Junk on Wheels: 5 Crappy, Shameful American Cars

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In the ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s, auto journalists had a heyday. There were so many good cars to trash talk. Exploding gas tanks, lazily engineered rehashes, cheap materials and, well, the Yugo. Let’s take a look back at the pinnacles of crap – the apex of “I don’t give a shit” engineering in the U.S. auto industry (without mentioning the Pacer, Gremlin, Pinto or Vega). I included cars that I drove and had personal experiences with so I could smack-talk these beasts with a little authority.

5 Dodge Omni (Chrysler)

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The Omni was a step up from the monstrosities built by American car companies in the ‘70s. That being said, it still sucked. Shelby was hired to make some of Chrysler’s cars better, so he made the GLH (goes like hell) edition of the Omni. The box of bolts was powered up and ready to fly – and most likely fall apart when it hit 130 mph. Giving a turbo engine to the Omni was like giving North Korea the ability to launch nuclear missiles. My experience with an Omni? I was riding passenger in one back in the ‘90s when we got T-boned at what must have been 20 mph in a parking lot. The car crumpled, the axel broke and the car was totaled. We used to tell girls that Omni was French for “to make out.” That line was about as slick as the Omni itself.

4 Ford Festiva

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Call it the Aspire, call it the Festiva, call it whatever you want – just don’t call it good. Kia built the thing in the ‘80s. Another rebadged, under engineered, cheaply made piece of crap – Detroit was attempting to secure the subcompact market and kept missing the mark due to stink bombs like the Festiva. I never owned one and never drove one, but my personal experience with a Festiva was pushing my friend’s back to his house after a Taco Bell run.

3 Eagle Premier (AMC, Renault, GM)

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I didn’t drive an Eagle Premier – nope, I drove the infamous Dodge Monaco in high school, which was the same damn car. I personally remember common problems happening all the time. Due to the attempted technology advances within the Eagle/Monaco, everything seemed to constantly go wrong. To be fair, the Premier was redesigned for the ‘90s and actually featured a slew of neat engineering ideas, but it suffered from too many hands in the kitchen during its designing.

2 Geo Metro (GM)

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In reality it’s a Suzuki. I remember seeing my friends buying these up in high school during the ‘90s because people were selling them for around $300 to $500 bucks (depending on if they started up or not). I also remember them being held together with duct tape, bail wire, plaster and twine. I remember my friend’s Metro breaking down during his drivers-ed exam. Three-cylinder engine, sagging chassis problems … good memories!

1 Cadillac Cimarron (GM)

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I love a good Cadillac. That’s why I hate the Cimarron. See, GM had something called the J-platform, which served as a cheap front-wheel drive platform for their low-end vehicle lines throughout the ‘80s and ‘90s (spare me the memories you had of your dad’s Pontiac Sunbird and your mom’s Cavalier). To make a long story short, they used this platform to make the Cimarron and jacked the price up. Throw in an underpowered engine and chintzy interior materials and you have the car that nearly killed Cadillac.


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