10 Automotive Turkeys

The Edsel

Introduced in 1958 at at a development cost of 400 million dollars which is equivalent to 3.026 billion dollars in 2010, this turkey is the greatest automotive failure in history.  Ernie Breech, the chairman of Ford said “someone hopped on that front end and called in a toilet seat and it was dead from that minute” After disappointing sales in 1958 and 1959, the plug was pulled after only 2,846 models were produced in 1960. Luckily for Ford, the Mustang wasn’t to far off.

Studebaker Scotsman

This car was so bare bones buyers probably felt lucky to have wheels. Introduced in the Fall of 1957 the Scotsman went 0-60 in a whopping 21 seconds.  Every expense was spared in the Scotsman. Exterior chrome was on the bumpers only and almost all Champion body trim was removed or painted. Paint colors were Lombard Green, Admiral Blue and Highland Gray, all flat and industrial looking. Utilitarian interiors came with “breathable Naugahyde and pin-grain vinyl” upholstery, fiberboard door panels, no armrests, a single visor and vacuum operated windshield wipers. To top off the features of the Scotsman, turn signals and a basic heater were included.  If you wanted a radio,  whitewalls or a cigarette lighter you would have to look elsewhere. Even the dealers were prohibited from adding these extras.

Ford Pinto


As a former Pinto owner I can attest to what a turkey this car was. I will give it credit for always starting. It didn’t always run but at least I could fire it up. Knowing that these cars could explode on impact Ford ruthlessly weighed the cost of fixing the problem for $121 million versus potentially paying out victims for $50 million. Way to go Ford.

Pontiac Aztek


I think the term “fugly” can be traced back to the Detroit auto show when this monstrosity was unveiled.  It’s bad enough the car was so ugly,but the colors of these beasts were just as bad. The coroners report listing Pontiacs cause of death has listed  the Aztec as a contributing factor.

1958 Packard Station Wagon

What do you do when two automobile companies merge and there’s no money to retool? You take parts from both, hire a welder and come up with the “Packardbaker” the sad result of once proud Studebaker and Packard desperately trying to survive.

Ford Probe

I’m sure this is a perfectly fine automobile but what the hell is a Probe?  Is it a car or a proctological procedure? What marketing genius came up with this one?



Never has a car been the butt of so many jokes. Here are a few.

Q. How do you double the value of a Yugo?
A. Fill the Tank

Q. What is found on the last two pages of every Yugo owner’s manual?
A. The bus schedule.

Q. Why do Yugos come with heated rear windows?
A. To keep your hands warm while you’re pushing them

Q. What do you call a Yugo with brakes?
A. Customized.

Q. How do you make a Yugo go faster downhill?
A. Turn off the engine.

AMC Gremlin

Take an AMC Hornet, chop off the rear end and your left with the Gremlin. A turkey that competed with two other turkeys, the Vega and the Pinto. AMC actually sold a lot of these cars and they had a loyal following. These cars were as brutal to drive as they were to look at.

1960-1962 Plymouth Valiant

Chryslers entry into the compact market in 1960 the Valiant had  controversial “Italian Styling”  but the questionable styling was the least of Valiants problems. The Valiant was plagued with problems- leaks being one of them. Drivers were known to find puddles of water on the floor and trunk after a heavy rain.  On a positive note, Valiants were equipped with an indestructible slant 6 engine.

Chevy Vega


When I think of the Vega I think of rust. Visible rust within a couple of years of leaving the dealership was common. If the rust didn’t kill your Vega the engine did. Engines routinely failed at the 50,000 mile mark. Maybe the vertical shippping method that Chevy used to ship its cars by rail was the problem.

