Fifth-worst: 1971 Chevrolet Vega
For me, Vega will always be the worst car ever.
In the late 1970s, I was living in Toledo, Ohio, and working as a reporter for The Toledo Blade. One day, I was preparing to drive a friend's Vega. I sat down in the driver's seat and put my foot on the floor in front of me, about to step on the gas. And guess what happened?
It's not a tough question if you were ever in a Vega. My foot went right through the rusty floor. This, as it turned out, was not an uncommon event.
"My first car was a Vega," Huffman said. "It was a 1974 Vega, and when I got it, it was only three years old. I lived in Southern California, where nothing gets rusty. But that car was rusting."
Huffman told me I sat down in one of the good Vegas, because "the floor gave out before the car did." He called Vega "the most disastrously built car in history."
In defense of the Vega, the 1970s were a tough time for U.S. automakers. Rising gas prices created demand for smaller cars. The automakers struggled with intensified emissions regulation. The balance of power had shifted to the UAW. Imports were establishing a toehold in the U.S.
Ford's Pinto will forever be joined with the Vega as a symbol of the inability to adjust. Many people wrote in after our first story to say that the Pinto should have been among the top 10 worst cars. But Huffman said, "The Pinto sold extremely well and proved to be a very reliable car, unless you got hit from behind."