When someone sets out to design a new car, they don’t plan for it to be a failure. Many long hours of work, including designing, building prototypes, test driving, and advertising go into a new vehicle. Making a new vehicle only to have that dream fizzle and die must really take its toll on all those involved. We may laugh at the failures and wonder, “What were they thinking?” and move on, but it’s certainly no joke to those who have put blood, sweat, and tears into creating a new car. Depending on the era, hundreds, thousands, and even millions of dollars have gone down the drain in developing vehicles that bombed with customers and critics.
Not all car failures are due strictly to the quantity sold: some cars become failures because their basic design proved unsafe, some because the engineering wasn’t up to snuff, some because the styling was terrible, and a rare few because they were genuinely ahead of their time. Not all cars deemed failures have even disappeared from the driving scene. You may not see a lot of them today, but every now and then, somebody’s still driving a Pinto, ’74 Lincoln Continental Mark IV, or Pacer. Some people quite like the vehicles that carry the dubious distinction of being a mass-market failure. Even the sorry little Yugo had one or two fans in its short lifetime.
We’ve created our list of the 25 most epic vehicle failures from prior efforts to memorialize some of the industry’s biggest bombs. Our list begins with an interesting invention that fizzled right when the very first “cars” arrived on the road.
1. Horsey Horseless (1899)
When automobiles were truly in their infancy, and most major manufacturers hadn’t even been incorporated, people were nervous about newfangled “horseless carriages.” Uriah Smith, who lived in Battle Creek, Michigan, came up with the idea to mount a carved horse’s head on the front of a car. His theory was that the horses on the streets wouldn’t be frightened of noisy vehicles if they saw another horse coming and drivers might appreciate the styling of a horse-drawn vehicle. He patented his idea, but it turns out people were more willing to adopt new cars than he thought and the Horsey Horseless disappeared.