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European Car Models That Flopped On American Soil

Vukasin HerbezMarch 14, 2019

Photo Credit: Car And Driver

6. Yugo GV

Back in the late ’80s, Yugoslav car manufacturer Crvena Zastava attempted to enter the American market with their compact model, the Yugo. The Yugo was a nice-looking three-door hatchback they built on a Fiat 127 chassis. However, that added improvements in design and technology. So under the hood was a 1.1-liter four-cylinder engine with electronic fuel injection. But for the U.S. market, buyers got updated equipment, a radio, and even AC as an option. From today’s standpoint, the Yugo was a basic and even primitive car. But for the middle of the 1980s, it was a decent proposition as well as a solution to the economy car dilemma. The Fiat mechanics were relatively common in the U.S. since Fiat had just left the American market in the early ’80s.

Photo Credit: Dead Clutch

So why did the Yugo receive such bad reviews from consumers back in the day? And why do most people consider it to be one of the worst cars Fiat ever sold on the American market? The reason was simple. Both the driving dynamics and quality were horrible even by the standards of the day. The engine had 65 HP going to the front wheels over a badly-assembled five-speed manual gearbox. The performance was painfully slow, but that is not the worst thing. The fit and finish were bad, too. But to make things worse, Yugo importer Malcolm Bricklin didn’t import enough spare parts. So if your Yugo broke down, and eventually they all did, spare parts had to travel for months from Yugoslavia to America.

Photo Credit: Maserati

5. Maserati BiTurbo

Most people don’t know this, but it is easy to become the proud owner of an almost classic Maserati for as little as $10,000. For that money, you can buy a decent Maserati BiTurbo, which got introduced in 1981 and produced until 1994. The BiTurbo lineup of cars started with the 222 model, which was a handsome two-door coupe. It continued with 420 and 430 sedans they built on the same basis. There was even the beautiful convertible by Zagato design house, but it is more expensive and quite rare. They intended the BiTurbos to be entry-level Maseratis at more affordable prices.

Photo Credit: Top World Auto

Under the hood was a new generation of turbocharged 2.0-liter and 2.5-liter V6 engines with high power output from 180 HP to 270 HP in later years. The interiors were luxurious and they fitted them with all kinds of creature comforts. So, you are probably asking why these fantastic-looking cars from an exotic brand like Maserati can be so affordable. The reason is simple. The BiTurbo generation of cars was not reliable and prone to mechanical issues. Maserati made over 40,000 of BiTurbos in a 13-year period but just a small fraction are still on the road. However, the modern technology and aftermarket components improved the quality of the gorgeous but flawed BiTurbos. Some brave owners reported these cars finally can be reliable. So if you want an Italian exotic, but are on a budget, the Maserati BiTurbo could be the solution for you.

Photo Credit: Car View Yahoo

4. Fiat X1/9

Behind this strange name lies one of the most interesting affordable sports cars of the ’70s. Fiat introduced the X1/9 in 1972. It was a small two-seater with a T-Top, mid-mounted engine, and two trunks, in the front and in the back. Think of it as Porsche Boxster, only 20 years older.

Photo Credit: Pinterest

Despite fantastic looks and technical layout, the X 1/9 was underpowered with just around 60 HP from its small 1.3-liter four-cylinder engine. The performance was not impressive, so most owners decided to fit bigger engines. However, you can find them at bargain prices since they exported them to the U.S. but never really got popular there.

Photo Credit: Wikimedia

3. Alfa Romeo Milano 3.0 V6

If you are looking for an Italian performance sedan on a budget, now’s the time to pick up an Alfa Romeo Milano 3.0 V6. Romeo imported them to the American market in the late ’80s and early ’90s.

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The Milano was an elegant four-door model with some interesting technical features. It had a De Dion rear suspension and transaxle gearbox, making it handle like a racing car. Along with a three-liter, 200 HP V6 engine, the Milano delivered a decent performance. In fact, people compared them to the BMW 5 Series.

Photo Credit: Pinterest

2. Peugeot 404

The 404 was a popular French mid-sized family sedan Peugeot produced from 1960 to 1975. It came with a 1.5 or 1.6-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine or a 1.9-liter four-cylinder diesel unit. It was one of Peugeot’s bestsellers and was popular all over the world. The Peugeot 404 was a masterpiece of contemporary car design. It had straight, elegant lines and sported a chrome grille and rear fins.

Photo Credit: Secret Classics

Since chrome fins were an American design feature, it’s obvious where the Peugeot designers got the inspiration for their 404. In fact, if you saw the 404 from the back, it would remind you of several American models from the period. If you saw it in traffic, you could easily mistake it for a domestic model. The only sign that would give the 404 away is its compact size. This Peugeot is about a third smaller than a regular U.S. sedan from the early ’60s.

Photo Credit: Honest John Classics

1. Austin A40 Farina

The beginning of mass production of the hatchback body style can be traced to the late ‘50s and early ‘60s with the Austin A40 Farina being one of the more popular models. This British economy car had a three-door layout with a two-piece opening tailgate. Its diminutive dimensions, clever engineering, and trunk space made this little car quite practical.

Photo Credit: Anglia Car Auctions

These are the coolest and most interesting European cars that flopped in America. For various reasons, they didn’t sell well in the U.S. Did you choose your favorite? Perhaps some of these cars would sell better if they re-introduced them today.

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