One-Hit Wonders of the Auto World
If you’re car shopping, you’ll notice a funny thing about model names. Some are attached to great cars that stick around for years (Taurus, Mustang, Camaro), while others are used only once, forever haunted by the reputation of the original. Here are six car names you won’t ever see again:
Ford Pinto – The Pinto was very popular when introduced to fuel-conscious Americans in the early 1970s. In fact, some may argue the only time the Pinto used a lot of gas was when it was rear-ended. Though it initially sold like wildfire, it also got blamed for a few. Allegations that the structural design of the vehicle led to the fuel tank being punctured upon impact quickly led to recalls and finally the discontinuation of the compact car. Although its safety was, in reality, roughly on par for small cars of that era, the Pinto name was sullied permanently.
Cadillac Cimarron – This early 1980s “luxury” compact may have been nothing more than a low-end sedan with leather seats, but you got the distinction of paying twice the price. It is memorialized in the executive offices of Cadillac with the notation, “Lest we forget.”
Renault Le Car – Zero creativity points for naming the micro vehicle “the Car,” but that’s what Renault did when it hit U.S. shores in 1975, complete with its three-bolt wheels and 55 hp engine. One police department in the state of Washington used Le Cars on patrol, providing comedy relief for criminals who escaped with faster vehicles, such as bicycles and skateboards.
Yugo – Former Yugo owners may feel this inexpensive and cheerful Eastern Bloc car, based on a 1971 Fiat 127, should have had a longer name, such as “YugoBuyAnotherCar.” But at $3,990 in 1987, it cost about what people nowadays spend annually at Starbucks, plus maintenance could be performed with simple tools, like an allen wrench or sledge hammer. On second thought, we’ll take the coffee and walk.
AMC Gremlin – The first concept drawing of the Gremlin was made – and this is the truth – on the back of an air sickness bag…some unfortunate foreshadowing to say the least. It’s bad enough when your engineers build a compact car by simply amputating the back of a Hornet coupe, but when the marketing guys name it after a creature that causes airplane malfunctions, you have the recipe for a one-hit wonder.
DeLorean DMC-12 – Best known for taking Marty and Doc back to the future at 88 mph, this stainless steel behemoth was mass-produced in 1981 and just 9,200 ever made it to market. Originally priced at $25,000 (equivalent to $63,909 in 2012), the vehicle was too slow to be a desirable sports car in the United States. Coupled with poor business decisions, the company quickly fell in to bankruptcy and before you could say “flux capacitor,” the DeLorean became a piece of ‘80s history.
Maybe you once owned one of these cars or know someone who did. While most were inexpensive to buy, most of them weren’t insured for very long. Within a few years of purchase, they usually began new lives as junkyard artwork.
Whether you have a one-hit wonder or an old standby, you’ll need to make sure to take care of your ride.