Car manufacturers routinely strive for excellence in design, producing concept cars that defy imagination and offer glimpses of sleek future technology. Unfortunately, they don’t always hit the mark, and automobile history is littered with examples of cars that really should never have been. Here they are, a few of the ugliest cars in the world.
When the Pacer was first conceived, it was going to be a groundbreaking front wheel drive compact car powered by a rotary engine purchased from GM. When GM canceled the engine project, AMC was forced adapt a straight six and rear wheel drive transmission to the car. The result was a very wide car that looked more fishbowl than hatchback. Many of these “pregnant rollerskates” brought the ugliness inside with jeans-like denim seats festooned with brass buttons. Despite its awkward looks, almost 400,000 Pacers were sold over the car’s production run.
Minivans are supposed to look boring, regardless of who makes them. However, Fiat decided to take a different approach with their tiny Multipla. Instead of a continuously flowing line from the bumper up to the roof, the Multipla used a separate curved surface below the windshield to hold fog lights. Extremely tall windows and a flat rear gate complete the MPV’s awkward look. It sold well in Italy, but wasn’t a hit Europe-wide until a redesign in 2003 brought it in line with contemporary vans.
When the Aztek concept debuted in 1999, it was well received. However, GM chose to cut costs by stretching the crossover design over its minivan platform, giving the SUV a distended look. It was also the height, and end, of the brand’s trademark plastic side cladding, now extending half-way up the doors. Even after the plastic was removed after the first year of production, sales remained far below GM’s 70,000 units per year target.
Readers of the British paper “The Daily Telegraph” named the Aztek the ugliest car of all time, even though the car never reached their shores. NPR radio show “Car Talk” named it the ugliest car of 2005: “It looks the way Montezuma’s revenge feels.”
No one said safety had to be ugly, but the world’s first experimental safety vehicle definitely was. Father Alfred A. Juliano created the fiberglass-bodied Aurora with several innovative features including a padded dash, seatbelts, built-in hydraulic jacks for tire changes and a fully transparent roof. After years of construction and development, the car finally debuted to the public in 1957.
At an estimated cost of $12,000, the car would have only been outpriced by the Cadillac Eldorado Brougham in American showrooms. The car’s massive, shovel-shaped front bumper, bubble-shaped windshield, and massive wheel bulges made it look like a bloated whale. The safety aspects of the car were lost over discussion of its styling, and after an inquiries by the Catholic Church and IRS over Juliano’s use of church donations, the project was shelved.
The car was rediscovered and restored by auto enthusiast Andy Saunders after seeing a photo of the car: “It was so ugly it was unreal. I’ve got to own that.” Today, the Aurora can be seen at the Beaulieu Motor Museum in England.