22 Responses to “10 Automotive Turkeys”

  1. Dave says:

    Ford Probe: “…is it an [sic] car or a proctological procedure? ” Yeah. Very clever. Finger-up-the-butt references always kill ‘em, huh? Actually “Probe” was the name given to a Ford concept car as far back as the 60s, I believe. Space-age sounding name. Space Probe. Probing into the Future. Get it? And, interestingly, the original Probe concept car did share very similar lines with the later ones…

  2. Jason says:

    As a former pinto owner you should know better than to post that idiocy about them blowing up. The ford pinto was no more dangerous than any other car on the road at the time, and safer by far that quite a few. The exploding gas tank is nothing but myth and propagated by a rather unfortunate, and supremely ill-thought, memo that ford issued at the time.

    Aside from that, great article and I love the pics you managed to gather for this.

  3. Denis says:

    As stated the Probe ended-up assuming the name of a then popular concept car: Probe I thru IV. The car was originaly intended to be the new Mustang, but much pressure from the vintage collector clubs managed to save that from occuring. A handfull of corporate employes managed to create/design a new car on a side project ( Skunk works) , much of it being absorbed/created/supplied by the suppliers. We have to thank them for the revival and strong following to the Mustang brand.

  4. Pete says:

    Pintos and Gremlins were actually great little runabouts, but you had to be able to tinker with the Pinto. The engines were great. Timing belt changes in ten min if you broke/cut the cover. The Vega was crap even when brand new. The Yugo had a great little Fiat motor, but you had to be careful shifting ‘cuz the shifting forks bent easily; way too easily.

    Yugo motorcycle= Igo
    4 door Yugo= Wego
    broken Yugo= Nogo

  5. Talal El-haj says:

    Before I got married to my present and only wife, she called me around 1986, telling me that she have found a very beautiful car with a very cheep price. I answered: Are you talking about a car or a car toy? she answered , I swear it is a beautiful orange color Ford PINTO, two doors , hatch back,…etc.So I was very happy sending all my week salary That covers the price and gas” I was graduate architecture student at the univ. of Buffalo, The salary was from the cafeteria job” she and the car were in Arizona”. A week later, may be less, she called me, ” I need some money to fix the car. I asked how Much? the figure was more than I was making in a month. then I said, why you do not sell it to the mechanic? she answered , I would like to, I asked him, But he offered less than what I paid for gas , I filled it , then I had to bush it from the gas station to his shop. True story, I do not swear.

  6. Wood Gas says:

    The Chevrolet Corvair was another car that was labeled turkey. For poor, and dangerous handling.
    Guess what car won most of the autocross races for the decade after they went out of production?

  7. Tom says:

    I sat in an office building in Houston and watched out my window as a girl burned to death in her Pinto on an elevated expressway. Emergency vehicles took too long to find the proper access, resulting in a crispy critter. The Pinto had sideswiped the guardrail and the gas tank exploded.

    No “myth” there.

  8. What a mistake building these cars.

  9. Jim says:

    Denis is right, the Probe was suppose to be the new Mustang. Mustang clubs hated for a few reasons, one was that it was co-produced by Mazda. The car clubs renamed it the Maz-stang. Ford relented and renamed it the Probe (the name from the prototype). Ford also promised that the Mustang would remain made in the USA and rear wheel drive. I remember those days because it was one of the few times everybody in all the car shows agreed.

  10. The Pinto was dangerous for sure. I remeber that Pinto in Houston.

  11. Harry says:

    I do believe that the exploding Pinto was only during one or two years. mid 70s. I had a 1971 Pinto that was a great car, had the 1600 cc British engine and I also had an 80 model (last year made) and it was a great car as well. Ugly but ran great and got good mileage. Neighbor had a gremlin with the V8, loved that car.

  12. Dave Danielson says:

    I agree with the Pinto, the Vega, and the Yugo. The rest I like.

