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The Roundabout Blog

Top Gear’s worst cars in the world

  • From bad to worst

    Though gauging a car’s relative merits is, and will always be, a very personal process, Top Gear has never shied from playing an automobile’s exalter – or its judge, jury and executioner. Apropos of the BBC America premiere of Top Gear: The Worst Car in the History of the World, we survey some of the vehicles that made a most very dubious list. (Photo: Top Gear)

  • 1996 Ferrari F50

    Following up on the sublime F40, that 200mph ur-hypercar, Ferrari went back to the well for the F50, a racecar-based banshee that channelled 513 thundering horsepower to the rear wheels. Though the Ferrari faithful snapped up the fewer than 400 examples produced, at prices that hovered around $500,000, the F50 was also accused of being the least beautiful – or less charitably, the ugliest – Ferrari ever built, the shovelled troughs on its hood earning particular ire. (Photo: Newspress)

  • 2003 Citroën C3 Pluriel

    Built in apparent homage to the plucky utility of the French marque’s globe-colonising 2CV, the C3 Pluriel was a versatile little thing, with removable arched roof pillars and a swing-down rear gate, in the manner of a pickup truck. Caught out in the rain with the top down, though, and the Pluriel’s passengers were in for a bath, as the pillars could not be stowed on board. A retracting fabric top was the middle way, but even then, it was given to leaks. One to hire at the Nice airport rental counter, then, but not one to buy. (Photo: TopGear)

  • 2003 Citroën C3 Pluriel

    Built in apparent homage to the plucky utility of the French marque’s globe-colonising 2CV, the C3 Pluriel was a versatile little thing, with removable arched roof pillars and a swing-down rear gate, in the manner of a pickup truck. Caught out in the rain with the top down, though, and the Pluriel’s passengers were in for a bath, as the pillars could not be stowed on board. A retracting fabric top was the middle way, but even then, it was given to leaks. One to hire at the Nice airport rental counter, then, but not one to buy. (Photo: TopGear)

  • 2002 Lexus SC 430

    The SC began life in 1991 as a lithe, low-slung, high-tech grand tourer. The SC 430 that followed it in 2001 was more of a boulevardier, trading canyon-road sharpness for clubhouse cushiness. It was bulbous, too, with swollen fenders, a high beltline and a curb weight approaching 4,000lbs. Such developments, whatever their justifications, will always trigger indignation from TopGear’s presenters. (Photo: TopGear)

  • 2002 Lexus SC 430

    The SC began life in 1991 as a lithe, low-slung, high-tech grand tourer. The SC 430 that followed it in 2001 was more of a boulevardier, trading canyon-road sharpness for clubhouse cushiness. It was bulbous, too, with swollen fenders, a high beltline and a curb weight approaching 4,000lbs. Such developments, whatever their justifications, will always trigger indignation from TopGear’s presenters. (Photo: Toyota Motor Sales)

  • 1985 Alfa Romeo GTV 6

    “GTV” is among the most evocative badges worn by Alfa Romeos, having been affixed to rally champions of the 1960s and ‘70s. But in the thick of the brand’s mid-‘80s malaise came the GTV 6. Though the fastback body, designed by Italian legend Giorgetto Giugiaro, was well-received, the GTV 6’s various gaskets, hoses and other bits that facilitate a vehicle’s sound operation were brittle, flimsy, leaky and just plain bad. For North Americans who watched Alfa abandon their market in the mid-‘90s, a lack of ready replacement parts has made GTV 6 ownership a costly proposition indeed. (Photo: TopGear)

  • 1985 Alfa Romeo GTV 6

    “GTV” is among the most evocative badges worn by Alfa Romeos, having been affixed to rally champions of the 1960s and ‘70s. But in the thick of the brand’s mid-‘80s malaise came the GTV 6. Though the fastback body, designed by Italian legend Giorgetto Giugiaro, was well-received, the GTV 6’s various gaskets, hoses and other bits that facilitate a vehicle’s sound operation were brittle, flimsy, leaky and just plain bad. For North Americans who watched Alfa abandon their market in the mid-‘90s, a lack of ready replacement parts has made GTV 6 ownership a costly proposition indeed. (Photo: TopGear)

  • Mahindra CJ540

    From a mechanic’s perspective, there is much to be said for a vehicle that is simple, cheap and ubiquitous. From a driver’s perspective, there is, more often than not, decidedly less to be said for such a vehicle. Take the Mahindra CJ540, built in India and exported up until 1991. This tough little off-roader was essentially a vintage Jeep CJ-3A (produced under license) with a lumpy Peugeot diesel engine under the hood. Handling? No. Creature comforts? No. User-friendliness? No. One of the world’s worst? Yes. (Photo: TopGear)

    (An earlier version of this story misidentified the CJ540 as the MM540. This has been corrected.)

