Bad cars made worseProton Satria Neo R3 LotusRacingIt’s no secret that Lotus is owned by Proton, and that the Malaysian car maker occasionally lets theNorfolk company loose to sort out the handling of its very ordinary hatchbacks.
But now Proton has gone one further and produced a Lotus-badged version of its utterly unremarkableSatria Neo R3. Painted Lotus Racing Green with yellow stripes, it gets all the accoutrements of a naffspecial edition: alloy wheels, black bonnet and oodles of air vents. The weedy 1.6-litre engine has just145bhp at its disposal. Luckily, only 25 examples were ever built.
Wartburg IrmscherCar fans know Irmscher best as a German tuner of Opels. That all changed when the Berlin Wall camedown. In 1990, Irmscher turned its attentions to one of the most notoriously terrible cars of the EasternBloc: the East German Wartburg. Big spoilers, lowered Bilstein suspension, Recaro seats and mattblack mirrors all looked more ‘Carlos Fandango’ than Golf GTI. Buyers were saved by the bell,however, as in 1991 the whole Wartburg production line was shut down.
Mitsuoka ViewtWhat is it about the Nissan Micra? This unassuming shopping trolley of a car has attracted the attentionof more Japanese coachbuilders than any other car. Mitsuoka’s Viewt is the most notorious. However,grafting on comical Jaguar Mk2-style front and rear ends and splashing some fake wood about thecabin do not make a classic. Inexplicably, the Viewt has been a runaway sales success.
Lada GTILadas are functional: they’re for getting you through Moscow winters and transporting crates of vodkaover frozen lakes. They’re absolutely not for hooning around corners discovering the limits ofperformance. But in 2008 Lada decided otherwise when it unveiled the 1119 GTI. Based on one of theworld’s worst hatchbacks, Lada added a 161bhp turbocharged 1.6-litre engine. But would you have oneover a VW Polo GTI? Thought not.
Yugo 65 CabrioletThe Yugo 65 owed its technology to the 1970s Fiat 127. Yet it soldiered on into the 1990s, when theSerbian-made hatchback was still the cheapest car sold in the US. In a last-ditch effort to boost sales,Yugo unveiled this convertible version, complete with electrically folding soft-top. Almost nobodybought one. Funny that.
DC Tata NanoLaudable is a word you might use for the Tata Nano, a car whose sub-(£1,800), Rs 1.52 lakh price tagin its native India is helping to get the population moving. Now arch-tuner Dilip Chhabria comes alongand does this to it. He’s swapped the body panels, uprated the brakes, suspension and interior, andfitted a 1.6-litre engine. But get this: he’s charging fully (£130,000), Rs 11.4 crores for it!
Panther RioThe Panther Rio deserves its place in our list not because the base car was a sow’s ear – the TriumphDolomite ‘donor’ car had plenty of strengths – but because of the price Panther charged for it. In 1975,a Rio cost (£9,445), Rs 8.2 lakhs when Jaguar’s range-topping XJ12 sold for just (£7,496), Rs 6.3lakhs . No amount of Connolly leather, burr walnut or deep-pile carpeting could ever justify that.
Citroen 2CV PopWhat’s the 2CV all about? Ultra-cheap transport for the masses. So what was Citroen thinking back in1973, when it created the 2CV Pop? It daubed it with all sorts of dubious antique styling elements, likea pre-war grille, hood irons and boot-mounted spare wheel. It also ditched the 2CV’s 602cc flat-twinengine in favour of a four-cylinder unit taken from the GS. Citroen actually contemplated turning thisinto a production model before sanity intervened.
Trabant TrampEast Germany’s Trabant remains one of the least desirable cars ever made. The suitably named Trampversion was conceived as a military jeep. But in 1978 it was magically transformed by the totalitarianregime to become a ‘feel-good’ buggy by the simple expedient of painting it in gaudy shades likeyellow and pink. Let’s face it, nobody ever felt very good about it.
Vanden Plas 1500The mother of all sows’ ears is unquestionably the Vanden Plas 1500. Taking the lamest car ever madein Britain, the Austin Allegro, parent company British Leyland attempted to gentrify it. Its uprightgrille, leather seats, chrome wheel trims and walnut picnic tables evoked the classics of Empire. Sadlythe Vanden Plas looked and felt like a pig wearing your grandmother’s jewellery.