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Classic Cars We Wouldn’t Touch With a 10-Foot Pole

Cameron EittreimDecember 19, 2022

Classic cars are a big part of the automotive industry because they reintroduce us to the passion that went into developing the vehicles that we have today. Many of these classic cars have increased in price and popularity in recent years. But not every classic car is worth a fortune, even though the values on many cars have been bolstered due to nothing more than simple nostalgia.

These classic vehicles rank among the greatest in car history. But others should be avoided at all costs. There have been several cars released over the past 40 years that just left drivers scratching their heads. Automakers have changed a lot over the past couple of decades, and much of that experience comes from failed car models. We looked at classic cars that most drivers shouldn’t touch with a 10-foot pole. Find out the specific cars we’re talking about below. You’ve been warned.

Photo Credit: Car Domain

1984 Ford Bronco II

The Ford Bronco II was a modest attempt by Ford to capture some market share created by the Jeep Cherokee and the Chevy S10 Blazer. Both the Cherokee and S10 Blazer were breakout successes, and Ford wanted to get in on this. Although the Bronco II was far-cry from the full-size Bronco with which it shared a nameplate. The problem was the Bronco II was nothing like the Bronco models that made the nameplate a hit with consumers (via Motor Trend).

Photo Credit: Car Domain

The most obvious drawback to the Bronco II was the lack of a removable top. The full-size Bronco’s always offered a removable top as an option, and the Bronco II was lacking in this department. The next drawback was that the Bronco II didn’t offer a V8 engine, a standard feature in all the previous Bronco generations.

Photo Credit: Car Domain

Ford Edsel

The Edsel was one of the biggest nightmares in Ford’s history. The classic car was supposed to be a technical marvel with all kinds of new advances that made the drivers’ life easier. Unfortunately, the only thing Edsel brought was a headache. The car was notoriously unreliable, and the technology in the car never worked either. The Edsel had a lot of potential and the car was positioned to change the auto industry but it just didn’t catch on (via Road and Track).

The Edsel was the brainchild of Henry Ford, and it had a lot of potential. Unfortunately, what was a passion project ended up costing the company millions when the car flopped. Consumers just didn’t embrace the electronic shifter, and all the new technology Ford was putting into place on the car.

Photo Credit: Car Domain

Ford Probe

Every once in a while, an automaker tries to do something extreme to their lineup and that was the case with the Probe. Believe it or not, Ford thought the Probe would replace the Mustang. There was a fat chance that was going to happen, and consumers didn’t give the Probe the time of day, which is why it was discontinued in the 1990s. The Probe wasn’t marketed like it should have been and the initial design was nothing compared to the Mustang (via Motor 1).

Photo Credit: Ford

The Probe was an interesting concept, but it never came even close to replacing the Mustang. The obvious shortcoming here was the lack of a V8 engine and the style of the Mustang. There wasn’t a convertible either, which didn’t help things. The Probe was a Ford that very few drivers ever wanted and you shouldn’t touch it nowadays.

Photo Credit: Motor 1

Ford Mustang II

A Pinto and a Mustang mixed into one? This classic car never made sense then and it sure doesn’t make sense nowadays. During the fuel crisis of the 1970s, Ford shrank the Mustang using a Pinto-based platform. The problem was that Mustang enthusiasts saw the new design, and the auto world lambasted the car. The Mustang II was the right car at the wrong time as technology wasn’t there yet to make the car perform right (via Motor Trend).

Photo Credit: Ford

That’s not to say the Mustang II was all bad but the car was not as iconic as the original. The Pinto-based design limited what the designers could do with the car. The Ford Mustang has gone through many incarnations but the Pinto-based version was by far the most questionable in the lineup.

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1971 Ford Pinto

The Pinto itself was one of the most controversial cars Ford ever sold. It was the first car that almost bankrupted Ford Motor Company from lawsuits. The dangerous design of the Pinto led to explosions when the car was hit from the back. The danger of the Pinto was documented throughout the automotive world. The Pinto ended up being one of the biggest debacles the Ford Motor Company ever faced and almost put the company out of business (via Tort Museum).

