Hooniverse Asks: What Car Model Represents the Worst Case of "What Were They Thinking?"

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Very few cars today represent the laser-like vision of a single, inspired individual. There aren’t that many Shelby Cobras, DeTomaso Panteras, or DeLorean DMC-12s being introduced any more. Most cars these days suffer from committee-design and while it’s generally believed that two heads are better than one, sometimes not even a consensus can stop a goofy design from getting through.
Maybe it’s styling that’s less wistful and more WTF?, or perhaps it’s a feature that lacks even a modicum of common sense. That’s what we’re interested in today: your opinion on what has been the worst cases of what were they thinking auto industry designs.
Image: MentalFloss

122 Comments

    1. See, that sounds like a legitimate complaint to me. I don’t know/haven’t read about what platform it was built on, but that’s a much more credible reason to dislike than “it’s ugly.” It was/is a bit of that, but now there are so many ‘crossovers’ with fairly similar styling that the only thing that it really was back when it was launched was just that it was ahead of its time.

        1. Ew, they underpinned them with the platform from THAT piece of space trash GM decided to pick up and stick wheels on? That’s completely the wrong place to start.

        2. To be fair, that’s the 1st generation “acre of dashboard” U, the Aztek was based on the 2nd U, which actually lives on in China as the Buick GL8.

          1. I’ve driven Lumina APVs, Trans Sports, Saturn Relays, Chevy Uplanders, Buick Rendezvous and no iteration of the u body sold in the US was any bit good.

          2. This is true, though I don’t think they were much good anywhere. As I recall, the Opel Sintra’s steering wheel fell off when EuroNCAP crash tested it.

          3. That’s a car with a very short run in Jurop – they took it off the market after the ridiculous crash test results. One would think they had tried this “at home” first!?

    2. The original Aztec was even worse. The pictured car above is actually the facelifted version with most of the acres of dark grey Rubbermaid cladding peeled off or painted body color.

        1. I passed one of these (non-lifted) on the road yesterday. I occurred to me that this was less minivan and more the original crossover.

        2. I’m guessing this isn’t just a lift, but the body was placed on a difference chasis. Maybe an Explorer or Navajo? I’ve toyed with the idea of picking one up as a cheap beach truck…but they’ve pretty much disappeared from the road.
          My parents bought one new (nonlifted) back in the 90’s and liked it so much they replaced it with another new one a few years later. They had basically the same space as a minivan, but had better ground clearance and 4WD. The conventional doors (instead of sliding was also kind of nice.

          1. From what I found the dude made a custom lift kit for it. It’s pretty much the same process as getting an XJ in the air without the aftermarket support.

    1. Here’s my thinking on the CrossCabriolet: yeah, it’s not a very good looking car BUT it’s unique. It’s daring, even. Nobody else is doing a convertible coupe version of a crossover. In a world where we too often complain of too many cars looking too alike, it stands out.
      I predict the Hooniversians of 30 years from now will be revering it as we do the AMC Eagle.

      1. I’ve always thought the same thing. It is a modern day Eagle in how different it is and they way the “internet” loves them some Eagles, Subaru Brats or anything else weird why not show a little love?

      2. 100% agreement. It’s got very odd-looking proportions and the residual C-pillar stubs make the project look a bit phoned-in, but I don’t find it hideous. My biggest criticism is that—like many other low-volume “image” variants—it was way overpriced.
        As I alluded to in a comment yesterday, I have recommended this car. My insurance agent (a suburban recent grandma, 45-50, non-athletic build) shared that she really wanted a convertible, but only as a fun second car because didn’t want to give up the raised seating position of the (gas-sucking) F150 SuperCrew she commuted in. I suggested she look a the CrossCabriolet. She said she’d never heard of it, despite writing auto policies all day! She checked out a lightly used one from CarMax, bought it, and absolutely loves it.

      3. I came here to post this, but I have to admit, that’s a good point about its uniqueness — we of the Hooniversariat, if anyone, should probably appreciate this car purely for its oddness, as we do so many of its spiritual forebears.
        That being said, there are very few other cars that generate quite this level of “….why??” for me, and I feel like this may very well be unique for a reason. I can see the occasional case where it’s just the thing, though (Tanshanomi’s example).

    2. I’ve got a neighbor whose has hacked the roof off of a Disco and fitted a roll cage in its place. Looks worlds better than the CrossCab, and just required a beater Disco and careful application of a sawzall.

  1. “We’re done with that tall fastback you wanted”
    “I wanted a wagon!”
    “Ok, just a sec….there”

    1. Curiously, if you look at a photo of the Rodius and the Aztek above, you can see that their designers must have been smoking from the same bad batch.