  13. Richard says:

    I had a friend w/a Pinto back in the day. I worried about his safety, but he stubbornly refused to replace the car. After dropping two cylinders, it sounded like a sewing machine was coming from 100 yds away.
    I actually like the styling of the early Gremlins. ‘Can’t explain why, I just do. As for the way they drove I can’t say, but considering the cars of the era, they probably did drive like a truck.
    My mother tried to talk me into a used Vega once. No sale!!
    The Yugo’s were actually well built cars from a sheet metal standpoint, so much so that doing body work on them actually cost more than the car was worth. Of course they were slow and handled like a 4WD. They were so heavy and under-powered they couldn’t get out of their own way.
    What about the 4th generation Acura TL’s?? They are about as ugly as fugly gets!! Even Acura didn’t stay w/the body style too long. R.I.P. 2009-2011 TL.

  14. Don Ellickson says:

    The pinto wasn’t the only car with a drop in fuel cell you idiots! It was a industry standard at the time and it brought an end to that practice by all manufacturers – like the fuel cell behind the seat in pickup trucks that ended in the early 70’s cause some dumbass engineer thought it was a good idea! Live and learn the hard way I guess!

  15. I had a Vega it always got me where i wanted to go gas mileage was great and the best thing was I never had to change the oil I just added 2 quarts a week

  16. Dave Schumacher says:

    I would love to have either the Edsel, the Scotsman, the Valiant or the Packardbaker today. Any of those would draw a crowd at any old car event. Hell, the Vega, Pinto & Gremlin probably would as well.

  17. PINTOBEAN says:

    I dont agree at all with this list I own a 1980 pinto with 187.000 orig miles they were dam good cars ive had alot of fun with mine We just celabrated the 40 birthday of the pinto and just had a pinto stampede back in june from col to penn for the all ford show we had 70 pintos show up and yes mine was one of them and had two people drove thiers from calli no problems

  18. compact cars says:

    Every mistake of a man inspires him to find the next best solution. So the turkeys in the automobile industry doesn’t means that it has failed but it makes the way for the improved and higher quality version.

  19. Seal says:

    Well I have fond memories of the Pinto! I was just a wee young lad at the time, and my Mom and I would tool around town in her metallic brown Pinto in the early-80’s. I still remember the strawberry air freshener hanging in the mirror and listening to Abracadabra on the radio. And just about burning my hand when I was curious enough to touch the muffler after a drive, lol!… When my Mom sold it, the car needed some valve work. But a mechanic who did valve work bought it, so just as well.

  20. D. Yaros says:

    I feel qualified to comment on your “turkeys,” having owned 2 of them; a 1973 AMC Gremlin and a 1976 Ford Pinto.

    I understand that AMC slapped cars together with whatever parts they had on hand. That being so, they did function fairly well. Longevity was, obviously, not their strong suit. Ergo the ‘rarer than hen’s teeth’ status today.

    As for the Pinto, it was reliable, economical, practical and easy to repair. When I sold mine it had a mere 185,000 miles on it! And Ralph Nader notwithstanding, reports of them blowing up are just that, reports. More fiction than fact.

    For my perspective on the collector car hobby, monthly, take a look online at Car Collector Chronicles. It is free, has no ads, and cover all aspects of the hobby. Find it here –

  21. Bob Mullins says:

    Great Classic photos! I love to see the classics that were just cars to me when I was a young boy!



  22. Dan McPhail says:

    I’m a 64 year young radio and mobile dj and car collector fanatic. The remarks on the ’58 Packard Wagon don’t tell the whole story. For having no money to retool, the style to me is fantastic.
    And with just 158 built and probably only 40 surviving, fans will be interested to know that a ’58 Packard/Stud wagon recently shown completely restored at a southeast Michigan Concour D’Elegance was valued by the folks at Mecum and Barret Jackson the prestigious collector car auction guys, at $100,000 and the cars has standing offers from 4 collectors to sell at that price.
    So whose laughing now? To me 57 through 59 American cars of all makes were works of art, with the 57’s and 59’s at the top, and 58’s one of a kind unique across all product lines. The Packard even when merged with Studebaker was a breathtaking iconic tremendous car, each of them driven 12 miles and everything meticulously tweaked before odometers were put in and they were shipped. THAT’S quality. I’d give my left u know what for a conditon #2 1958 Packard Wagon!

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