Ford Maverick
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Ironically enough, the Pinto became a sort of collector’s item in recent years as it’s not difficult to do a Coyote swap on the car. The look and feel of the Pinto make it a rare classic car that can be styled well. Unfortunately, we still wouldn’t touch this car with a 10-foot pole because of its reputation.

Photo Credit: Ford

Ford Explorer

The Explorer was the reason that the SUV and crossover segment became what it is today. There was something about the midsize SUV that became a smash hit with consumers. The Explorer was a great SUV for what it was, but there were also shortcomings, and these shortcomings almost put Ford into bankruptcy. There’s no denying the Explorer was a piece of automotive history and an important one at that but these early models are safety hazards at best (via Auto Safety).

Photo Credit: Ford

The second generation of the Explorer was involved in one of the biggest and most costly lawsuits Ford ever faced. It was discovered in court that the roof was weakened in the design of the SUV. That weakened design meant the Explorer was much weaker in a rollover crash, so we wouldn’t touch this SUV at all.

Photo Credit: Car Domain

1990 Ford Escort

The Escort was every man’s car meant to replace the Pinto in the 1980s. The car was initially popular due to its cheap price tag. The problem was that the reliability of the car was shoddy at best and the build quality was even worse. The fit and finish were so bad that the radio dials fell right off the deck. The Escort had all the potential to be a well-known classic for the brand but was relegated to the trash heap by the 1990s (via Repair Pal).

Photo Credit: Car Domain

The Escort was popular around the world as a rally car, but here in the states, we got the boring version of the car. This is one car that you’ll seldom see on the road anymore, and when you do, it’s generally rusted out. The cheap cars from the 1980s didn’t have a long shelf life, and there’s nothing remotely appealing about the Escort.

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Ford Tempo

The Tempo was only slightly larger than the Ford Escort and was sold alongside it for many years. The Tempo was equally cheap when it came to the build quality of the car. Its plastic interior was known for breaking apart as soon as the car left the factory. The styling of the Tempo was also as boring as you could get. The Tempo was a car sold in millions of examples, but it wasn’t a quality product, so you don’t see a lot of them on the road anymore (via Curbside Classic).

Ford Tempo
Photo Credit: Ford

The Tempo had the look and feel of a cheap car, which is why none of them lasted very long. These cars were extremely unreliable and prone to rust in their heyday. The Tempo was a car Ford positioned as an economic leader but it couldn’t compete with the likes of Honda and Toyota in terms of quality.

Photo Credit: Edmunds

Mercury Topaz

In addition to the Tempo, there was also the Topaz, which was the quintessential badge job if there ever was one. There was nothing that separated the Topaz from the Tempo, other than a different front grill. Why Ford thought this would be enough to charge a premium price for the car is beyond us. The Topaz was the start of the downfall of the Mercury brand, which faded into obscurity in the 1990s. The Topaz should have been a lot different from the Escort but wasn’t (via TTAC).

Mercury Topaz
Photo Credit: Mercury

Consumers wanted something different and value-oriented, but the Topaz wasn’t it. The car was unreliable and cheap, and there wasn’t much to separate it from the Ford Tempo. These cars were a small blip in the history of Ford and they aren’t something most drivers should want to own.

Photo Credit: Edmunds

Mercury Capri

The late 1980s and early 1990s were a bit of a trial-and-error phase for Mercury. Ford launched the Merkur brand, which failed, and then launched the Capri. The idea behind the car was to compete with the Mazda Miata, and it provided a capable alternative. The problem was the design of the Capri wasn’t all that great. It wasn’t the fun-to-drive car that the Miata was, which is why you don’t see them very often (via Road and Track).

Photo Credit: Car Domain

Underneath the seemingly modest exterior was an outdated power plant and transmission, which were both unreliable. The Capri wasn’t the hit the company needed and was therefore discontinued. If you’re looking for a fun 1990s convertible, this probably isn’t the car for you. There were much better classic convertibles from this era that were more reliable.

