These Are The Worst Cars Of The 1980s

These Are The Worst Cars Of The 1980s

The 80s might have brought us Let’s Dance, but sadly not all its cars were as good as its records.

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An image of a Chevrolet car from the 1980s.
Is this the worst the 80s had to offer?
Illustration: Chevrolet

If you look at any decade across automotive history, you’re bound to come across a few losers from carmakers around the world. And while the 1980s might have been a great time for music and cinema, it turns out to be a tumultuous decade in terms of car design.

To uncover some of the worst offenders in the period of motoring mayhem, we turned to you. Yesterday, we asked what the worst car from the 1980s really was, and you had a LOT of good replies.

So sit back, relax and enjoy 20 of the worst cars to roll off production lines between 1980 and 1989.

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Cadillac Cimarron

Cadillac Cimarron

A photo of a purple Cadillac Cimarron car.
Photo: Cadillac

“With models like the BMW 3-Series and other small European luxury cars getting popular in the US, GM wanted to compete... so they stuck a Cadillac badge on a Chevy Cavalier and gave it ‘luxury’ equipment like velour seats and power windows. It also got the Cavalier’s 80hp 4-cylinder engine... but it’s OK, later they gave it a V6 with a whopping 130hp!

“Obviously it was a miserable failure. The Cavalier was a piece of crap on its own, but it at least was a piece of crap with a purpose. Putting a Cadillac badge on it and pretending it’s a luxury car is just a whole different level.”

Built between 1982 and 1988, the Cimarron was an entry-level luxury car from Cadillac. But, it was a pretty cursed endeavor and the Cimarron has often been thought of as one of the worst cars of all time, let alone the ‘80s.

Suggested by: skuhnphoto

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Delorean DMC-12

Delorean DMC-12

A photo of the front of a Delorean car.
Photo: Thilo Parg via Wikimedia Commons

“Harsh take: Delorean

“Looks amazing, but that’s it. It’s all hat, no cattle. Lame engine, not great to drive. Bad build quality. Embroiled in scandal. Forgotten until Back to the Future.”

The Delorean DMC-12 is definitive proof that there’s more to life than looks. Designed by an American, built in Ireland and made with spare parts from a whole heap of random cars, the Delorean is one of the most famous flops in automotive history.

Suggested by: hangovergrenade

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Nissan 1400

Nissan 1400

A photo of a Nissan 1400 pickup truck at a mine.
Photo: Nissan

“In South Africa we got the Nissan 1400 pickup. A nominal half-tonner with a tiny cab; nothing for anyone over 1.75m (5' 9"). With only a driver, it had pocket rocket performance with donkey cart road holding.”

Nissan produced the 1400 pickup truck between 1971 and 2008. Originally launched as the Datsun 1200, it was upgraded with a 1.4-liter engine to become the Nissan 1400 in 1980.

Suggested by: Andreas Fuhs (Facebook)

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Maserati Biturbo

Maserati Biturbo

A photo of a brown Maserati Biturbo sports car.
Photo: Maserati

“Has anything good ever been said about a Maserati Biturbo? Any of them that made it out of the 80's rust were immediately underpowered and a pain to work on, if only because of the number of changes that happened seemingly at random.”

During its 13-year reign, the Maserati Biturbo won very few fans. The car had overheating issues, poor build quality and bad reliability, making it an easy target for the title of worst car of the decade.

Suggested by: syaieya

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Chevrolet Citation

Chevrolet Citation

A photo of a 1980s Chevrolet Citation sedan.
Photo: Chevrolet

“The Chevy Citation asked the Yugo to hold its beer. A rolling pile of garbage.”

This early foray into the world of compact cars from Chevrolet didn’t go quite as planned. Built between 1980 and 1985, the Citation was plagued with quality issues and reliability woes. I’m sensing a pattern here.

Suggested by: Mike Basile

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Dodge Diplomat

Dodge Diplomat

An image of a Dodge Diplomat car at sunset.
Photo: Dodge

“The 1982 Dodge Diplomat. Remember that in 1981 Dodge and Plymouth released the Aries and Reliant. The first K-cars. In 1982, they both had the M-body Diplomat and Gran Fury. Chrysler was in such trouble precisely because of cars like the Diplomat and Gran Fury. Chrysler had basically had a monopoly on police cars from the 1950s up to the 1980s. But the police fucking hated the Diplomats and the Gran Furies. That’s how Chevrolet got in with the first 9C1 Caprice CPP, and Ford later had a total monopoly with the P71 Crown Victoria Interceptor.

“Bloated because of their all steel bodies, but somehow flimsy enough that sitting on the trunk or front fenders could bend them downward if you were a healthy adult man. Seats that collapsed in because Chrysler cheapened out on the foam and didn’t brace the frames. Awkward driving dynamics and shit ride quality because they kept the 1977 bodies but just shoved the rear axles forward to fix on the much shorter F-body frames that were actually A-body frames that they widened the center rails on. A scrunched up driving position because they moved the front seats forward, because the moved the rear seats forward, because as mentioned before they moved the rear axle forward. A 318 that made 130HP and got 16-18MPG tested at the time, which means in reality they got 9-11MPG real world, and no 360 anymore.”

