The American auto industry is an interesting story, one that can easily be compared to one of the many spaghetti westerns made in the 1960s that portray the wild west.
It could have three rather obvious protagonists, all of whom share the responsibility of playing the part of the bad guy at some point, and a few underdogs that we all hoped to see go further, but ended up falling way short of the price.
Like any good western, there’s no real ending, just like the auto industry right now. Over the years it has given us so much classic carsand they include the gorgeous ones, some spectacular flops and others that will just leave you scratching your head.
9 Good: AMC AMX
It may not be the best muscle car era car, but given how good it looks and how it checks just about every box on the muscle car wish list, we can only be thankful that it’s still relatively affordable.
The car was made in relatively low numbers for about a year by the ultimate underdog; AMC. It might have had a much longer production run, but by the early 1970s, muscle cars were out and slump.
8 Bad: Chevrolet Vega
No car has had more problems than an almost new Vega, in an effort to cut costs, GM cut just about everything out of the poor Vega’s build quality.
It sold like hot cakes in the 1970s, but unlike some of the more collectible cars of the era, it was virtually non-rust resistant. Therefore, the vast majority have already returned to the Earth from which they came.
7 Ugly: Ford Mustang II
Another 1970s classic is the much-derided Mustang II, which was in every way “the right car for the time”, and pony car enthusiasts have it to thank for giving their beloved horse another day (or decade if you will) .
It may have been the right car for the time, but if you’re unlucky enough to land with one of the inline-4 automatics, you might as well choose to burn it rather than drive it and no one will. blame you.
6 Good: Dodge Dart
Granted, not all darts are created equal. But if you look hard enough, you’ll find one in fair enough condition (restored cars are painfully expensive) for a reasonable price.
Forget originality, as the Dart was a pretty common car in the 1970s, one with a decent Hemi conversion will be the ticket.
5 Bad: Ford Pinto
That ugly Mustang was based on this rather unfortunate car accident. We say bad luck because of all the lawsuits surrounding this thing.
If hit from behind it would literally explode. Making matters worse, Ford chose to settle the lawsuits rather than just fix the problem, which couldn’t have been that hard since the Mustang didn’t have the same defect. No wonder, with cars like this and the Vega, Chrysler just outsourced their small cars…
4 Ugly: AMC Gremlin
Speaking of small cars, AMC was in a bit of trouble after spending a lot of development money on underperforming (selling) muscle cars, there wasn’t much left to make a budget car that the market was now asking for.
Their solution was a new one, literally chop off the Hornet’s tail (or is it a sting?) and called it good. For a while it was good but did nothing for their reputation and the Gremlin is now arguably the most aptly named vehicle ever made.
3 Good: Chevrolet Nova
If you step back from what the court of popular opinion had ruled on the Nova, you’ll quickly realize that this rather simple little car is the very definition of a muscle car; small body, big powerful engine.
Obviously the 70s neutered the car, but it was literally designed to have a Chevy 350 block, so if it has one just refresh it, if it doesn’t have one then get it.
2 Bad: Chrysler LeBaron
Chrysler took a look at what GM was doing with the Cimmaron (perhaps the worst Cadillac ever made) and said, “We can do one better.”
Taking their ubiquitous K-car to new heights with quilted luxury everywhere you looked. It worked for Chrysler. It was one of the models that saved the brand, but with 40 or so years of hindsight, we now know how awful K cars really are.
1 Ugly: Ford Edsel
In many ways the Edsel wasn’t a particularly bad car, it came out with a lot of features that other cars from the 50s didn’t have, and it was initially supposed to fit between the Mercury and Lincoln ranges, but was eventually interleaved between Ford and Mercury in.
As if that wasn’t confusing enough, the car was so hyped by the Ford marketing team that customer expectations just didn’t match reality. It also looked like this (pictured above), so there’s that…