  2. The first generation Cadillac Seville was a decent car considering that it was a parts bin special – it also wasn’t bad looking in its own boxy way. Something weird happened with the second generation that destroyed whatever Euro-competing cred the previous car had…

    1. For every model that gets screwed up by committee, there are countless one-offs that show a that a singular vision isn’t the answer, either.

    2. Maybe I’m weird (maybe?), but I kind of liked this. I just think they chose the wrong color for it. A cooler, darker color would have looked awesome on it. In red, it’s just too loud. Loud color and loud design. I’ll admit that I’m a Castriota fan, though.

      1. I’m generally a Castriota fan, as well. However, the design of this thing left me cold. It’s too busy in some respects and then other areas (like the front end) look phoned in.

        1. Yeah, I agree about the front. The back is pretty interesting. I didn’t really like the car much until I messed around with in a videogame. I think I got it as a gift car in Forza 4 and started trying out colors and wheels on it. The factory wheels are probably what I like the least.

      1. The XJ purists actually give this a pass, and shower their hate on the BU Renegade and KL Cherokee.

  3. Unlike the ‘vert question, the ringer answers were nabbed up right away, so I’m going to pick on my favorite manufacturer for a moment.
    https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/9/90/00-02_Honda_Passport.jpg
    Honda. I know you wanted in on the SUV craze, but rebadging Isuzus was not the way to go about it. At all. The Passport and SLX were the antithesis of everything Honda was in the early 90s. I can almost forgive the Honda Crosstour because you had to pretend the relationship with Rover was symbiotic, not host/parasite, but it boils down to the fact that you simply didn’t need an SUV in your lineup.
    http://www.thesupercars.org/wp-content/uploads/2009/08/Acura-SLX-.jpg
    The very thought of an SUV still remains un-Honda to me, as I cannot really get behind the Passport or the CR-V, popular and objectively good as they may be.
    Honda, what were you thinking?

      1. I mentioned the Crossroad/Disco (second paragraph), though before now I thought it had been Japan-only.

    1. It’s hard to appreciate just how big this thing is from a photograph. I saw one parked next to a Lexus RX not long back and the BMW made the Japanese SUV look downright dainty by comparison.

    2. This should be on the tombstone for the Ultimate Driving Machine portion of BMW’s history…

    3. Copypaste from my FB:
      Sorry for the poor pic- spotted by the MB plant in Alabama. GLC AMG.
      We sped up beside and saw he was driving a RHD model. He pulled behind
      for about a quarter mile then blasted by us in the left lane sounding
      like a monster. We were laughing too hard to get a good pic.
      https://scontent-dfw1-1.xx.fbcdn.net/hphotos-xpt1/v/t34.0-12/p480x480/11815828_10153570155012853_1496064814_n.jpg?oh=f8d833c35556a96d5a6c63e44d497f2e&oe=55D8FE92

  4. With all the other easy picks taken, I will say Suzuki X90. Take the already cute Sidekick, try and cute it up even more, take out some seats, and make it less practical by making it a removable roof instead of a soft top. There, we’ll sell millions! At least it will make a good Red Bull advertising vehicle.

      1. But you can only love it with one other person. And if it’s nice and sunny in the morning, but rains in the afternoon, you’ll probably get wet. I do agree, it is a cutie.

      1. Supposedly hidden headlights were originally planned for the EXP/LN7 but were cancelled due to cost.

        1. Y’know, that front end makes so much more sense if I see it as a pair of pop-ups that then got permanently faired-in. I never thought it was a bad look, really (kinda cool in its unusualness), but I never really understood how it came about…

    1. Actually, I’ll dispute that, the Lexus RX had a much more fundamental influence on the packaging and design of crossovers than the Aztek, and predates it by a couple years.

    1. I’d forgotten these existed. Probably because I’ve seen exactly 2, in dealerships – never in the wild.

  5. Alright, in this case we know what happened: A Chrysler exec misheard a GM one at a cocktail party and assumed the entire company was downsizing, so decided to do a crash downsizing of their own. What we don’t know is why the rest of the company went “yes, we should do a crash redesign, waste millions of dollars and possibly piss away a competitive advantage based on something a person who was probably drunk thinks he heard.”
    http://www.imagenesygraficos.com/fondos-escritorio/data/media/31/1962-dodge-dart-440-coupe-frt.jpg

    1. I was able to point out on the highway on our trip this summer.
      He asked if there was ever a Shelby version.

          1. I had no idea. We, erm, he always thought it was just something that ought to have happened and never did. Those must be very few.