  • Mahindra CJ540

    From a mechanic’s perspective, there is much to be said for a vehicle that is simple, cheap and ubiquitous. From a driver’s perspective, there is, more often than not, decidedly less to be said for such a vehicle. Take the Mahindra CJ540, built in India and exported up until 1991. This tough little off-roader was essentially a vintage Jeep CJ-3A (produced under license) with a lumpy Peugeot diesel engine under the hood. Handling? No. Creature comforts? No. User-friendliness? No. One of the world’s worst? Yes. (Photo: TopGear)

    (An earlier version of this story misidentified the CJ540 as the MM540. This has been corrected.)

  • 1972 Rolls-Royce Corniche

    To car aficionados who grew up convinced that Rolls-Royce sat at the vortex of the motoring world, driving a 1970s-era Corniche (or, inevitably, fixing one) will come as a less-than-pleasant surprise. Despite the presence of a 6.75-litre V8 behind that famous grille, the 4,800lb Roller was pokey to a fault, let down by performance-choking smog hardware and a dim-witted three-speed automatic transmission from General Motors. Yes, it is lovely in fixed-head or convertible guise, and its sumptuous cabin is utterly cosseting. And of course, it is hand-built. So the Corniche is not without its charms. Then again, to quote Jeremy Clarkson, “Hand-built is just another way of saying the door will fall off.” (Photo: TopGear)

  • 1972 Rolls-Royce Corniche

    To car aficionados who grew up convinced that Rolls-Royce sat at the vortex of the motoring world, driving a 1970s-era Corniche (or, inevitably, fixing one) will come as a less-than-pleasant surprise. Despite the presence of a 6.75-litre V8 behind that famous grille, the 4,800lb Roller was pokey to a fault, let down by performance-choking smog hardware and a dim-witted three-speed automatic transmission from General Motors. Yes, it is lovely in fixed-head or convertible guise, and its sumptuous cabin is utterly cosseting. And of course, it is hand-built. So the Corniche is not without its charms. Then again, to quote Jeremy Clarkson, “Hand-built is just another way of saying the door will fall off.” (Photo: Rolls-Royce)

  • 1972 Lincoln Continental Mark IV

    One would be hard-pressed to name a genuinely stellar American car built during the 1970s, but naming the bombs, as the saying goes, is like shooting fish in a barrel. The 1972-76 Lincoln Continental Mark IV, despite its button-tufted grandiosity and Bugatti-like succession of special editions (Bill Blass, Givenchy and Cartier, to name three), merits a place near the top of any list. A notably less loveable successor to the handsome 1968-71 Mark III, the Mark IV added such stylistic missteps as a tacky opera window and a standard vinyl roof. Handling was tugboat-terrible, and though the ’72 had an ample 365 horsepower, successive iterations, hobbled by tightening emissions restrictions, made do with 212hp. Awful. (Photo: TopGear)

  • 1972 Lincoln Continental Mark IV

    One would be hard-pressed to name a genuinely stellar American car built during the 1970s, but naming the bombs, as the saying goes, is like shooting fish in a barrel. The 1972-76 Lincoln Continental Mark IV, despite its button-tufted grandiosity and Bugatti-like succession of special editions (Bill Blass, Givenchy and Cartier, to name three), merits a place near the top of any list. A notably less loveable successor to the handsome 1968-71 Mark III, the Mark IV added such stylistic missteps as a tacky opera window and a standard vinyl roof. Handling was tugboat-terrible, and though the ’72 had an ample 365 horsepower, successive iterations, hobbled by tightening emissions restrictions, made do with 212hp. Awful. (Photo: Ford Motor)

  • 1982 Cadillac Cimarron

    It is nigh on impossible to imagine that Cadillac’s inept and unrefined Cimarron, the poster child for the sin of badge-engineering, was conceived to rival such vaunted cars as the BMW E30 3 Series and the Audi 4000. But it was, and between 1982 and 1988, it didn’t. Even GM had misgivings; salesmen were initially told not to refer to the flaccid four-door as a Cadillac – it was, said promotional materials, a “Cimarron, by Cadillac”. Its foundation was General Motors’ underachieving J-platform, which thanks to this cursed Caddy, became the only platform to underpin cars from every General Motors division, which at the time included Buick, Chevrolet, Oldsmobile, Pontiac, Holden, Opel and Vauxhall (not to mention Isuzu in Japan). Three jeers! (Photo: General Motors)

    Tune in to Top Gear: The Worst Car in the History of the World to see these, and many, many more terrible cars, put through their paces.