corvette after adjusting for inflation.

    1. P161911 Avatar

      The DeLorean and a X-11 V-6 5 speed Citation are near identical up to 50mph, but after that the DeLoren decidedly, but slowly pulls away. Go here if you want to waste several hours bench racing obscure cars: http://www.automobile-catalog.com/ The comparison feature is really neat.

      1. neight428 Avatar

        That’s a fun site, I had not yet run across that one. I had to look it up manually, and the site I saw had an unsourced 10.3 0-60 time for a regular non-X-11 Citation (which seemed plausible) versus R&T’s blazing 10.5 for the DeLorean. Those were dark days.

  6. Zentropy Avatar

    You guys are trying too hard. Make it easy and consider mass-produced s#!+boxes.
    The Oldsmobile Alero is the absolute worst car I have ever driven. I’ve daily-driven MANY beaters in my time (and still drive one today), but the Alero with less than 5k on the odometer was by far my worst experience in an automobile.

    1. neight428 Avatar

      In terms of volume of crap foisted on the motoring public, your observation has some merit, and likely applies to 20+ years of FWD sedans from GM. That said, the Chrysler Sebring convertible I rented was way worse than the cavalcade of forgettable Grand Am/Cavalier/G6’s I ran across.

      1. Zentropy Avatar

        I admittedly have not had the displeasure of driving a Chrysler Sebring/200.

        1. ptschett Avatar

          I spent a few days driving an Avenger with the Pentastar engine, a shop loaner when my ’05 Dakota needed some work a number of years ago that took longer than planned. It was fun enough (and the depreciation curve on those was definitely steep enough) that I thought seriously about buying a used Pentastar Avenger or 200 as a stopgap 2 winters ago, when I was in need of something with surer drive-wheel traction than my Challenger R/T to replace the Dakota. [That winter ended up being mild enough I got through it with the Challenger as my daily driver, in North Dakota, on factory-fitment all-season performance tires, somehow.]

          1. neight428 Avatar

            They are probably the cheapest way to get you close to 300hp. The Sebring I ended up with at Alamo felt like it had closer to 120.

        2. Smaglik Avatar

          It’s a real piece.

    2. P161911 Avatar

      I take it that you have never had the displeasure of driving a Dodge Caliber. I feel confident that it combines everything that is wrong with the Alero, but adds poor visibility, excessive road noise, ugly looks, and a poor CVT. However the Caliber can’t be the worst, because some of them at least are hard to kill. My Dad was cursed with one as a company car and put almost 300k miles on it without any major repairs.

      1. Ted Avatar

        The surreal aspect is that the 5-Speed Caliber is worse. One of the only instances I can recall of a manual being so vague and depressing that a CVT is more enjoyable.

    3. nlpnt Avatar

      Car and Driver observed that you could get an Alero with a sport suspension *or* a manual transmission, but not both on the same car. I guess that was Pontiac’s turf.
      I do think Olds had the best styling of the B-O-P threesome in the ’90s. It was as though GM styled the Oldsmobile first, and then either added spoilers, cladding and cheesegrater alloys to make a Pontiac or added chrome, whitewalls and wire wheel covers to make a Buick from it.

      1. Zentropy Avatar

        I almost bought a ’91 Custom Cruiser, and then regained my senses. I agree that Olds styling was generally appealing, but I still feel it was little more than a Chevrolet with a different grille and tail lights. Buicks were, as you said, chromed-up, and Pontiacs over-cladded. Chevrolet was just boring.
        Regardless of looks, there are decades of FWD GM awfulness from which to choose a POS car, Oldsmobile included.

  7. Sjalabais Avatar

    What about cars that are so perfect and iconic, it makes following them up and keeping an up-to-date offer almost impossible for the manufacturer? I will just leave this here:

  8. Van_Sarockin Avatar

    Austin Marina

    1. JayP Avatar

      As much as that car sucked, my inner MGB fanboy would take one in an instant.

  9. Batshitbox Avatar

    I’m betting whatever it is it’s either Soviet or Chrysler.

