These Cars That Defined “Cool” Were Actually Duds

It happens all the time — an automaker unveils a new concept car at a show and blows the crowd away. Without asking about what comes under the hood, we fall in love, only to be disappointed as soon as we drive it off the lot. After Back to the Future came out, everyone had to have a DeLorean, notoriously one of the worst cars ever built. Another car was so slick that the manufacturer never managed to produce a single model to sell. These are the vehicles we thought were amazing, but they just ended up crushing our dreams.

Aptera Motors Never Delivered A Single Car

Aptera concept car
Alison Cassidy/Wikimedia Commons
Alison Cassidy/Wikimedia Commons

Aptera Motors was an automaker than was in existence from 2004 until 2011. In that time, the company delivered incredible concept cars that looked like they came from the future. The only problem is, concepts are all these cars ever were.

Aptera, for as forward-thinking as they were, never actually sent a car to market. You can only do so much research and development before you need to make money, something the automaker’s founders must have forgotten. In 2019, the company re-formed with new leadership.

The Yugo Was Cute And Cheap

yugo car
Fishman/ullstein bild via Getty Images
Fishman/ullstein bild via Getty Images

Built in Yugoslavia, the Yugo made customers one big promise — buying one wouldn’t break the bank. The consumer-friendly vehicle was a hit with people looking for a smaller, more economic car.

The Yugo wouldn’t be on this list if things had worked out. The car may have been cheap and cute, but it was also littered with issues. It was unreliable, slow, and unexciting. Released in 1985, the Yugo was out of the American market by 1992.

The Ford Contour Was A Pricey Hit

ford contour on the line
Roland Scheidemann/picture alliance via Getty Images
Roland Scheidemann/picture alliance via Getty Images

The Ford Contour launched in the United States after a similar model was released successfully in Europe. The car had everything owners wanted. It was reliable, fuel-efficient, and a perfect compact size.

Consumers were excited to buy them until they saw the price. For all the bells and whistles the Contour came with, many people were turned away by such a high price tag for a compact-sized car — $22,900!

The Bricklin SV-1 Was A Safe Supercar

bricklin sv-1 on the road
National Motor Museum/Heritage Images via Getty Images
National Motor Museum/Heritage Images via Getty Images

When you hear the term “supercar,” is the first thing that comes to your mind “safety”? That’s what Bricklin was hoping for in 1974 when they released what they believed was the world’s first safe supercar.

While the car may have been slick, it did not end up being safe. There were no air vents at the front of the car, meaning the V8 engine had trouble “breathing” and would overheat easily. By 1976 the Bricklin SV-1 was a thing of the past.

The Chevrolet Series M Copper-Cooled Set The Industry On Fire

chevy model m car
Tony Griffin/Pinterest
Tony Griffin/Pinterest

In 1923, Chevrolet wanted to compete with Ford’s Model T and rushed the Series M Copper-Cooled to market. The car was popular until drivers noticed its biggest drawback — the engine had a propensity to catch fire.

The Series M Copper-Cooled overheated regularly, leading to constant issues. The decision to release the car early proved nearly fatal for Chevrolet. The automaker was forced to recall every single Copper-Cooled it sold and then destroy them.

The Alfa Romeo Arna Was A Nissan In Disguise

Alfa romeo arna
Charles01/Wikimedia Commons
Charles01/Wikimedia Commons

Alfa Romeo is known for making some of the world’s most beautiful cars. The name alone could sell a new model. Why then, did the company team up with Nissan in the ’80s to create the Arna, and then let Nissan also design the exterior?

Alfa Romeo may have been on the nameplate, but this car was a Nissan through and through. The Arna lasted on the American market for four years before consumers finally wisened up to the truth.

Breaking Bad Made The Pontiac Aztek A Hit

pontiac aztek on display
Gary Friedman/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images
Gary Friedman/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

Like the DeLorean, the Pontiac Aztek was never the prettiest car. It was the automaker’s attempt to lure in a younger, more outdoorsy consumer base. Young drivers didn’t take the bait, but that didn’t stop the Aztek from becoming a hit.

The show Breaking Bad featured the Aztek, and fans noticed. While production on the car ended in 2005, its reputation as the original car of choice for Walter White lives on today!

Back To The Future Brought Back The DeLorean

delorean car
Eamonn M. McCormack/Getty Images
Eamonn M. McCormack/Getty Images

The DeLorean is famously one of the coolest car disasters ever built. Created by John DeLorean and distributed through DMC, the once seemingly ground-breaking car turned into a nightmare in bills for anyone who bought one.

When it initially came out, the DeLorean landed with a thud. Sales were initially high, but fell rapidly, leading production to halt after two years. Then the car was featured in Back to the Future and became a must-own vehicle, even though its reliability issues were never resolved.

The Lincoln Blackwood Brought The Lights

lincoln blackwood on display
Ford Motor Company
Ford Motor Company

A car so strange that people thought it looked cool, today the Lincoln Blackwood is mostly remembered for having blue neon lights in its truck bed. Starting at $60,000, the truck was deemed too pricey by the audience Lincoln was targeting.

While it wasn’t the Blackwood that ended Lincoln’s run of success, the company nearly stopped making vehicles altogether around the same time. Ford rebranded Lincoln as the Lincoln Motor Company and redeveloped the maker’s line of cars from the ground up.

The Edsel Lost Ford A Fortune

ford edsel in a driveway
National Motor Museum/Heritage Images via Getty Images
National Motor Museum/Heritage Images via Getty Images

Ford pulled out all the stops when it came to promoting the Edsel. The car was supposed to be the future of the company, and they debuted it in primetime on CBS as proof.