Over the course of 12 years, Dodge shipped almost 400,000 Diplomats. I wonder how many are still out there on the road today?

Suggested by: vulpeshilarianus

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Ford Escort

Ford Escort

A technical illustration of the workings of a Ford Escort.
Illustration: Ford

“Ford Escort, my dad has a wagon and uncle had a hatchback, my dad’s was toast at 60k. Found on road, dead!”

Offered in North America between 1980 and 2003, the Escort was Ford’s smallest car for a while. Originally launched as a successor to the Pinto, America’s first Escort could be bought with an inline-four engine and an ATX automatic transmission.

Suggested by: Eric Natsuhiro Jordan (Facebook)

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Citroen 2CV

Citroen 2CV

A photo of a red Citroen 2CV car.
Photo: Citroen

“They were just what a post-war France needed in 1948 to get people moving again, but they kept making them until 1990! The Soviet Union and other Iron Curtain countries could be forgiven for their Ladas and Trablants, but no reason why these made sense for France in the late 1980s.”

You could argue that the 2CV isn’t a car of the ‘80s, but its seemingly endless production means it could earn itself a place on a list of the worst cars from almost any decade.

Suggested by: golfball

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Trabant

Trabant

A photo of a Trabant station wagon.
Photo: Trabant

“Eastern Bloc cars are the low hanging fruit, but rightfully so. We got the Yugo here in the US, but every now and again I’ll see a Trabant show up at a car show.

“The Trabant’s that appear at car shows are obviously not daily drivers and have been loved (for some unknown reason) and taken care of. The every day Trabant was shit. Wikipedia notes, ‘build quality was poor, reliability was terrible and it was loud, slow and poorly designed.’ 21 seconds from 0 to 62 mph from a 594 cc two stroke with body panels made of Duroplast (Google Trabant Factory Video for fun).

“These things were hot garbage on wheels. Talk to anyone who lived in East Germany and they were scrounging parts to keep whatever they could find running instead of waiting for an opportunity to own one of these. A friend once told me he was pulling parts from anywhere (I believe he said some were buried in manure) so he could to keep his beat to shit Beetle running because it was much higher quality than these things and his was missing part of the floor.”

We did Google “Trabant Factory Video” for fun, and I feel like it explained a lot.

Suggested by: negativeed

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Hyundai Pony

Hyundai Pony

A photo of people loading shopping into a Hyundai Pony hatchback car.
Photo: Hyundai

“First Hyundai export to North America. They sold well due to the $6,000 price. Rear wheel drive, solid axle with leaf springs and low weight made it terrible on snowy roads.

“The carbureted 1.4-liter and a 4-speed manual transmission that had throws as long and loose as a meter stick in a pail of poutine made it terrible year-round. The higher trim models even had ‘80s classic louvers on the hatch window.

“Closing the doors made a sound like dropping a baking sheet on a tile floor. They never lost the ‘new car smell’ that was awful to begin with. Even though they sold so well, they all basically dissolved before padded shoulder pads went out of style.”

The Hyundai Pony was South Korea’s first mass-produced and exported car, so I guess a few teething issues could be excused here. But, from this poster’s description, it doesn’t sound like a very fun car to live with.

Suggested by: islanddriver

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TVR S-Series

TVR S-Series

A photo of a silver TVR S Series car.
Photo: TVR

“I imported a TVR S3 to Texas... what a POS. Beautiful car, good performer, build quality was that of a drunk freshman high school shop class.

“You can’t find a worse built car.

“I took off the door panels to figure out the power windows and the factory just sawzall’d the inside of the door out to make an access hole. Window motor was held in with self tappers and a perforated steel strap. I did some research, and that wasn’t a hack repair. That’s how it came from the factory. There’s plenty of other parts of the car that were like that too.”

The S Series was launched in the 1980s by British sports car brand TVR. They looked great, and between 1986 and 1994 the firm produced more than 2,500 S-series cars - to varying degrees of quality if this poster is to be believed.

Suggested by: Chris Salisbury (Facebook)

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Chrysler Laser

Chrysler Laser

A photo of a convertible Chrysler Laser sports car.
Photo: Chrysler

“The Chrysler Laser. Anyone remember them, much less see one since the 80's? And to think this model was supposed to be the upscale version of the Dodge Daytona from back then, which itself was an abomination for carrying that nameplate. I remember seeing them in real time and they somehow made a 70's era Chevette look stout.”

Call it a Dodge Daytona, call it a Chrysler Laser – whatever name you chose, both were pretty awful.

