Throughout automotive history, there have been some wonderful cars made and produced around the world to great acclaim. For every twenty or so of those, however, no matter how prestigious the manufacturer, there have also been some real stinkers. The Austin Allegro springs unbidden to the mind for example.
Yes, some cars have been so awful or ill-thought through that they have been erased from the collective motoring memory. Cars so ugly that Mothers would cover the eyes of children as the vehicles lurched by. Yet it must be something to do with the perverse nature of man that from among the ranks of these horrible motors, many have become rare, collectable and appreciating in value. Everyone it seems loves a plucky loser.
The Triumph Mayflower was an attempt by Triumph, maker of some wonderful motorcycles, to manufacture a ‘luxury’ small car designed to appeal, astonishingly, to America. Looking at it now it is unbelievable that, as the story goes, the body was inspired by the Rolls-Royce Silver Dawn. To reduce a Roller to smaller dimensions resulted in a design that looked rather odd. The proportions of the overly heavy body were all out of kilter, an obvious fact that nobody seemed to notice at the time. Under-powered and ponderously slow it suffered an ignominious fate but find one now in good condition and buyers will be queueing around the block.
This small, terrifying vehicle, about the size of the notorious Hillman Imp, appeared to be going in two directions at once and resembled a child’s push-me-pull-you toy. Not only was it a monumentally stupid idea but the name sounded like a particularly unpleasant affliction of a delicate part of the body.
Made by the German manufacturer Dornier, noted mostly as an aircraft maker, the car was launched in 1958 although unlike some of the brand’s other creations, did not exactly fly out of the showrooms. Powered by a 14 horsepower, 250cc engine, it could manage 50mph with a following wind but the real genius of this car is that the back seat faced rearwards. Imagine how exciting this was for rear-seat passengers as they watched giant trucks bearing down upon them! Try finding a cheap one now.
Naming a car for the deceased son of the company’s founder seems like a nice, but unbusinesslike, thing to do. Sadly, the Edsel Ford did not do so well. In the late 1950s, the American public were not noted for their subtle taste in automobiles, many of which had more shiny metal than the Knights Of The Round Table. Sadly even the most ardent lovers of chromium plate baulked at a vehicle which looked like a ceremonial barge of a wealthy eastern potentate. Naturally the remaining few have become hugely desirable.
NSU Ro 80
Some cars achieved almost instantaneous classic car status despite the obvious and vital flaw. The NSU Ro80 was and still is a terrific looking car but, alas, it ran on a rotary Wankel engine. Now, the Japanese Mazda company have proved that rotary engine technology works but the NSU drank fuel faster than an old-school Formula One car. The rotor tips in the engine wore out constantly and expensive engine rebuilds every 30,000 miles were commonplace. We still want one though.
The gorgeous but endlessly flawed Aston Martin Lagonda, the DeLorean, the Trabant, any Cadillac you care to mention, the dreaded Yugo, the dull Ford Scorpio, the original Ssangyong Rodius, which looked like someone had added a lean-to on the back of an SUV, the Austin Allegro so awful it warrants mentioning twice and many others have all gone down the drain in one way or another and history has shown there is a place for all of them, ideally under a tarpaulin. Yet some of these cars are today traded and shipped around the world. Why do we love them so much?