    1. nanoop Avatar

      I was googling those two terms in order to present you something, but all I get is Chrysler’s TorqueFlite transmission that was reverse-engineered/inspiration (several accounts on that, I have no idea) for a Soviet version.
      Since there is no obvious hit, here a gorgeous ZIL-111 (world’s largest sedan once) with said transmission:

  10. alex Avatar

    Subaru 360.
    Discussion over.

  11. duurtlang Avatar

    It’s hard to comment on the worst production car ever built, but I can tell you what the worst car was that I’ve ever driven. Especially when you take age and mileage into account.
    The worst car I’ve ever driven, by far, was a 2016 Chevrolet Impala Limited with 6k miles on the odometer. Interior: horrific, plasticy with plastic wood (mortal sin) and a design from the 90s in 2016, materials used would look too cheap in a 1993 Renault Twingo. Seats: uncomfortable, backache inducing, entirely unsupportive, already showing wear at 6k miles and so wide they seemed to be designed for the morbidly obese. Drive train and suspension: despite its whopping 300 hp (I’m used to half), no car has ever made me drive this slow. Transmission is horrible in mountainous terrain.
    Random picture from the internet:

    1. Victor Avatar

      They were cheap transportation , an affordable car for the masses .

      1. duurtlang Avatar

        I’ve driven many much more affordable cars that were much better. They weren’t as large, but what good is a large sedan if the seats are so incredibly shitty it’s not very suitable as a long distance cruiser?

        1. Victor Avatar

          What is your complaint on the transmission ? Shifts into overdrive too soon ? And as far as uncomfortable ,that is subjective .

  12. crank_case Avatar

    I posted a long diatribe about the Opel Astra G which Discus blocked as spam, which kinda sums up the experience really.

  13. MattC Avatar

    It has the be the Chevy Vega. GM invested countless dollars in the development/transport/all aluminum engine and marketing of the model. The Vega looked like a 2/3rds 2nd Gen Camaro and appeared to take compact sales from the imports.
    Then it sold (very well initially). The engines seized with alarmingly fashion. The cars rusted quickly. New owners were still paying off their loans while the cars became worthless lawn ornaments. Salvage yards were inundated with disused Vegas and started to refuse them.
    GM eventually salvaged(pardon the pun) the model and continued with the Monza and fixed some issues. But the damage was done

    1. Harry Callahan Avatar
      Harry Callahan

      Came here to read this.

    2. salguod Avatar

      I had a Monza. Absolutely terrible car, which says something about the Vega.

    3. nlpnt Avatar

      No other car that was produced in such huge numbers over such a long period is as completely extinct now. Another car site has a “bounty” on a stock-engined non-Cosworth example, so far they’ve found a couple of ’76/77s but no early or even midyear ones.

  14. Alff Avatar

    Anything obscure would be speculation on my part. The worst cars I’ve driven, in no particular order…
    Kia Spectra
    Plymouth Acclaim
    Olds Achieva
    Dodge Caliber
    Hyundai Excel

  15. Manxman Avatar

    Any post-war (wwII) British car. I’ve owned several and all have rusted to pieces before my very eyes. The drive trains are safe from deterioration because of the protective coating of leaking oil. Positive earth (ground), really? Dash pot oil? Lever shocks on a 70’s MG Midget? I noticed in British period movies the same Morris Minor, Austin Mini, Jaguar sedan, etc keep showing up because there simply are not many runners left.

  16. sunbeammadd Avatar

    I don’t know that I’ve driven many truly terrible cars. I rode as a passenger in a Bond 875 three wheeler and that was a bit scary at speed with the driver having to constantly make steering corrections to keep it in a straight line.
    Worst I’ve ever driven was a mate’s Holden Commodore. What a pile of junk. He carried a load of ceramic tiles in the boot to try to get some weight over the rear wheels. When I drove it it was a wet day and I was opposite locking all over the place at normal commuting speeds.

  17. Peter Tanshanomi Avatar

    I love it, but it was pretty damned awful by any objective measure.