Consumers quickly learned this cool-looking car wasn’t everything it was cracked up to be. Production on the Edsel stopped two years after it was introduced. Twenty-five months after production ended, it was reported Ford that lost $350 million from the Edsel.

The VW Phaeton Was A Power Play

phaeton on display in dresden
Courtesy Volkswagen AG/Getty Images
Courtesy Volkswagen AG/Getty Images

When Volkswagon designed the Phaeton, the automaker wanted to produce a car that would put Mercedes and BMW to shame. Mercedes had just entered the A-Class market, and VW wanted to run them out.

Built like a limousine, the Phaeton was released in 2002 to universal praise and adoration. Everyone seemingly wanted one, but for some reason, sales didn’t match the enthusiasm. Not known as a luxury carmaker, it turned out that selling the Phaeton for $66,700 backfired, and VW ended production in the United States in 2006.

The Ford Mustang II Was The Car Of The Year

ford mustang ii parked
Bull-Doser/Wikimedia Commons
Bull-Doser/Wikimedia Commons

The love affair consumers and publications had with the Mustang II is baffling when you consider the fact that its performance was worse than the Pinto. While we can’t deny how attractive this car is, it seemed to float on the Ford reputation when it came out in 1974.

Motor Trend called the Mustang II the Car of the Year, and sales soared through the roof, leaving drivers regretting their decision once they got behind the wheel.

The Prius Started The Electric Craze

toyota prius and owner
BRUCE BISPING/Star Tribune via Getty Images
BRUCE BISPING/Star Tribune via Getty Images

If it wasn’t for the Toyota Prius, the electric car craze that swept over the world may have never happened. For that reason alone, Toyota seems to get a pass for making a car with cheap parts and high maintenance costs.

The Prius might be improved today, but Toyota struggled out of the gate to produce a reliable car. The cheap parts used in the interior were particularly noticeable to early consumers.

The 2002 Thunderbird Was Retro Hip

2002 ford thunderbird on the highway
National Motor Museum/Heritage Images/Getty Images
National Motor Museum/Heritage Images/Getty Images

Ford whipped up a ton of consumer excitement at the turn of the century when the automaker announced the return of the Thunderbird. The new car was given a retro look, a nod to its classic predecessor.

For how cool this car looked, though, its performance didn’t match. Motor Trend still named in the Car of the Year, but consumers mostly stayed away. After three years on the market, Ford stopped production on the retro-hip dud.

The PT Cruiser Was Almost An Instant Classic

pt cruiser on display
Getty Images
Getty Images

Chrysler swung for the fences when they released the PT Cruiser in 2001. The vehicle had a retro vibe and looked similar to the classic Woody. The PT Cruiser was a hit with high sales and rave reviews.

As the years passed, however, Chrysler did very little to update the PT Cruiser with the times. By 2010, the car’s sales were slumping and Chrysler put ended its production run.

The Chevy Citation Was A One-Year-Wonder

chevrolet citation
IFCAR/Wikimedia Commons
IFCAR/Wikimedia Commons

In 1980, the Chevy Citation was the best-selling car in the United States. The automaker moved 800,000 units thanks to a gorgeous design and amazing marketing. As more drivers got behind the wheel they started to figure out just how unreliable the Citation was.

As quickly as it became a hit, the Citation fell out of favor. Not many vehicles can claim “one-year-wonder” status, meaning this car joins “elite” company.

The Renault Alliance Was Supposed To Save AMC

renault alliance in a picture
Bill Wunsch/The Denver Post via Getty Images
Bill Wunsch/The Denver Post via Getty Images

Automaker AMC was grappling in the market and needed a savior when it released the Renault Alliance. Struggling financially, the American Motor Company sold itself to the French government in 1980. A few years later, the Alliance came out.

Like other cars we’ve discussed, the Reliance won a ton of awards, including the 1982 Motor Trend Car of the Year trophy. We’re not sure how that happened when it reportedly maxed out with 55 horsepower thanks to an under-powered and old engine.

The Cadillac Cimarron Was A Chevy In Disguise

cadillac cimarron photo
National Motor Museum/Heritage Images via Getty Images
National Motor Museum/Heritage Images via Getty Images

Cadillac has always been one of the top American luxury carmakers. In the ’80s, the brand wanted to expand to compete more with high-end German automakers and released the Cimarron. It was considered an entry-level luxury sedan, although it shared much of its design with the non-luxury Chevrolet Cavalier.

Consumers may have been initially fooled, but they quickly realized the Cimarron was a sheep pretending to be a wolf. Cadillac ended the production of the car with the 1988 Model.

The Aurora Was Oldsmobile’s Flagship Vehicle

Oldsmobile_Aurora on the street
The Oldsmobile Edge/Wikimedia Commons
The Oldsmobile Edge/Wikimedia Commons

Struggling in the early ’90s and hoping to turn their luck around, Oldsmobile introduced the Aurora. The car was intended to be the brand’s new flagship vehicle and was filled to the brim with features.

The first model year, the Aurora sold 45,677 units, giving Oldsmobile hope they could refind their once strong footing. The next year the sales were cut in half and never recovered. By the end of its nine-year production run, the Aurora had sold a total of 208,011 units.

The GM EV1 Was Too Pricey For The Company

gm ev1 on the road
Kim Kulish/Sygma via Getty Images
Kim Kulish/Sygma via Getty Images

The GM EV1 was the first mass-produced electric car in the United States. It was also the first passenger car to ever be given the GM moniker. Originally produced in 1990 as a concept vehicle, the idea was a hit and GM didn’t hesitate to turn it into a reality.

The GM EV1 was released in 1996, and although it was popular, it was too expensive to mass-produce. By 1999, GM was forced to end its run of the vehicle, a decision that remains controversial today.