These ideas were obvious failures before they were even built, and yet, they were built anyways.

10.) Reliant Robin


Many people looked at this “car” with it’s one wheel at the front and said “this is a good idea, and a thing that is ok to sell to the public.”

I can understand why you might want a 3-wheeled car, but at least put that third wheel at the back so the car doesn’t, you know, roll over every time you turn.

Suggested By: mt.rooney, Photo Credit: Reliant

9.) Caproni Ca.60


In many cases engineering disasters only become obvious after they prove to be disastrous, like the Tacoma Narrows bridge. It seems so obvious now, but its engineers didn’t know what we know.

You might be tempted to say that about the Caproni Ca.60 given that it was built in 1921, but then you look at it. How did Gianni Caproni not see that this giant monstrosity would crash on its first flight?


Suggested By: JayHova, Photo Credit: Public Domain

8.) Mazda Roadpacer AP


Mazda needed a big sedan for the Japanese market in the mid-70s, so they contacted Holden. Holden would send over an HJ Premier to Japan and Mazda would stick an engine and some badges on it.

So what engine did they put in this 3,500 lb. car? A 1.3 liter Rotary that made 130 hp at 6,000 RPM and a meager 102 lb./ft of torque, which is kinda sorta the opposite of what you need for a big luxury sedan.


It did about 9 MPG during a fuel crisis, so predictably, only 800 were made. Anything would have been better than a rotary.

Suggested By: JayHova, Photo Credit: Mazda

7.) Rolls-Royce Vulture


A good thing to do is to take things that are simple and reliable and make them much more complex. That’s what Rolls-Royce did when they stuck two Merlin V12s together to make an X-24.

The Merlin was more powerful and more reliable than the Vulture, plus WWII significantly limited the amount of development it could be done, so the engine was shelved.


Suggested By: ClassicDatsunDebate, Photo Credit: via 1939-1945 Blog

6.) 1923 Chevrolet C-Series Copper Cooled


Air-cooling an engine was a tempting prospect back in 1923 since it removed all the complexity of having a radiator, but it wasn’t quite fully baked. Charles Kettering, head engineer of Delco at the time, pushed his idea for an air-cooled four cylinder through a bit prematurely.

The engine hadn’t tested well, but Kettering used politics to put it into production anyway, which was a mistake. Under 800 were built before the air cooling experiment was shelved.


Suggested By: Patrick Frawley, Photo Credit: Chevrolet

5.) Bradley Fighting Vehicle


This is what happens when you try to make a vehicle that does everything. It does everything, but it doesn’t do anything particularly well.

This quote from the movie about its development The Pentagon Wars sums it up well:

“What we have before you is a troop transport that can’t carry troops, a scout that’s too conspicuous to do reconnaissance, and a quasi-tank which has less armor than a snow blower, but has enough ammo to take out half of DC.”


And yet, they built it.

Suggested By: Chuck 2(O=[][]=O)2, Photo Credit: Getty Images

4.) Citicorp Center


When designing a tall building, you need to be account for things like wind loads.

The designer for this building calculated the loads for North, South, East, and West, but not for Northwest, Northeast, Southwest, or Southeast that would blow on the corners.


So the building wasn’t exactly rigid and had to be modified extensively. Couple that with the fact that they used bolted joints instead of riveted joints and it’s amazing this thing didn’t kill anyone.

Suggested By: AdjustableWrench, Photo Credit: Getty Images

3.) Oldsmobile Diesel


This thing from was so bad, otherwise reasonable Americans to this day think that diesels are the spawn of the devil himself.

GM rushed a diesel to market because of the 1973 fuel crisis, and they did this by taking an Olds 350 reinforcing the block, upping the compression, and not much else. They should have strengthened the headbolts, but they didn’t so it’d be the same part between the gas and diesel motors. This lead to numerous blown head gaskets and hydro-locked motors.


Add the fact that the engine wasn’t even great when it was working properly, and you can see why Americans hate diesel.

Suggested By: 472CID, Photo Credit: Didier Lahousse

2.) Elefant Tank


Ferdinand Porsche was a brilliant engineer, but this was not his finest hour. I’ll let reader Ghoulardi explain:

“Porsche was so confident he would win the contract for the Tiger tank that he began producing chassis before the contract was awarded. When his design was judged inferior to the Henschel he convinced the military to let him build tank destroyers out of the chassis he had already began producing. So it began life as a loser.

Then they built it, but forgot to add opening for machine guns, or openings for vision to the side or the rear. Plus it was quite underpowered for the weight it was pushing and it couldn’t maneuver wort a damn, and they were so large they couldn’t hide behind anything short of a mountain. So when they appeared at the battle of Kursk the Russian infantry made mincemeat of them - - no need to have a Russian tank engage it when an infantryman could walk up to the side of it and lob a Molotov cocktail onto it.

Not willing to call it a day and melt the things down as scrap the tanks were “retrofitted” by providing the crew with a machine gun with bent barrel so that they could fire at nearby troops through an open hatch. This of course meant they had to open the hatch in the middle of the battle, which kind of defeats the purpose of an enclosed armored vehicle.

As they were a new design and untested, they did break down quite a lot in the field. This isn’t bad engineering per-se, but they had no way to fix them. The problem was the weight - - they were so heavy they couldn’t be towed. So the tanks that were not knocked out by the Russian infantry were permanently lost due to break downs.

The tanks were eventually withdrawn from the eastern front and reassigned to Europe, but they were too heavy and wide to get across all but the largest bridges. Soon enough they were sitting ducks for the soldiers on the western front, plus the allied aircraft, allied artillery, etc.”


Suggested By: Ghoulardi, Photo Credit: Vack


1.) F-35


I’ll quote our man Tyler Rogoway about why the F-35 is a complete dud:

“I am not sure if a currently grounded fighter aircraft that has seen almost every jet built, around 100 so far, recalled back to the factory for elaborate rework modifications, is way over budget and far behind schedule, and just spewed its engine’s guts all over the Eglin AFB’s runway is a good ambassador for any new model of car. Not to mention many consider the F-35 as over-weight and under-powered, and a compromised design from the beginning.


Suggested By: Jeb_Hodge, Photo Credit: Getty Images

Welcome back to Answers of the Day - our daily Jalopnik feature where we take the best ten responses from the previous day’s Question of the Day and shine it up to show off. It’s by you and for you, the Jalopnik readers. Enjoy!


Top Photo Credit: BBC Top Gear

Contact the author at

Share This Story

Get our newsletter