Photo Credit: GM

Lumina APV

The Dustbuster vans were considered revolutionary in their heyday and GM spent millions of dollars developing them. But the final product was not worth considering for most drivers. The Lumina APV had an awkward design that didn’t resonate with consumers when it was originally released. The space shuttle styling of the APV was something that GM touted as the future, but it didn’t end up taking off like the company hoped for (via Car Gurus).

Photo Credit: GM

GM was already trying to release something different than the Chrysler Minivans on the road. The problem was the van was an extreme departure from the traditional minivan formula established. Consumers weren’t ready to move toward such extreme styling when Chrysler vans were almost perfect in every way.

Photo Credit: Blogspot

Chevrolet Cavalier

The Cavalier was one of the most popular and underrated cars in GM history. It was sold across many platforms and styles. But the first generation cars were cheaply designed to say the least and the pinnacle of what made 1980s compact cars awful. A buzzy, unreliable engine and a cheap small design were at the forefront of the problem (via Hemmings).

Photo Credit: Moment Car

The Cavalier was a notable car for GM because it was designed to appeal to consumers who wanted a budget-friendly compact car. The fuel efficiency of the Cavalier was a major selling point, but the build quality was lacking at best. There are old compact cars worth checking out, but the Cavalier isn’t one of them.

Chevrolet Corvair via Motor Trend
Photo Credit: Motor Trend

Chevrolet Corvair

The Corvair was considered the most unsafe car ever built. Ralph Nader authored the book “Unsafe At Any Speed” about it. The Corvair was meant to be one of the best-performing cars on the road, but when it came down to it, the design was unproven. Even by modern standards, the Corvair is a beautiful car, but tits technological shortcomings gave the car a terrible reputation that caused its sales to tank (via Gold Eagle).

Chevrolet Corvair via Motor Trend
Photo Credit: Motor Trend

Although GM ironed out the kinks with the Corvair, by the end of its life cycle, the car was already marred in the public eye. There were far better vehicles on the road that offered much better performance for the price. The Corvair just didn’t stack up to the competition when it was put to the test of safety and reliability.

1986 Chevrolet Camaro Berlinetta via GM
Photo Credit: GM

Chevrolet Camaro Berlinetta

The market for personal luxury coupes was at an all-time high in the 1980s as baby boomers became a more affluent part of the population. GM saw an opening in this segment and launched the Camaro Berlinetta. Dubbed the ‘Secretary’s Camaro,’ the Berlinetta was a pleasant mixture of luxury and performance wrapped up into a Camaro body. The Berlinetta was an interesting concept to say the least but it didn’t take off at all (via LS1 Tech).

Photo Credit: BAT

The main problem was that the Berlinetta had a lot of new technology that wasn’t tested before and it wasn’t the most reliable car. Likewise, the performance of the Berlinetta wasn’t that great either. The car was weighed down by the new interior and the extra luxury equipment and its performance just didn’t match up.

Photo Credit: Super Chevy

Chevrolet Monza

The Monza was another bite-size compact car sold during the late 1970s and early ’80s. The Monza was not a performance car in any sense of the word. Its styling was made fun of by the automotive world because it seemed puny compared to the Chevrolets that came before it. Perhaps the most unique thing about the Monza was that it looked like a miniature Camaro from the front and rear of the vehicle (via EP Auto).

Photo Credit: Super Chevy

The Monza was never a big seller for GM and the car was discontinued a few years after it was introduced. The domestic automakers were rushing to get compact cars onto the market, even when the quality wasn’t that great. The Monza had a lot of potential to be a great car but the innovation just wasn’t there.

Photo Credit: Car Domain

Chevrolet Citation

The Citation was the next generation of compact cars introduced by GM in the 1970s and ’80s. The styling was similar to other compact cars on the market at the time. The Citation was not a great performing car by any stretch of the imagination, and this left a bad taste in the mouths of consumers. The Citation was a popular car when it was new because of the cheap price tag, but its lackluster build quality meant the car wouldn’t last very long (via eBay Motors).

