5 frumpy cars you love to hate


“When the International Criminal Court at The Hague levied charges of crimes against humanity against Pontiac for its role in the Aztek affair, it forced a reckoning within automotive world. That the charges and subsequent massive legal fees bankrupted Pontiac and forced GM to shutter the division forever is no secret. It is also no secret that tens, possibly hundreds, of Azteks still roam the streets of America, offending any and all citizenry with at least one good eye and even an ounce of good taste.”

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://www.hagerty.com/articles-videos/articles/2018/05/14/five-frumpy-cars-you-love-to-hate


Never really understood why the hatred for the Aztek. It wasn’t any worse than the late 70s 2 door Matador. Now the luxury car versions of Cavalier and Granada were the worst. All that managed to do was show how crappy the cheap cars were, and that both Ford and GM could have made the cheap versions a lot nicer for not much more. Simple things like how the doors closed and how much smoother the ride could be for example. Doubt either manufacturer spent much more than $500 more for those two areas alone. Chrysler did the same thing with Diplomat/Caravelle and the luxury version LeBaron Fifth Avenue.


Ok. So when it came out, I was not fond of the Pontiac Aztek with it’s strong geometric shapes. However, today when we see a great looking hot-shot Cadillac on the street, can anyone deny that there is a resemblance somewhere buried in that styling theme? I’d sure like to own a modern Cadillac with a V engine in it. But I can’t justify the cost. And with the recent addition of an 87 Grand National my 3 car/5 car garage is at capacity.


So what’s the fifth car? For that matter, what are the fourth and fifth frumpy cars? The dramatically futuristic Lagonda surely doesn’t belong on this list.


Everyone likes to criticize the Cimarron by Cadillac and the end product left a lot to be desired. However, GM seemed to miss a great opportunity to capture a niche market. By the 1980s, many older persons who had driven the large GM cars like Cadillac would have welcomed a smaller, easier to drive car if it had the quality to match the Cadillac nameplate. As it was, GM failed and left the market to Honda and Toyota.


Hated the Aztek from the first moment I saw it at the auto show. I was so shocked I spoke out loud, “What an ugly thing!” and the model heard me and responded. She wanted to know what I found ugly. I told her to look anywhere. No wonder GM went under and had to be rescued by the US Government.


Thank you for noticing that. We have updated the story to say four.



Here we go again, dumping on AMC. This time the Matador. The 4 door version was a very competent police car in the day. The completely different 2-door, more aerodynamic, version was designed with NASCAR in mind. Between 1974-1975 the Matador won 5 NASCAR races and had 17 top 3 finishes. Mostly thanks to Bobby Allison and the Roger Penske Team sponsored by AMC. Then I guess you might as well call the Charger Daytona and Plymouth Superbird ugly too. The styling of these cars was for a specific purpose. What was the purpose for making the Astek so ugly? Certainly not for better performance.


Aztek, TC, Lagonda, Cimarron, Yugo. Seems like five.


Ah, I missed the Aztek as one of the features of the article, since it has no pic. I just figured you were noting it in the intro as a baseline, or the standard unit of measure of car-hate! (Still can’t see the Lagonda as frumpy, though!)


I first owned a 1983 Cavaler and in 2000 bought an 1985 D’oro Cimarron. It had an digital dash, sun roof, power everything. I’ve actually owned 3 Cimarrons and they drove great. The 85 was a 2 L and and the other’s 2.8 L. The cars were light and the 2.8’s took off great…they just didn’t have much on the top end…surprise they were built when 55 mph was the law! The 1985 D’oro lasted 20 years and I drove the 1987 until 2014 when I gave it to my son. They were expensive when they first came out, but the 2.8 L was bullit proof. I miss the ole J car.


I had a TC which came after a beat-up LeBaron I had because I wanted a convertible [again] but didn’t have much money. I thought it would be pretty cool owning an Italian car with a name that ends in an “I”.The TC was not much mechanically unless (perhaps) you had the Cosworth with the 5 speed (I didn’t). The top was not automatic as my '70 Cougar was 19 years earlier. I didn’t like the opera windows much but never used the hardtop anyway. Parts were virtually non-existent (if you needed a headlight lens you were SOL). Got tired of people calling the TC a LeBaron (it basically was) so I sold it and bought an SLK (still have it after 13 years).


The only reason so many Americans incorrectly think that the Pontiac Aztek is the most ugly car ever is because the Fiat Multipla never made it to the US. The story I heard was that some big cheese at Fiat styled it, so no-one had the courage to say how bad it actually was before they started making them.

Here it is in all its hideousness: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fiat_Multipla
Warning: You should probably protect your eyes before clicking the link. I truly can’t imagine what anyone who actually bought a Fiat Multipla must have been thinking.


Have owned a 90’ TC 5 speed for 10 years and truly enjoy driving same. With the 5 speed you have considerably more ‘get up and go’ than the auto tranny cars, plus its just fun to run through the gears. Interior quality perhaps superior to almost any car with all leather and wood–many folks comment on this. No question as to the look alike with the Le Baron which definitely killed any appeal for the car as a collectors item, and parts replacement is a nighmare, made even more complex with the Cosworth engine. Great gas milage for the time-I run 28 to 30 mpg on the road, slight less in town. Have 35,000 miles on vehicle, am second owner and likely will keep car ujst for the fun of driving same. Do not even stress the Maserati connection–just call it a TC.


I still like the lines on the TC, but remember wondering why they would build a car that was so similar looking to the LeBaron.
As for the Aztek, everyone says how ugly it was but then they rave over the Mercedes, BMW, Acura and other cars that blatantly copied the Aztek’s “dog pooping in the snow” profile.
And while I’m at it, where are the Pacer and Gremlin on this list?


It’s certainly trendy to dump on the Aztek and I never thought it was attractive. But, do not forget that they sold a lot of them, and their owners were generally happy. They are a very useful vehicle. And tell me, what crossover looks good?


Gotta say - the first Aztek was awful - subsequent models less awful but still.
In view of current SUVs, CUVs or whatever not so much.


@dleit53 - You make a good point. There were buyers of Azteks, and I can’t say I ever heard an owner complain about them once they owned one. The sales numbers I can find total just under 120,000 in the US, which is not small but not large.


Thought about buying a Cimarron a number of years ago. Test drove it. Truly a wretched vehicle. Fine as a low-cost Chevy Cavalier but did nothing for Cadillac other than tarnishing further that brand’s already tarnished image.


The article is wrong, the Aztek was “that bad”.