These Are the Worst Race Cars of All Time

These Are the Worst Race Cars of All Time

From F1 to Nascar, these are your picks for the worst race cars to have ever hit the track.

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A photo of the Life F1 car racing in 1990.
When Life gives Bruno Giacomelli lemons.
Photo: Pascal Rondeau

Most of the race cars that history will look back on are the ones that dominated races, brought victory for famous faces and basked in the eternal glory of claiming a championship. But there are cars at the opposite end of the automotive spectrum that deserve recognition.

Those cars were so bad, we just need to know what they are, so we can learn from their creational mistakes. So, to identify such vehicles, we turned to you and asked for your suggestions for the worst race cars of all time. Here are some of the top suggestions we received, including a few from racing drivers.

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Eco Racing

Eco Racing

A photo of the Eco Racing car at Petit Le Mans in 2009.
Photo: Chris Graythen (Getty Images)

“The LMP1 Dawnson car we attempted to race at Petit Le Mans. Production Touareg engine (heavy AF) and so slow GTE cars were passing us. Before we were told we can’t race because the car was so slow one of our drivers was already refusing to race because the shitbox was dangerous.”

American sports car racer Dion von Moltke thinks the Eco Racing Radical racer is the worst of all time. This open-cockpit car was powered by an engine that took its inspiration from the VW Touareg.

Suggested by: @DionvmR (Twitter)

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Nascar in 1981

Nascar in 1981

A photo of the 1981 Pontiac Valvoline Race Car.
Photo: dave_7 via Wikimedia Commons

“People are probably gonna come @ me over this, but any of the Nascar machines from like 1981-1982. The boxy end of the malaise era with government bumpers made for some extremely awkward looking race cars.

“Plus they still looked a lot like the production cars, which only made things worse when you see Nascar drivers playing around with unrestricted V8s while the biggest engines in their publicly sold counterparts amounted to less than 200 horsies.”

But people keep telling me that the old times were the best?

Suggested by: sidbridge

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Chrysler Patriot LMP

Chrysler Patriot LMP

A photo of the hybrid Chrysler Patriot race car.
Photo: Greg Gjerdingen via Wikimedia Commons

“I think the worst race cars would be ones that didn’t make it out of testing and R&D. With that:

“Ford J-Car - Aero was poor, even though the car was fast, and the chassis, as innovative as it was, had several structural issues. The program ended when Ken Miles was killed. It was then revamped into the MkIV program.

“Chrysler Patriot LMP - Very innovative using a turbine engine and a KERS system using a flywheel in a vacuumed housing, but internal politics ruined its potential, and even killed an engineer when a flywheel test failed. Any pictures that look like it’s in motion is only because the car was first towed and then coasted.

“McLaren MP4/18 - pretty’s sure there’s an article already on Jalopnik, if not, Google it.”

A few great suggestions here for atrocious race cars. The Patriot was a great idea thanks to its use of hybrid power and an energy storage system that used a flywheel housed in a vacuum – similar to how satellites store power in space.

Suggested by: Jeffrey Conover (Facebook)

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Toyota TF102

Toyota TF102

A photo of two race drivers sat on the wheels of a red and white Toyota F1 car.
Photo: Bryn Lennon (Getty Images)

“There’s a lot of smaller F1 teams, especially in the ‘80s-’90s that couldn’t even qualify for a race.

“But for big teams I think the Toyota TF102 and TF107 have to be up there. Toyota spent so much money to come into F1 and failed pretty spectacularly.

“TF102 was their first effort and had at least one car retire from 8 rounds and another four where both cars retired. The TF106 and TF107 were bad because in ‘05 they had some good results with podiums, fastest laps and even a pole position but then there was zero carryover.

“The TF106 did all right and finished in the points a few times, but the TF107 was awful. Just seven points finishes to 10 retirements.”

A huge manufacturer putting all its efforts into a flawed F1 race car? It can’t be! Raced in 2002, the Toyota TF102 was driven by Mika Salo and Allan McNish.

Suggested by: holderofthehouse

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2010 Jaguar XKR

2010 Jaguar XKR

A photo of a black and green Jaguar XKR racer.
Photo: Darrell Ingham (Getty Images)

“The Jag GT2 car from 2010-2011. I think it made two laps at Le Mans before electrical issues (imagine that) forced it to retire. Ran poorly in ALMS as well.”

Raced in the GT2 class in 2010, this modified Jaguar XKR was not great. It made a return in 2011 as the RSR team entered two cars into Le Mans that year.

Suggested by: @TheRainLine (Twitter)

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7 / 18

Group B

Group B

A photo of an Audi Group B rally car at the Goodwood Festival of Speed.
Photo: Charles Coates (Getty Images)

“Unpopular take: all Group B rally cars.