          2. I believe 218 was the total number made. They were only sold in SoCal dealerships, hence the “California Shelby Rampage” name.
            Although I actually think the more plebeian model’s fascia works better on the trucklet.

  6. “Hey Jeff, why don’t we cash in on the beginning epidemic of retiring boomers with a retro styled pickup truck that’ll remind old folks of their childhood days on the farm?” – “But what’s stopping them from buying an actual old pickup truck?” – “Here’s our selling point: It’s gonna be a 4800 lbs convertible on the Buick Rainier and Oldsmobile Bravada platform (the what?), and before we ‘invest’ into dropping an LS into it, let’s try smuggling our Vortec into peoples’ garages!” – “Brilliant!”

    1. That platform was a fountain of weird decision making. Why did they make a Saab out of it? And an Isuzu? Why did they try to recreate the Studebaker Wagonaire?

      1. I remember when those came out I was working in the automotive aftermarket. I was sure that the project small Cadillac SUV, later known as the 1st Gen SRX was going to be on that platform. Nope, the SRX was a jacked up CTS wagon. Also, the 4.2L I-6 was a great engine and went in absolutely nothing else.

  7. Lincoln-Mercury Product Planner #1: “Hey, you know how the F-150 is the best selling vehicle in the country?”
    Lincoln-Mercury Product Planner #2: “Yeah…”
    L-MPP1: “Why aren’t we doing our own take on it?”
    L-MPP2: “You mean like the Canadian-spec Mercury pickups from back in the day?”
    L-MPP1: “No, a Lincoln pickup!”
    L-MPP2: “I don’t know, man. How would we differentiate it from the F-150, besides a Navigator nose and a fancy interior?”
    L-MPP1: “Glad you asked! I’m thinking make it a 2WD crew-cab only, with a composite cargo bed done up to look like wood on the outside, with carpeting and stainless steel trim on the inside.”
    L-MPP2: “Carpet? Won’t that get wet or dirty being out in the open?”
    L-MPP1: “Indeed, which is why the bed would be topped by a power-operated hard tonneau cover that flows down between – wait for it – side-hinged half doors instead of a tailgate!”
    L-MPP2: “Eh…I’m not feeling it…”
    L-MPP1: “We could get home-run king and paragon of athletic integrity Mark McGwire to help launch it…”
    L-MPP2: “LET’S DO IT!”
    http://i.kinja-img.com/gawker-media/image/upload/tgl17mkinjm16la6cjjl.jpg

    1. I love the Blackwood and it makes me happy every time I see one on the road. Possibly because it’s the weirdest idea.

    1. It is the anticar! Look how every single proportion is as unmodern as it gets with today’s eyes:
      Tiny wheels.
      Massive glasshouse.
      Sedan shape as drawn by three year old.
      Straight front lights/radiator bereft of any wild sport references.
      Not one sharp line anywhere.
      I want to hug it.

      1. Careful how hard you hug it, the incredibly fragile wiring harness insulation will probably crumble away in your arms and catch the car on fire.

    2. Not sure I follow – the Mystique, Contour, and Mondeo were all pretty good cars – the general consensus was they were quite entertaining to drive, and the early ones (before the decontenting started) were genuinely nice. Now, the tight back seat and difficult maintenance were issues, but those sort of issues are hardly uncommon.

    1. Toyota is a bit like GM: They are successful despite doing what they do. Just look at the controversial ugliness they are applying to car fascias today…I’m convinced they could sell more if their cars were more…decent looking.

        1. …and that’s the thing: He should be driving BMW and honking frenetically at regular traffic. What has the world come to?

    1. …huh. Now that you’ve posted that, I can’t figure out how it took so long for someone to put it up. Good call.

      1. Family I knew growing up had one. Taking it to AMC meets proved even AMC nuts didn’t want them.

  8. The most recent case I’ve seen is the BMW 435i Gran Coupe.
    BMW: “Hey, let’s confuse everyone by making the 3 series a 4 door and the 4 series a 2 door.”
    A short while later…
    BMW: “They’re starting to figure our model lineup out, better add a 4 door barely-hatch version to the 4 series to keep them confused.”
    What?… Why?… It seems like a needless option. The 3 series looked better to begin with. It’s a 3 series that’s put on some weight in the back.
    http://www.bimmerfest.com/images/2014/4gc-3s-side-profile.jpg

    1. The product planner that approved all of BMW’s bustlebutt sedanhatches probably has Sir Mix-A-Lot stuck in his head all damned day.

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