I'm Pretty Sure This Is The Saddest Car Badge Ever

Illustration for article titled I'm Pretty Sure This Is The Saddest Car Badge Ever

A car’s badge isn’t a necessary part of a car. It’s there not for rational, engineering reasons, but because the company and people that designed and built that car want you to know, hey, this is ours. We made this. It’s like an artist’s signature on a painting. It’s a mark of pride. I think that’s why the badge on the Daewoo LeMans/Racer makes me so sad.


Those of us here in the land of plentiful colas and free from the tyranny of the Metric system encountered these same cars as the Pontiac LeMans, a sad little economy car that, generally, nobody really liked. This fact is key to why the original Daewoo car’s badge makes me so depressed. Let’s just compare the Daewoo Racer badge to the Pontiac LeMans badge:

Illustration for article titled I'm Pretty Sure This Is The Saddest Car Badge Ever

I’m sure you’re noticing the similar shapes. It’s important to note that Daewoo’s logo didn’t look like that; most other Daewoos had very different badges, as you can see here in this ad for the Daewoo Maepsy:

Actually, as a commenter pointed out, the Maepsy is actually a Saehan, a company bought by Daewoo. So, not a great example, I guess.

So, why did the LeMans get that triangular badge? The reason was entirely that the car was to be re-badged as a Pontiac, and Daewoo only made one casting of the plastic front grille/fascia, and that one casting was made to fit the Pontiac logo.

I guess this makes me feel uneasy because it suggests that Daewoo gave so little of a shit about the car that they couldn’t even bother to make a separate fascia that fit their own badge, one they’d been using for years.


This was their car, and yet they caved and redesigned their own badge, just combining the crown from their Daewoo Royale and sticking it on a triangle the same shape as Pontiac’s arrowhead, and called it good enough.

I mean, it’s not like the Daewoo LeMans was anything sublime, but it was Daewoo’s dammit. Well, by way of Opel, since the car was originally a Kadett, but still. This feels like an artist signing the name of the buyer to a painting—there’s just something sort of wrong about it.

Maybe it’s the obvious power imbalance at play; Daewoo was not an equal partner with GM/Pontiac, and so perhaps the fact that they had to alter their badge to fit the Pontiac badge’s shape just feels like a bit of visual humiliation, like Pontiac was rubbing it in.

Or maybe I’m overthinking this.

Illustration for article titled I'm Pretty Sure This Is The Saddest Car Badge Ever

The LeMans got all kinds of crazy badge engineering, including being re-badged as a car brand I have to admit, I hadn’t heard of before: Passport. Passport was a Canadian dealership network that, for some reason, badged their own cars, including the LeMans, as a Passport Optima.

Of course, the Optima’s badge was also basically shaped like Pontiac’s.

You know, maybe I am reading this all wrong. I remembered that I had a brochure for the Daewoo Tico I picked up when I was in South Korea back in the mid 1990s, and in looking at the brochure, I can’t find a single image of the Daewoo logo, a Daewoo badge on the car, or even the Daewoo name used anywhere. It’s just Tico.


I did find one reference to Daewoo, the name stamped on the center cap of the steering wheel. But that’s it.

Illustration for article titled I'm Pretty Sure This Is The Saddest Car Badge Ever

So, maybe Daewoo is the most bashful carmaker ever? The most reluctant to actually put their own name on the cars they make, the one most willing to abandon and debase their own branding in service of another?

I suppose it’s possible. And from what I remember test driving a Daewoo Nubria at the dealership when they were in Los Angeles, I can’t say I don’t understand their desire for anonymity.

Senior Editor, Jalopnik • Running: 1973 VW Beetle, 2006 Scion xB, 1990 Nissan Pao, 1991 Yugo GV Plus, 2020 Changli EV • Not-so-running: 1977 Dodge Tioga RV (also, buy my book!: https://rb.gy/udnqhh)



I had one of these, and it was fun. Not fun in a fun sports car kinda way, more fun in a “I drive a Yugo ironically” kinda way.

Some of the issues:
- You had to make your choice between radio and headlights, as the car couldn’t power both at the same time. If you tried, you just got excessively dim headlights and a radio that just kinda buzzed.

- Horsepower was... lacking. Top speed on a clear day on level ground with minimal wind was ~75mph. If it was raining, 65 was about the best you could hope for. If you have the headlights or radio on (again, not both), 60 was about all she wrote. None of this mattered much, since anything above 55 was pretty intimidating in any kind of traffic.

- The “rebadging” was pretty poorly done. There was a pretty healthy mix of Daewoo and Pontiac badges to be found, and at least one of the Pontiac badges was literally glued on top of a Daewoo badge. I learned this when the glue let up and the badge fell off, because of course it did.

- It had a manual transmission (ok, +1 for it there), but no tach. Instead it had a “Pontiac” gauge. Seriously, what is this:

The one good thing I can say about it was it got great fuel economy