Suggested by: elgordo47

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Buick Century

Buick Century

A photo of a brown and blue Buick Century station wagon.
Photo: Buick

“The 1984 Buick Century that my parents owned. It had the Iron Duke, so it could barely get out of its own way. Ours was turd brown with a turd brown interior and a turd brown vinyl roof. The front edge of the roof rusted, and we couldn’t find any windshield replacers that could fix it, so it leaked every time it rained.

“When I inherited the car, I went to Fleet Farm and bought a bunch of turd brown duct tape to fix the roof. It also had defective power steering that my parents never got fixed, so driving it on a cold day was worse than having manual steering.”

If you’re fixing your car with “turd brown” duct tape, you know you’ve got issues. I wonder if this 1984 Buick even lasted until the end of the century?

Suggested by: aj19

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Chevrolet Celebrity

Chevrolet Celebrity

An illustration of a Chevrolet Celebrity station wagon.
Photo: Chevrolet

“Chevrolet Celebrity with the carbureted version of the 2.8L. That car required you to perfectly perform a rain dance thrice and load up the carb with ether to start it – even when it was perfectly sunny and 72˚F outside.”

Made between 1982 and 1990, the Chevrolet Celebrity offered little reason to celebrate. In fact, GM stopped updating the car in 1987 and announced it would kill off the model within a few years.

Suggested by: ranma

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Alfa Romeo Arna

Alfa Romeo Arna

A photo of an Alfa Romeo Arna hatchback.
Photo: Alfa Romeo

“Alfa Arna was a perfect fusion of the worst Italian reliability with the worst Japanese styling.”

This description is all the right words, but in all the wrong places.

Suggested by: Alastair Walker (Facebook)

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Opel Kadett

Opel Kadett

A photo of a red Opel Kadett hatchback.
Photo: Opel

“I would say Opel Kadett.

“A colleague of mine had one, it had a flat tire one day, we tried to jack the car up only for the sill to bend below the A-pillar. It was this exact horrendous shade of blue and just a total turd.”

That does not sound like an ideal scenario for replacing a flat tire.

Suggested by: felixthegrumpycat

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The Yugo

The Yugo

A photo of a red Yugo car.
Photo: Yugo

“I’ll go with the Yugo. Or the four-door version, the Wego.

“Ah, the 1980s, when pickup trucks were real, still designed for the working man, and priced around $7-8K. Instead of today’s modern luxo-barge designed for the contractor suit so he can check on his illegal minions and bring them a bundle of shingles or 2x’s from time to time, and get a nice tax write-off so he can afford the $80k price.”

Alright, we get it, the Yugo isn’t a perfect car. But if we all celebrated our imperfections a little we might all be a bit happier. Imagine a world where we all drove Yugos, what a place that would be!

Suggested by: grasscatcher2

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Pontiac Fiero

Pontiac Fiero

A photo of a white Pontiac Fiero sports car parked next to a puddle.
Photo: Pontiac

“Since the Yugo and Cimmeron have already been mentioned here, how about the Pontiac Fiero....

“Powered originally the mighty Iron Duke 4 cylinder economy car engine, in a configuration that starved it for oil, suspension and other parts taken from the Chevette and Citation, which ensured that handling wasn’t as good as it’s looks, and of course, carrying “the torch” from Ford’s pinto for having a nasty tendency to catch fire, sort of in a budget Lotus sort of way!”

For four years from 1984, the Pontiac Fiero brought havoc to anyone unlucky enough to drive one off the forecourt. The car had safety issues, fire worries and leaky hoses. All things you don’t want from a mid-engined sports car.

Suggested by: Jason Gorodetzer (Facebook)

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Cadillac Sedan deVille

Cadillac Sedan deVille

A black and whit photo of a 1980s Cadillac sedan.
Photo: Cadillac

“The 1985 Cadillac Sedan de Ville. This was the first year of the new FWD platform and the craptastic HT4100. In addition to Car and Driver tearing a rear tire off the rim during skid pad testing the diminished styling and unreliable engine drove away traditional buyers who ended up in Lincolns. Cadillac tried to save things by reintroducing tail fins and tuning the suspension but the damage was done.

“While the Cimarron as 3 series competitor was a stupid idea and a brand dilution, its Cavalier platform was at least reliable.”

Suggested by: geoff-vader

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Almost all of Them

Almost all of Them

A photo of a factory full of abandoned British Leyland Cars.
Photo: Ian Tyas/Keystone/Hulton Archive (Getty Images)

“Pick a car, any car. American cars were dog crap on toast with massive amounts of cost cutting and half-assery. Japanese cars all looked the same from the factory and dissolved before they got across the ocean. Somehow or another most European cars were worse than either.

“This slideshow could be 8000 pages long and still miss worthy contenders.

“There is one thing to say about Cars of the 80s. They were NEVER boring. Every car of the 80s brought tons of adventures and left deep and lasting memories for their owners. And that’s not a compliment.”

An 8,000 page slideshow, don’t go giving us ideas!

But yes, this poster does have a point, the ‘80s was not a decade overflowing with undisputed classics

Suggested by: yeardley68

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