In the automotive world it’s hard to believe a car would make it through all the testing, presenting and discerning that takes place and be offered to the public even though it’s not the best product that can be built. This does happen at times and it happens to the best in the business just as much as those upstarts who aren’t sure what niche they want to play in. With that in mind, here are several cars that truly were the black sheep of their automotive family during the time they were built, bringing embarrassment and shame to their kin.
Jaguar X-Type – The luxury market was looking for the smaller versions of the bigger sedans but Jaguar and Ford together did not put the necessary work into making a unique car that would proudly carry the name but instead rebadged and upgraded the Ford Contour. Once this mystery was found out Jaguar did not try and enter this segment again for years and the new XE is the first attempt since.
BMW 318ti – As cars got more expensive BMW wanted to have a 3-Series model that would continue to attract those on a lower budget and this was the answer, although it was the wrong one. Filled with plastic and shouting out “cheap” to the world this car was odd and hacked off in the back leaving it to avoid being a real 3-Series. This car certainly should have been left on the drawing board.
Ford Mustang II – This wasn’t a Mustang you wanted to be proud of and for the most part Ford wasn’t either. This was one of the few cars on this list to actually sell in drovers for a year, but much of that was due to being built during the oil embargo which was simply lucky. The engine was low on power, the fuel efficiency was good, but this boring and otherwise diluted version of the pony was awful.
1990s Lotus Elan – This little car was the certain Black Sheep of Lotus. Even though Lotus often had all-wheel drive vehicles they did not have a front-wheel drive one at all and have not had one since this version. This car fit in well with the tiny micro-culture that was in place on the market at the time, but was still perverse, especially since it used an Isuzu drivetrain which was odd in many regards for Lotus.
Ferrari 400i – You might not think of this as a Black Sheep but because it was never supposed to be imported to the US and then was even featured driving in the opening credits of a US film (Rain Man) this car certainly was a bit of a rebel. It also featured room for four to ride and was the first to have an automatic transmission from Ferrari, both oddities in the world of exotic supercars.
Cadillac Cimarron – If you want embarrassing, this was it. This was a Chevrolet Cavalier that wore Cadillac badging and offered several upscale features, but underneath it was still one of the J-car lineup that should have gone by the wayside much sooner than it did. The Cimarron never fooled anyone and certainly did not give Cadillac any credibility in the small luxury sedan market.
Porsche 914 – Do you remember the VW Karmann Ghia, Porsche does because this was simply a rebadged version of it with Porsche skin. It was so close to the original VW model that it sold in Europe as a Volkswagen-Porsche model. This lack of what we want from Porsche and the fact that it was a simple version that offered very little excitement left this to be a model Porsche would rather forget.
Triumph Stag – Ugly, awkward and questionable certainly were descriptions that can be used for this car. Even though most cars offers a sportier and upscale look when they are in convertible form this one did not. The Triumph Stag can easily be considered the reason the car company eventually had to fold as this was a car that just didn’t appeal to, well, anyone.
Subaru 360 – The company that made this unusual and awful car didn’t even try and put a positive spin on it offering it as “cheap and ugly does it” for the tag line. This small and lightweight car would have been frightening to be in and drive in Japan on the busy and crowded streets. Because it weighed less than 1,000 pounds this car avoided regulations but also avoided a sales market, thankfully.
Dodge Shelby Lancer – Even though most of what Carroll Shelby created was gold this was certainly closer to mud. The Lancer was slower than the Omni that is was based off, mostly because it weighed in heavier and gave us a car that would not make the time or the drive you wanted. At the higher price this was a confusing production that quickly made its way to the trash bin.
Maserati Biturbo – This was not the car you think of when you think of a Maserati model and nearly made the company go under. Because they believed in this car so much the whole lineup was based on it for a generation leaving us with a generation of BMW-like Maseratis that are simple, plain and unworthy of the name they hold. Thankfully someone got it together for the next run of cars.
Aston Martin Cygnet – The company that is hell bent on making beautiful cars offered a tiny two-door hatchback that wasn’t. The Cygnet was a rebadged Scion iQ and only upgraded with interior features that were actually comfortable, but this still isn’t a car that Aston Martin would be proud to put their name on and quickly changed course before they got too far gone with this style.
As you can see sometimes even the best names in the automotive industry put out a dud. Usually this is because the company gets behind the idea and feels like they have something great, or they rush to rebadge something else thinking the market is not going to notice, but notice we did. Thankfully, most of these cars did not ruin the stellar reputations of the companies they so poorly represented.