- The 13 ugliest cars in history are proof that designers don’t always get it right.
- The 1958 Subaru 360 was imported into the United States and truthfully advertised as ‘cheap and ugly.’
- The AMC Gremlin was sketched on an airplane barf bag and named after a mythical creature that causes system failures.
- The Chevrolet HHR and Nissan Cube were retro attempts that were disliked by the public.
- The Toyota Prius has been dubbed as weird and unconventional.
- The 1977 Ford Pinto in this list was my first car!
Automakers know that aesthetics are key to selling cars. Unfortunately, the 13 ugliest cars in history are eyesores, proof that designers don’t always get it right. Some ideas win big, like the early Ford Mustangs. However, some end up being a visual crime scene that turns heads for all the wrong reasons.
I’ve only owned one of these cars (and was glad to have it at the time), but the fact that some are still popular speaks to the variety of the human mind. While they won’t all make you lose your lunch, our 13 ugliest cars in history are unrivaled in their uninspiring design and questionable attractiveness.
1958 Subaru 360
The 1958 Subaru 360 was built to strict Japanese kei car standards that placed great limits on its size and power. While I don’t speak Japanese, there must be a universal word for “ugly” that anyone can understand — and this car’s photo is beside it in the dictionary. Subaru imported this car into the United States in 1968 and truthfully advertised it as “cheap and ugly.” I think they got it right.
1965 Rambler/AMC Marlin
Some older American metal aficionados liken the 1965 Rambler/AMC Marlin to early Dodge Chargers, but I seriously disagree. The first fastback Chargers emerged in 1966 and got it mostly right, but this eyesore sadly got it all wrong. It just pains the eyes from virtually every angle. They seem to be a spinoff from early futuristic designs from the 50s; however, Rambler sales were dismal, and Marlin sales were even worse. Small wonder.
1970 AMC Gremlin
What was AMC thinking when they unleashed this odd-looking car on the public in 1970? The Gremlin was literally sketched on an airplane barf bag by AMC’s design chief and named for a mythical creature that causes system failures — not the most auspicious beginning. In fact, Time Magazine included the Gremlin on its 50 Worst Cars of All Time and said the “design team basically whacked off the rear of the AMC Hornet with a cleaver.”
1982 Cadillac Cimarron
Motor Trend called the Cadillac Cimarron “One of the Worst Cars Ever,” and I agree. They also said “Someone thought polishing up a Chevy Cavalier was a good idea. They were wrong.” Harsh words, but again, I agree. Billed as a more affordable luxury car, its aesthetics fell sadly short. It almost looks like it was thrown together using parts from other GM cars. I mean, who wants to be comfortable while driving something that makes heads turn away?
1989 Nissan S-Cargo
Ah, the 1980s. What were we thinking? Evidently, Nissan decided a cargo van the size of a shoe would be more attractive if its name was the reimagined French word for snail (escargot). The S-Cargo actually looks like a snail and moves like one, too, if reviewers are to be believed. Fortunately for the public, this uniquely ugly vehicle only lasted two model years before it was quietly and embarrassingly retired.
1990 Chevrolet Lumina APV/Oldsmobile/Pontiac
I apologize in advance for including this space-aged van design that closely resembled an early Dustbuster hand vac. Evidently, GM thought they would be a big hit because they issued similar model vans from Oldsmobile and Pontiac. Ubiquity notwithstanding, these are some of the ugliest vehicles GM ever made. Vans are meant to be practical rides, even before the “soccer mom” style caught on. These vans may have lived up to their purpose, but adding an anteater nose did not improve their appeal.
1992 Buick Skylark
The 1990s were certainly a transformative time in history, and this included car designs. However, how did a pointy front bumper and grille, wedge parking lights, and mini-skirt fenders make the grade? The Buick Skylark started out ugly and just got worse, especially the two-tone paint editions that only highlighted its awkward dimensions. No wonder Buick could hardly give these cars away; finding one now is a blessed rarity.
1998 Fiat Multipla
PUH-LEEASE. Fiats are notably ugly; it is part of their overall appeal. However, the Multipla goes over and above to offend the eyes. It looks like someone sat on the end of a fishbowl or sawed two cars in half and joined the incompatible ends. Actually, it looks more like a design from Fischer-Price than a car manufacturer. Want more evidence that this car is ugly? Fiat thought it needed creative advertising to sell across Europe. Some of the more intriguing slogans included lines like “Stand out from the crowd, then offer them a lift.” Another ad showed a picture of the car with the words “conventional wisdom” written upside down.
The 2000s featured many car designs that attempted to embody a retro feel, and the PT Cruiser is one that wasn’t much of a success. Chrysler tried to make a family car look like an early hot rod and only created a wagon that looked strangely like a hot dog. Nevertheless, the Cruiser saw a flash of popularity until about 2006-2007, then its attraction waned. Chrysler discontinued it in 2010.
The Chevrolet HHR is another retro attempt paying homage to the early 40s Suburbans. Spacious and with great fuel economy, they were a decent hit at first until the public realized how truly ugly they were. Disproportionate proportions and too many curves for a modern auto design make the HHR one of my favorite late-model cars to bash. Chevrolet finally caught on to consumers’ dislike of the HHR and discontinued it in 2011.
Don’t hate me for this, but the aptly named Nissan Cube stands at the pinnacle of modern car ugliness. It is literally a box on wheels. Think of the square tool in a painting software application, and you have the infamous Cube. However, the car has a notable fan base, mostly due to its roomy interior and respectable gas mileage. That just goes to show you that designers really never know if aesthetic appeal will make or mutilate a car’s success.
Early Toyota Prius models were unusually shaped with skinny headlights and a nose that clearly needed plastic surgery. Of course, the entire car was unconventional, so why should its design be normal? Its early generations were dubbed as weird, and Toyota must have heard. Newer models have features some design improvements, although the Prius is still basically an ugly little car. I think the third-generation Prius has reversed this trend and pays homage to 70s Fiats with contrasting angles and a disproportionate rear spoiler.
1977 Ford Pinto
Due to its personal connection, I saved my most nostalgic ugly car until last. My first car was the 1977 Ford Pinto hatchback pictured above. It was several colors when I bought it, and I cajoled my parents into springing for a custom paint job for Christmas. My personal hot rod was ice blue metallic with a half-white vinyl top, chrome and white vinyl side trim, and wire-spoke wheels. I added a kicked-up stereo and aftermarket speakers. Four cylinders of power, a four-speed manual transmission, and double-55 air conditioning (roll both windows down) took me all over East Tennessee from 1987 to 1989 when I sold it for $500. I loved that car. Truly, ugly is in the eye of the beholder.
13 Ugliest Cars in History Summary Table
|Chevrolet Lumina APV/Oldsmobile/Pontiac
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