“The cars themselves were ‘cool’, but they were totally unsafe and out of control. Drivers died, spectators died. Not worth it.”

Don’t shoot the messenger, this is a real comment from a real poster. But it does make some valid points, can bad car design be excused if it makes the racing better?

Suggested by: hangovergrenade

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8 / 18

Nissan Deltawing

Nissan Deltawing

A photo of the black Nissan DeltaWing concept on display.
Photo: Thierry Zoccolan/AFP (Getty Images)

“Deltawing. Dropped out of its first Lemans race. Dropped out of six of its eight races in the 2013 ALMS season. Six out of nine in 2015. Never won. Never set the pole.”

What a ridiculous car this was! Unveiled in 2012, the unconventional design was viewed as revolutionary at the time. As I’m sure you’ve guessed, it didn’t prove to be.

Suggested by: @tlanta_sean (Twitter)

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9 / 18

Life L190

Life L190

A photo of the Life F1 car raced in 1990.
Photo: Pascal Rondeau/Allsport (Getty Images)

“The Life W12 is without doubt the worst. Slow and unreliable. Its record was completing 8 laps before breaking.”

Raced in the 1990 F1 season, the Life L190 was powered by an experimental W12 engine. Sadly, it didn’t prove to be a gamble that paid off and the car failed to qualify for a single event that year.

Suggested by: Chris Watts (Facebook)

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10 / 18

Nascar’s Fifth Generation

Nascar’s Fifth Generation

A photo of Nascar racers in 2011.
Photo: Geoff Burke (Getty Images)

“NASCAR fifth gen/COT. Even though they claim these were mostly about safety upgrades, I’m convinced they were trying to get the whole FnF tuner vibe going in stock cars with the splitter and wing.

“Fun fact, they had to axe the rear wing after like three years because every time someone got turned going more than 150ish, the car would get launched into orbit. But really, it was about safety.”

Run between 2008 and 2012, the fifth generation Nascar racer was also dubbed the Car of Tomorrow.

Suggested by: mosko13

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11 / 18

Mazda RX-792P

Mazda RX-792P

A photo of a 1992 Mazda race car.
Photo: Edvvc via Wikimedia Commons

“The easy-on-the-eyes Mazda RX-792P that ran IMSA in 1992. It looked the business but was outpaced by privateer Spice-Chevys, eight year old Porsche 962s and even some of the Camel Lights cars (especially the class-leading Spice-Acuras). The F1 Ferrari 643 and F92 were dismal. Those were the most high-profile flops, especially those Ferraris given how capable the 641 was.”

Run in 1992, the Mazda RX-792P was powered by a 2.6-liter rotary engine. Sadly, just two cars made it to races in 1992 before the project was scrapped.

Suggested by: Reginald Robertson (Facebook)

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12 / 18

Aston Martin DBR4

Aston Martin DBR4

A photo of a vintage green Aston Martin race car.
Photo: Lothar Spurzem via Wikimedia Commons

“Aston Martin DBR4/250 & DBR5/250

“Aston placed their F1 car project on hold in 1956, to focus on their battle with Ferrari with the DBR1. After they won Le Mans, they set their sites on Grand Prix. So, instead of starting with a clean slate and building a new car, they dug out the project from 1956, which had become completely outdated and un-competitive. Beneath the skin the DBR4's basic design was closely related to the DB3S sports car of 1956. Suspension was handled by double wishbones with coil springs and telescopic dampers at the front, and a de Dion tube system with torsion bar springs at the rear. While this arrangement had been state-of-the-art in the early years of the 1950s, by the time that the DBR4 made its first public appearance most racing car manufacturers were moving to all-round independent suspension. The DBR4 also shared the basic double overhead camshaft straight-6 Aston Martin engine design with its brethren, but sleeved to reduce its capacity to 2.5-litres. It was a reliable and powerful unit in its 3.7-litre road car form, the reduced capacity racing motor was hard-pressed to cope with the heavy chassis and poor aerodynamics, and frequent engine failures blighted the DBR4's brief racing career. Aston Martin claimed a 280 bhp output for the DBR4's engine, however a more realistic value is closer to 250 bhp.

“Even behind the capable hands of Aston Martin’s Le Mans winning drivers, Carroll Shelby and Roy Salvadori, they couldn’t get much performance out of it. They were entered in only 5 races, and each only finished 3 races. With the highest a pair of 6th place showings by Salvadori. Aston realized that something needed to be done. So, they quickly started designing the successor, the DB5R/250.

“The DBR5 was largely based on the DBR4. It used the same basic chassis and engine layout. Improvements to the DBR5 made it smaller and lighter, and engine modifications meant that the power output was finally close to the figure originally claimed by the Aston Martin workshop. The DBR5 also boasted all-independent suspension.

