The Greatest Automotive Flops of the Last Two Decades

Bad cars come and go, but flops are forever.

As nouns go, “flop” is a good one—short, peppy, and to the point. Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary defines a flop as “an act or sound of flopping,” or “a complete failure.” It implies a cheeky, jovial kind of bad, a light-hearted crappiness of fate that goes beyond simple notions of success or defeat.

By the same token, in the automotive world, a flop isn’t necessarily a bad car. Bad cars come and go all the time, but flops are something more—they’re an unholy convergence of economic, corporate, and design conditions; a perfect storm of bad luck, bad planning, and— say what? —engineering. Four-wheeled flops don’t have to be miserable to drive or vomitous to look at (although it certainly helps); they just have to be a no-questions-asked sales disaster.

With that in mind, we give you the greatest vehicular face-plants of the past quarter-century. Welcome to the big, floppy machine—try not to touch anything.

Vector (1971–present)

Vector Motors founder Jerry Wiegert has been compared to P.T. Barnum, his company to Never-Never Land, and his cars to—well, most of the things said about his cars have been suspiciously positive or virtually unprintable. Such is the fate of the odd and boastful.

The Vector Motors Corporation was established in the early 1970s with the stated aim of producing an affordable American supercar. Its first running prototype, built in 1980, sported outlandish looks and a twin-turbocharged, 650-hp Chevrolet V-8. Wiegert claimed that the car, dubbed the W2, would see production the following year and cost $125,000. To no one’s surprise, the first customer Vector, a modified version of the W2 known as the W8, didn’t appear until almost nine years later. Just 22 cars were built, and by the end of production, list price approached half a million dollars.

Vector was acquired by an Indonesian manufacturing conglomerate in 1993, and Wiegert was forcibly removed from command. A host of abortive projects followed, including the Lamborghini-powered M12, a machine that British journalist Jeremy Clarkson once called “very probably the worst car in the entire world.” Wiegert recently regained control of Vector, and according to the company’s website, a new, 1800-hp “hypercar” is currently undergoing development.

We’ll leave it to you to interpret what that means. As Barnum once said, “Without promotion, something terrible happens—nothing!”

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