Two for the Road is a hangout for mystery writers Tammy Kaehler and Simon Wood to chat, reminisce, gossip, speculate and argue about all things motorsport.

Friday, November 4, 2011

The Ugly Ducklings

Last we talked about the cars we'd love to drive before we died. This week, I wanted to talk about the flipside of that question. Which cars do we wish we'd never seen? I'm not one for bashing someone's hard work, but there are some cars that the automakers need to be informed of their poor judgment.

SIMON: My top 5 ugly cars goes a little like this. They're not in any particular order, but a general list of vehicles that make my skin crawl at the sight of them.

#1: Pontiac Aztek. I guess it was supposed to be a compact SUV or something. However, it looks like something that came out of the design studios of Tupperware. I'm so glad it's no longer exists.

#2: The current Cadillac range. For me, they've never had a pretty collection of cars over the last 35yrs, but I do appreciate what they've done to freshen up their range and make more hip looking. However the combination of slab sides and sharp edges is a turn off. The styling does come off looking like futuristic and outdated at the same time. It was the kind of thing I was drawing in design class when I was 12.

#3: Chevy HHR. I liked the PT Cruiser at lot (especially the convertible). It was a nice retro looking car and fun to drive. The HHR tried to follow in those tire tracks and went horribly wrong. It looks more like a toy than a real car. Whereas the PT Cruiser is elegant, the HHR is vulgar. Should have been called the HMM...

#4: The Smart Car. I'm not hating on because it's small. Pocket sized cars are a bit of a redheaded step child in the US, but in Europe and Japan, they are commonplace. Virtually every car manufacturer puts out a practical and economical sub-compact that is far more versatile than the Smart Car. The Smart Car is a smart idea when there are even smarter ones in the same one. The current advert on the TV centers on people saying "big" and one person saying "small." It's a cute ad, but I would like to add an addendum to the ad. When the "small" man leaves in his Smart Car, I want an 18-wheeler to flatten it and someone to say, "Big again." If you want a small car, buy a Mini, Fiat 500 or Ford KA.

#5: Mercedes CL65. I have call Mercedes out in general. I think Mercedes has lost its class. They used make to make well appointed cars for people who could afford them. Now they hurl out vulgar muscle cars with way too much power that a slew of super computers try to dial back. Their gas mileage is awful. For me the CL65 embodies everything bad about Mercedes these days--it's not a great looking car, but my God its personality is a lot worse. I can forgive the cars above for their shortcomings, but I can't show this car any mercy.

My dishonorable mentions include Lexus in general, Nissan Prairie (from the mid-80's), British Leyland’s Princess, Maxi and Allegro.

What makes your ugly list, Tams?

TAMMY: I knew there was a reason we're friends. #1 says it all.

#1: Pontiac Aztek. My God. That should be numbers one through three. Most hideous thing ever.

#2: 1979 Pontiac Trans Am. It epitomizes the worst of the 70s styling and excess, in my mind.

#3: Really, anything else from the 1970s I have no love for that era of cars. None.

#4: The Honda Crosstour. It looks like the blown up rear of one kind of car and the over-agressive front of another. I don't know what it's trying to be, but it's not good.

#5: 1984 Aston Martin Lagonda wagon. Sorry,
"shooting brace," as though that'll make it less hideous. I mean, really. It looks like a stretched-out Volvo. It was enormous and expensive. And I just don't get it. Proof that fabulous car makers don't always make elegant cars, I guess.

What about the rest of you? What do you think are the ugly ducklings out there? And will any of them ever turn into a swan?


  1. I think the Aztek is on everyone's list and I was reminded of it recently when I saw an Acura ZDX. That's the upscale cousin of the Crosstour. I've never been fond of Acura styling, but the ZDX looks like an Aztek that was put through a rock tumbler. Smooth and shiny, but still fugly. Especially when viewed from the rear.

    Another that makes me cringe is the 2006 Subaru Impreza STI. (Full disclosure: My daily driver is a plain jain, 5-spd, 2006 Impreza wagon. Not lovely, but a great value and most trouble-free car I've ever owned.) Mechanically the STI is amazing, but I wouldn't be seen in one. Wings, and spoilers, and hood scoops, and fender flares, ugh.

  2. Why did you have to show me that Aston shooting brace? I had successfully navigated my life without ever laying eyes on it - until now. The horror ... the horror ...

  3. The AMC Pacer. A rolling sauna deathtrap. Oh, and the Renault Alliance--planned obsolescence made boring, and which provided the majority of the parts for SCCA's Sports, Renault series. I actually owned an Alliance in the 1980s, after my AMC Concord burned up in a McDonalds parking lot. I got smarter, though. Now I drive a Mini Cooper S. Great little car.

  4. Rick Hunt: I see your point about the Subaru, though where that goes for me is people trying to look "race" on the street, which, now that I've spent enough time at the racetrack, just looks pathetic.

    Steve: Sorry. :-)

    Rick Helms: Love the Mini Cooper! And as noted on FB, the Pacer starts to seem cute to me now, because it's gotten retro. But again, I never rode in one, and I can see the sauna aspect.

  5. Sorry about the post. There were some code errors that garbled some of the text.

    The Lagonda is a styling mess.

  6. The Prius, the "new" Beetle, anything in a hatchback, and the handful of "pickup truck crossovers", like the Lincoln Blackwood and the Chevy Avalanache. I do defend the style of some of the 70's muscle cars, but I am from the rust belt and my dad was a gear head who grew up with those cars, so the love transferred.