“But when that car also failed to provide competitive results against the strengthening rear mounted engine cars, Aston Martin abandoned Formula One to concentrate on their more successful sports car projects, and wouldn’t be seen again in Formula 1 until 2021.”

On the one hand, the DBR4 is one the best looking race cars of all time. On the other hand, Knyte makes some good points about its lack in performance.

Suggested by: Knyte

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13 / 18

Nissan GT-R LM Nismo

Nissan GT-R LM Nismo

A photo of the red Nissan Le Mans racer in 2014.
Photo: Ker Robertson (Getty Images)

“The Nissan GT-R LM Nismo… no contest.

“The concept was genius, but the execution was god awful. Couldn’t get it to fully work, had half the horsepower it was supposed to, the amount of money behind it, versus what was produced… no question…. Shitbox.

By far the most popular answer of the day was Nissan’s front-wheel-drive GT-R LM Nismo racer, which premiered in 2014. It was a fantastic looking car, with a long sweeping hood up front. But looks don’t count for much in racing, and it was quickly retired.

Suggested by: @Woodpecker_00 (Twitter)

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14 / 18

MasterCard Lola Formula One Racing Team

MasterCard Lola Formula One Racing Team

A photo of a red, blue and orange F1 racer.
Photo: Pascal Rondeau (Getty Images)

“The MasterCard Lola Formula One Racing Team. Why? Well, according to Wikipedia:

“Lola engine: originally planned to be an in-house Lola V10, designed specifically to take into account the rear streamlining of the car and the underneath of the car in the area of the diffuser. However, the engine was not developed in time and Lola were compelled to use the Ford ECA Zetec-R V8 engine, the same specification V8 as used by the Team Forti in the 1996 season...

“Driver: 1997 Australian Grand Prixpole position...By the time the car made it to the , the team’s failings were laid bare, with the cars bottom of the qualifying timesheets by a considerable margin. Under 1997 rules, drivers would only be allowed to start a race if they set a qualifying time within 107% of the time or if under exceptional circumstances, they fail to qualify, their time in practice would be considered. At 11 and 13 seconds respectively, with the unintended Ford unit. The cars were tested at Silverstone shortly after the Australian Grand Prix but both were again slowest with times in excess of 10 seconds off the front runners.

“It went to one race, DNQ, and the team ran out of money and withdrew from the series.”

A cursed team and a cursed car.

Suggested by: SennaMP4

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15 / 18

Swamp Rat 27

Swamp Rat 27

A photo of a sidewinder drag racer spitting flames.
Photo: NHRA

“Don Garlits’ Swamp Rat 27. The sidewinder dragster concept had been deemed a failure 20 years earlier but Garlits’ decided to revisit it in 1981 with a gear drive instead of a belt or chain. It was nearly a full second slower than he had gone in ‘75, was prone to warping the chassis on launch and it was ultimately determined he was losing 21% of his horsepower due to gear mesh, versus 7% for the conventional longitudinal dragster with a clutch and differential.”

Honorable mention for this drag racer, which took a failed ideology and tried to make it work. Sadly, it didn’t.

Suggested by: Nick Dixon (Facebook)

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16 / 18

Nascar Trucks

Nascar Trucks

A photo of the NASCAR truck series.
Photo: Patrick Smith (Getty Images)

“Nascar Truck Series. All of them.

“Granted, some of the drivers/driving makes it more interesting than Nascar Cup Series, however, what is worse that showcasing single cab, lowered longbed (all of which are effectively extinct) that really just make the same left turns as the big boys. How about an actual “stock” car?

“However, I will grant ironic points that some of these things are slowly replacing the Luminas, Taurus, Avengers sedans then replaced in folk’s actual driveway. Eventually in the post-post apocalypse, these trucks will be the cup series.”

I’ll admit to not really getting the point to Nascar’s truck series. Why do they look like trucks? Am I meant to see this and think ‘hey, let me try that in my truck?’ And why is there no room in the bed?

Suggested by: futuredoc

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17 / 18

Picchio Daytona Prototype

Picchio Daytona Prototype

A photo of a prototype race car at Daytona.
Photo: Lauradp via Wikimedia Commons

“The Picchio Daytona Prototype must make this list. Throw a dart backwards and try to hit the dartboard tail first. That’s what driving that thing was like.

“This one came in via Spencer Pumpelly, Driver in the IMSA Weathertech Sportscar Championship.”

IMSA driver Spencer Pumpelly would like us to file this one away with the other “looks great, can’t race” entries on this list.

Suggested by: @SpencerPumpelly (Twitter)

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