Photo Credit: Car Domain

There was a very rare version of the Citation that was turbocharged but by now, most of these have rusted away. There was nothing to love about the Citation at all, and most drivers were frustrated being stuck on the side of the road. The Citation was a small blip in the long and storied history of GM compact cars.

Photo Credit: Mecum

1978 Chevrolet C/K Diesel

The C/K Diesel was a popular workhorse that GM sold in the 1970s but it wasn’t the most reliable truck on the road. The C/K Diesel was not the most reliable truck on the road. The 6.5L diesel engine had a fair share of problems, which made it almost impossible to keep it on the road. This is why GM eventually switched to the Duramax diesel engines (via Diesel Place).

Photo Credit: Mecum

The diesel trucks of the 1970s and 80s were not the most reliable trucks on the road. But that was back when trucks were used for work, not as the luxury vehicles we have today. The C/K was the last of the authentic pickup trucks on the road, but it’s one that we wouldn’t touch with a 10-foot pole in its original configuration.

Photo Credit: GM

Chevrolet Tahoe 6.5L Diesel

The Tahoe was a completely different type of SUV for GM and introduced the world to the modern comfortable full-size SUV. The Tahoe had a lesser-known counterpart with a V8 engine though. The 6.5L Diesel was considered the worst engine GM had ever put into a vehicle. The 6.5L Diesel was notoriously unreliable (via 6.5 Turbo Garage).

Photo Credit: GM

Although the Diesel variations of the Tahoe are among the rarest, it doesn’t necessarily mean they’re worth considering. The two-door Tahoe with the gas engine was a much more reliable car and the price of the gasoline versions of the Tahoe are continuing to rise in value.

Chevrolet Vega GT
Photo Credit: GM

Chevrolet Vega

The Vega was a compact car that GM launched in the 1970s to combat the high price of fuel. The compact design of the Vega was very reminiscent of the Camaro. While the Vega initially sold well, it didn’t capture the kind of market share that GM had hoped for. The Vega has since become a relic of the 1970s, and you’ll seldom see them on the road anymore. The Vega was a car that could have been a lot more popular than it was had it been built a bit better (via Macs Motor).

Chevrolet Vega GT
Photo Credit: GM

The Vega was a car that every driver should avoid. Just the styling of the car alone was downright ugly compared to anything else on the market. General Motors was not the most successful company when it came to developing a compact car, and the Vega is evidence of that.

Photo Credit: Mecum

Chevrolet Chevette

The Chevette was a compact car sold to satisfy the appetite of consumers who needed something cheap and new. The tiny dimensions of the car didn’t make it stand out much from the crowd. The engine under the hood of the Chevette was quite diminished in terms of performance and reliability. The automotive press lambasted the Chevette at the time for being a cheap form of transportation that wasn’t very reliable (via The Truth About Cars).

Photo Credit: Mecum

The Chevette was critically panned for a lack of reliability and refinement. Most of the time, the Chevette was unreliable as soon as it left the dealership. It wasn’t uncommon to come across a Chevette with build quality issues. These issues ranged from cheap radio dials to questionable handling.

Photo Credit: Mecum

Chevrolet Camaro Iron Duke

Cramming a four-cylinder into a Camaro shouldn’t have been rocket science, right? Not in the case of the Iron Duke, which is dubbed the worst Camaro of all time. The Iron Duke was General Motors’ new and improved four-cylinder engine, but in reality, it was worse than anything else. The engine was severely underpowered, especially when compared to the heft of the Camaro (via Auto Blog).

The Iron Duke was a failure by enormous standards for GM, and it showed how difficult it was for an automaker to move from V8 power to a smaller displacement. Nowadays four-cylinder Camaros are all the rage, but back then the Iron Duke was a sad example. These Iron Dukes should be avoided at all costs.

Photo Credit: Barn Finds

Chevrolet Nova (Corolla)

The old Toyota Corolla models have continued to rise in value, but perhaps one of the rarest models was the Nova. The Corolla-based Nova was an interesting concept and the first car in a series of partnerships with GM. Believe it or not, Toyota sold the Cavalier overseas as a Toyota, as well as part of this deal with GM (via Car Bibles).

