In part one of this series, we looked at some of the cars of the 50s, 60s, and 70s that didn’t quite make the list of well executed pieces of automotive design. In fact, they didn’t even hit the bar of “average” cars. In this section we will take a further look at some of the worst cars to come out of Detroit.
1958 Ford Edsel
In 1958, Ford released a car called the Edsel that was targeted to middle America. It was a modest sized car with some unusual design features. The Edsel was a disaster. Ford apparently spent around 300 million dollars building the Edsel but did almost no consumer research. Their marketing department thought they knew what buyers wanted and they simply designed it that way. One particularly abominable feature of this car was push-button shifting on the steering wheel. Many people would accidentally change gears when they meant to change the radio station or honk the horn. Couple this with a absolutely horrendous front grill (it looked like an old horse collar) and the fate of the Edsel was sealed.
A funny thing happened in the early 1960s when a quirky air-cooled car from Germany started to be imported to the United States. What was the funny thing? Well, everybody wanted one of them. They were made by Volkswagen, were affordable and got great gas mileage. General Motors, like most of the American car industry, was a bit surprised by this and soon came up with their own models to compete in the same demographic niche. For General Motors, the car they made was the Corvair.
Like the VW Bugs, the Corvair was air-cooled and rear-wheel driven but it was powered by a more powerful 6 cylinder engine. It sported a fresh design and seemed to be superior to the Volksw agen beetle in all respects. According to our technical source at CrossPointe Motor Cars (Winchester, VA), things were good until a man by the name of Ralph Nader showed up. Nader, a consumer product lawyer, claimed that the Chevrolet Corvair was unsafe and wrote a book about Detroit’s poor record of designing cars. This was the beginning of the end for the Corvair.
1982 Cadillac Cimarron
For almost 100 years, one of the finest vehicles to be built in the United States 1982 was the Cadillac. Originally Cadillac was an independent brand but was bought by General Motors in the 1920s. It became GM’s flagship line became the last word in luxury worldwide. In the early 1980s, though, the luxury market had softened and Cadillac was looking at ways to increase sales. The answer as developed by some group at General Motors was to make a “compact luxury car” and thus the Cimarron was born. Ultimately, the Cimmaron was just a remodeled Chevrolet Cavalier with a slightly refurbished coating. The folly of this “compact luxury car” sunk so deep that it almost put the Cadillac name into insurmountable disrepair. Fortunately for Cadillac, the name did eventually bounce back. It just took—as is the case with most wounds—a long time to recover.