The American auto industry is undoubtedly one of the greatest in the world. For more than a century, American automakers like Ford, Chrysler, and General Motors have been building amazing performance cars that are known and loved all over the world. These include the Chevy Corvette, which has one of the longest-running production runs ever, the legendary Ford GT40 that destroyed Ferrari at Le Mans in the ’60s, and the SSC Tuatara that currently holds the production car speed record.However, for every great American performance car, there are countless horrible ones that gearheads should avoid for various reasons — ugly designs, terrible driving dynamics, unreliability, or other reasons that make them terrible investments. Let’s explore ten of the worst Americans performance cars ever made.
10 Vector W8
In the early ’70s, Gerald Wiegert established Vector Motors Corporation with one goal — to build fantastic sports cars that could compete with European giants like Lamborghini and Ferrari. In 1991, Vector introduced its most famous model ever — the W8.
The W8 was almost a winner. It had a fantastic wedge-shaped design that made it one of the best-looking American sports cars of the day and was powered by a massive twin-turbo V8 producing 625 ponies. Unfortunately, the W8’s build quality was heavily criticized after one of the early models caught fire when tennis star Andre Agassi drove it for the first time. Vector ended up making only 17 W8s, making it extremely rare.
9 1991 Dodge Viper
In the early ’90s, Dodge hatched a plan to build the ultimate sports car that would destroy any Corvette and also be good enough to take on the Europeans. After several years of development, the Viper was born.
The Viper was an instant hit, loved for its eye-catching and fire-breathing V10 engine under the hood, producing 645 hp. However, to save weight, Dodge made too many sacrifices. The Viper didn’t have important driving aids like traction control, ABS, and stability control, which is why it got into multiple catastrophic accidents. It’s still one of the coolest American cars ever made, but unless you’re packing some serious driving skills, leave this one alone.
8th Pontiac Fiero
In 1984, Pontiac introduced the Fiero and impressed many gearheads. The Fiero had a gorgeous wedge-shaped design and was the first mid-engined American sports car in decades, making it a huge hit among gearheads.
Sadly, GM decided to raid the parts bin and use components from other cars to build the Fiero, resulting in a car with a great design and excellent driving dynamics but awful build quality. The Fiero would often break down and was even recalled for susceptibility to engine fires.
7 Chrysler TC By Maserati
In the late ’80s, Chrysler head Lee Iacocca and Maserati head Alejandro de Tomaso decided to build a new sports car to celebrate their friendship. The result was the Chrysler TC By Maserati, which quickly showed why it’s always a bad idea to mix friendships with business.
Admittedly, the TC looked good and had a luxurious interior. However, it was based on the terrible K-car platform, which means it had unsatisfactory performance. The ‘Maserati’ in its name also made it too expensive.
6 DeLorean DMC-12
John DeLorean is a famous automotive executive who’s largely credited for coming up with the iconic Pontiac GTO. However, after falling out with Pontiac in the ’70s, DeLorean decided to start his own company with the aim of building world-class sports cars.
After several years of development, the DeLorean Motor Company released its first and only car — the DMC-12. The DMC-12 made every gearhead’s jaw drop with its futuristic wedge-shaped design. However, poor build quality, an underpowered engine, and an insanely high price tag made it a commercial failure. The only cool thing about the DMC-12 is that it’s one of the greatest movie cars, as it was featured in the Back to the future franchise.
5 Chevrolet Corvette 305 “California”
The third-generation Corvette will always leave a bad taste in every Corvette fan’s mouth. That’s because, while it looked great, it was built at the height of the malaise era and had terrible performance.
Things were even worse for Corvettes sold in California in 1980, as the state had the strictest emission regulations. Corvettes sold in California in 1980 were equipped with a small-block V8 engine producing just 180 hp, giving them terrible performance.
4 Chrysler Crossfire
The Crossfire has to be among the best model names we’ve heard, but that’s the only cool thing about this car. The Crossfire was supposed to be the sports car that would launch Chrysler into the 21st century, but it ended up being yet another failed model from the brand.
There are many things we don’t like about the Crossfire. For one, it’s hideous and too large for a sports car. We also hate the fact that it was based on the outdated Mercedes-Benz R170 platform.
3 2002 Ford Thunderbird
When Chevy introduced the Corvette in 1953, Ford knew it had to respond with a worthy competitor. Two years later, Ford unveiled the Thunderbird. The 1955 Thunderbird was a fantastic two-seater sports car with a gorgeous design and superb driving feel. However, Ford decided to convert it into a four-seater in 1958 and stuck to that formula until 1998, when it discontinued the Thunderbird.
In 2002, Ford decided to revive the Thunderbird in the original two-seater body style. Unfortunately, the 2002 Thunderbird ended up being hated for its ugly design and weak powerplant, forcing Ford to permanently discontinue the Thunderbird nameplate in 2005.
2 Saturn Sky
The 2000s were terrible for Saturn and other GM subsidiaries, as they were all struggling to make sales. To save itself, Saturn decided to introduce a new entry-level two-seater sports car called the Sky. The plan almost worked, as the sky had a beautiful design that many loved.
Sadly, everything else was terrible. For one, its 177-hp four-cylinder engine was too weak to compete with other sports cars. The Sky also had many reliability issues, which is why it couldn’t save Saturn in the end.
1 Cadillac XLR
In the early 2000s, Cadillac wanted to build a more luxurious version of the Corvette. Cadillac took the C6 Corvette’s platform and gave it a new body with many luxury features, including wood trim, heated and cooled seats, keyless entry, a color touchscreen, and more. The result was the XLR.
While the XLR was more luxurious and arguably better-looking than the Corvette, it just couldn’t keep up in the performance department. That’s because it was powered by a 4.6-liter V8 producing 320 hp – 80 hp less than the Corvette. It also weighed more due to the extra luxury features.
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