Photo Credit: Wikipedia

The Nova-based Corolla was a cheap car in many aspects, and other than the rare sports version, this car should be avoided. Compact cars from the late 1980s are a dime a dozen, and the Corolla-based Nova gets more attention than it should. There were far better options on the market than this one.

Photo Credit: Mecum

1975-80 Chevrolet Corvette

In the 1970s, Corvette didn’t always get the attention it deserves due to the limitations it had. The fuel crisis meant automakers had to limit emissions from the vehicle. The performance of the 1975 Corvette was lackluster at best, and there isn’t much that can be done to bolster that number (via Edmunds).

Photo Credit: Bring A Trailer

The Corvette was one of the most iconic cars on the road and a Chevrolet everyone knows. The later generations of the Corvette provided much better performance for the price. As fuel injection was introduced, the later Corvette models were much faster and more reliable than this generation of cars.

Beretta
Photo Credit: GM

Chevy Beretta

The Beretta was a car with the same premise as the Ford Probe in that GM was looking to replace their flagship car. The Beretta was a lot better than the Probe in many ways. The styling of the car was better and the performance wasn’t that bad but it wasn’t anywhere near the Camaro (via Best Ride).

Chevy Beretta
Photo Credit: GM

The Beretta Z34 was a fun car when it was brand new, but nowadays this car should be avoided. The cheap build quality of the Beretta was one of the reasons it should be avoided nowadays. There were better classics from this era that are worth investing in. Needless to say, the plan to replace the Camaro didn’t go well for GM.

Photo Credit: Auto WP

Plymouth Prowler

The Prowler was the car supposed to bring the Plymouth brand back into relevance again. The problem was that the Prowler fell short in many areas. The first and most obvious problem was the power plant, which was taken out of the Dodge Intrepid sedan. Although the car looked like a hot rod, it didn’t perform like one (via Hot Cars).

Photo Credit: Hot Rod

The Prowler has gained a following in recent years, but not enough to justify the price tag. The hot rod styling still looks great today, but the performance of the Prowler just didn’t add up. The Prowler fell short in terms of performance and substance, which is why the car wasn’t that popular when it was new.

Dodge Dakota Sport Convertible
Photo Credit: Hagerty

Dodge Dakota Convertible

The Dakota completely changed the pickup truck market when it was introduced and not because it was a great truck, but because it was the first midsize truck. But there were also a few special editions of the Dakota, such as the Dakota Convertible. The Dakota convertible was a special edition truck built by a coach builder. You’ll never see a convertible truck from the factory again and the Dakota was one of a kind concept in that regard (via Hagerty).

Photo Credit: Motor Illustrated

The Dakota Sport was a very cheaply built truck, the convertible top didn’t last very long and the performance was lackluster. There was no V8 engine option, as there was with the other trucks. The concept of a convertible pickup truck was cool, but nothing that we’d recommend tracking down as a classic.

Photo Credit: Memo Lira

Dodge Spirit R/T

The Chrysler K-Car was the vehicle that saved Chrysler from obscurity in the 1980s. Believe it or not, the Spirit R/T was the fastest production car on the road for a short period. The Spirit R/T was a car with a lot of potential and the turbocharged engines from this era were top-notch (via All Par).

Photo Credit: Car Domain

Although the Spirit R/T was a great car, it’s not a classic that you should seek out. Most K cars from this era have rusted out and are fairly unreliable. The Spirit R/T didn’t have the best build quality at the time, and it’s more evident than ever nowadays. You can obviously find better cars from this era.

Photo Credit: GM

Geo Storm

The Geo brand was a new concept by GM so that the company could appeal to import car buyers. The Storm was based on the Isuzu Impulse and had a similar styling. For most classic car shoppers collecting from this era, the Storm was an interesting car with a lot of potential (via Hot Cars).

Photo Credit: Motor 1

The Storm was a fun car to drive, but the build quality wasn’t there, and finding one still in good condition isn’t easy. We’d recommend avoiding the Storm at all costs. The car had some fun-to-drive attributes but nothing that makes it worth seeking out as a classic that you’d drive with any regularity.

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