Walter White, the main character in Breaking Bad, was a born loser. He parlayed a shot at a Nobel Prize for Science into teaching chemistry at a high school. He sold his shares in a tech company for $2 000 and then watched his partners become millionaires.
The final indignity? He confirmed his status by driving a Pontiac Aztec — one of the worst cars ever built.
It was cruel of the producers to kick him when he was already down, but poor old Walt — imagine living in Las Vegas and cruising down the strip in a Dodge Aztec.
At least the Aztec shares its name in the Automotive Hall of Infamy with some real heavyweights like Ferrari and Lamborghini (would you believe?). The list that follows doesn’t pretend to be inclusive or comprehensive — it just features some of the cars that get dishonourable mentions most of the time.
Let’s kick off with the Aztec that appears in most lists alongside its European counterpart, the Trabant.
The world’s worst cars
Ugly, ugly, ugly. The Aztek was probably designed on a public holiday in 2001 by people working their last day at Pontiac.
Breaking Bad fans will, however, agree that when Walt tried to break out of his loser status by becoming a meth manufacturer and dealer, no cop in his right mind would stop and search the vehicle. A major meth dealer voluntarily driving an Aztek? Unlikely.
As a Time Magazine writer once remarked, the Trabant was the car that gave Communism a bad name.
People leaving East Germany when the Berlin Wall fell, dumped their Trabants after crossing the border.
After all, the Trabant’s two-stroke engine produced 18 horsepower and blew enough smoke to kill swarms of mosquitos. There was also no way, because it sounded like the Berlin Philharmonic on a bad hair day, that your kids could arrive home quietly hours after their curfews.
What is often ignored is its green properties. It had a fibreglass-type body reinforced with cotton and wood fibres. The Trabant was, no arguing, one of a kind.
Let’s go upmarket for a while and check some exhibits on the expensive, but still disastrous, side of the Hall of Infamy.
Upmarket, but still bad cars
Although the 1980 208 GTB, Dino and others get dishonourable mentions, most commentators single out the Mondial 8 (1980) for particular ridicule. Why? Well, Ferraris are supposed to be impractical and fast — two things the Mondial was not.
It had four seats and struggled to get to 60mph in under nine seconds. So, if you are buying a Mondial, remember only to share the news with people who aren’t real petrolheads.
The Biturbo was notorious for electrics that burnt, things that snapped and fluid that didn’t remain where it was supposed to but made beautiful colourful puddles on garage floors.
The LM002 was a military vehicle in civilian clothing and became an expensive dune buggy.
During 2004, an LM002 that belonged to Saddam Hussein’s son was blown up by US soldiers testing the effects of a car bomb.
Back to basics
No list would be complete without this piece of masterful British engineering.
Made of plastic, powered by a 750cc engine, and balanced very precariously on three tiny wheels, the Robin was nicknamed “The Turtle” for its remarkable ability to overturn with little provocation.
Watch as Top Gear’s Jeremy Clarkson roasts the Robin
Manufactured in Yugoslavia during the 1980s, the Yugo defied description. It was known for exploding, burning and having parts fall off when it was driven anywhere.
But before we spend too much time in the past, let’s look at more recent listings of bad cars from around the world.
More contenders for the world’s worst car
- The Jaguar X-type (2001). Or is it a Mondeo trying for a better selling price?
- BMW 7-Series (2002). The car that had the iDrive, a control switch that complicated the controls, and an ugly rear-end.
- The Hummer H2 (2003). The vehicle that only Arnie Schwarzenegger could really love.
- Saab 9-7X (2006). Not to be confused with a Chevy TrailBlazer.
- Dodge Caliber (2006) STRT-4. Ugly, underpowered, and just bad.
- Chrysler Town and Country Minivan (Voyager) (2008 to 2012). Bad years for reliability.
- BMW X6 (2014). The question most asked is “What is it?” SUV, luxury sedan or what?
- Range Rover. General reliability.
The good thing about what makes a good car or a bad car is that it is entirely subjective. There will always be car fans who own a vehicle that features on some list or other who love their cars that have given them faultless service for years.
I wonder, though, can anyone really love a Yugo?
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