The 5 Worst Small Cars in History
These machines are small in stature and significance.
1949 Crosley Hot Shot
The arrival of the 2012 Fiat 500 has prompted a lot of discussion about small cars and America. Some people think that the time is right for diminutive driving, but others are convinced that Americans will never understand tiny cars.
In order to gain a little perspective, we've taken a look back at some of the best — and worst — small cars in history. Here are the worst.
1. Peel P50 (1962 - 1965)
A mockery of a car
It is listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the smallest production car ever built. At 198 pounds, you can lift it with one hand. A 49-cubic-centimeter, 100-mpg DKW engine lives between your knees. Oh, and it has just three wheels and no reverse gear. The P50 makes an original Mini look giant. But unlike the Mini, it's essentially a mockery of everything good about the automobile. You could drive this or, if you don't hate life, you could walk.
2. King Midget Model III (1957 - 1970)
Yes, people actually bought it
When it was first sold in the late 1950s, the King Midget Model III was billed as "the world's most exciting small car." That's a mighty claim for what was essentially a lawn tractor with a windshield. The 9.2-horsepower Model III was built in Ohio from 1957 to 1970, and believe it or not, it was actually the result of careful development; King Midget Models I and II boasted less power and comfort. Just under 5,000 were sold, which only proves that some people are gluttons for punishment.
3. Renault Dauphine (1956 - 1967)
Great intentions, horrible result
In 1951, French manufacturer Renault conducted a survey of European drivers, asking them what they wanted in a car. Five years later, after extensive development, Renault launched the Dauphine. It featured a rear-mounted engine, a 30-second zero-to-60-mph time and an interior cheaper than a Kleenex box. It also rusted like crazy and boasted an oversteer-inducing rear swing axle and a noisy transmission. At least it was unattractive.
4. Crosley Hotshot (1949 - 1952)
Fragile, slow, depressing
Powel Crosley Jr. got his start making radios and kitchen appliances, which is probably why the Crosley Hotshot, America's first post-World War II sports car, looked like a cross between a tube radio and an old toaster oven. Its engine, a 0.75-liter overhead-cam 4-cylinder, was made of brazed tin, not cast iron. Because those brazed welds often collapsed, the engine often fell apart. Would you want to ride down the road in your toaster? Neither would we.
5. Yugo GV (1985 - 2002)
A bad Fiat made even worse
Twenty-six years after its release, the Yugo's name has become synonymous with bad. The GV — the name stood for "Good Value" — was little more than a Yugoslavian-built version of Fiat's loathsome 127 hatchback. Its U.S. importation was the brainchild of automotive huckster Malcolm Bricklin, the same man who brought Subaru to America. The GV was akin to total automotive failure: It drove badly, wasn't charming and regularly fell apart. Good value? Sure, if someone paid you to buy one.
Sam Smith is a journalist, a Southerner, and a reformed Alfa Romeo mechanic who spends most of his time mooning over leaky old motorcycles and small-batch bourbon. A multiple International Automotive Media award-winner, he has covered cars for Automobile Magazine, Car and Driver, and Esquire, among other publications. He once drove 4000 miles in a weekend for a hamburger and has only been threatened by the German police twice.
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It is interesting that Sam Smith, an automobile "expert" from MSN can't even get his facts correct. In calling the Crosley Hotshot, the car that won the first race at
Sebring on of the worst cars in history, he has severely failed. He makes an attempt to be clever by comparing the car to a tube radio and a toaster (due to the Crosley Corp's radio and appliance heritage) but he fails since Powel Crosley had sold the radio division to Avco before starting in cars. But he really fails when he talks about the Hotshot engine. The Hotshot NEVER had the type of engine he describes. The "tin block" was discontinued by Crosley before the Hotshot came out. The Hotshot was built ONLY with the cast iron block engine. Please get your facts straight by consulting an expert before you write.!!!
Would it be possible to hire an automotive writer who actually knows something about these cars?
The Crosley pictured isn't a HotShot, it's a Super Sports.
And every Crosley HotShot and Super Sports ever built used the famous, tough Crosley CIBA ("Cast Iron Block Assembly") engine. No "brazed tin" and no welds. The "toaster" comment doesn't apply either, since the car was built by Crosley Motors, Inc. and not the Crosley Corporation of home-appliance fame (or by the Cincinnati Reds at Crosley Field or by disc jockeys at Crosley Broadcasting.)
Here we have proof that a person can ****ume he can write an article on a subject without knowledge of the subject, or doing any research. Maybe the author should run for congress.
The "tin block" Crosley was used throughout WWII by the military, and using alcohol based anti-freeze lasted, and performed perfectly for them. I still buy Crosley miltary surplus engines today, and use them to build high performance engines. When the tin block was installed in the post war cars using a civilian salt based anti-freeze that a problem occurred. We have a Crosley Club member that races 3/4 midgets with a tin block that puts out over 100 hp. @ 8000 rpm. Not bad for an engine that was designed at 26.5 hp. The cast iron block came out in 1949 and was a big hit with hydroplane boat racers, and class H race cars. I have built some engines that will run 10,000 rpm.
The Crosley car worked perfectly for what it was designed, an inexpensive second car for around town. The Crosley Hotshot was Americas first sports car, and with 4 wheel disc brakes, and overhead camshaft. The author claims the body was not good looking, so why was it's body style copied by Austin Healey when they made the "bug eye" Sprite. The Hotshot won the first Sebring race, and went on to start the "H Mod" class racing that is still be run today.
So the next time you write an article about something, get your facts straight!
I certainly would like to hear Mr. Smith's replies to the comments posted. It seems that many of these articles suffer from this type of "hit and run" journalism. It is irresponsible of MSN to allow this to occurr. If someone is going to write an usubstantiated article, thye should be required to defend it!!!
The Dauphine may look terrible by today's standards but in its day it was an acceptable car. France in the 1950's was still recovering economically from World War II. MSN should hire someone that is over 40 and understands how to do real research to write their automotive articles.
Thanks to everyone for posting their defense of these small cars. My mother owned a Crosley and loved it. All too often these articles are written to be glib, and ultimately pointless. One of the first rules one should apply when looking to the past with contemporary eyes. The evaluations are different, and so are attitudes on safety and efficiency. Get your facts and your perspective straight, Sam.