6 times when cars flopped in other countries

The iconic WWII Willys Jeep and its later English rival, the Land Rover, have been sold around the world for almost 70 years. They make sense pretty much everywhere.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://www.hagerty.com/articles-videos/articles/2019/08/15/when-cars-flopped-in-other-countries

I wouldn’t consider the Opel a flop here, for I have seen at least 5 in my lifetime.

Why aren’t they being crushed? Perhaps they look too much like a corvette? I think it boils down to how they look.


I owned an Opel GT and it was quite an interesting car, but not without its faults as noted in the commentary. I’m actually thinking of buying one for old time sake.

The Hillman Minx was available in the US as a Hillman as early as 1960. I saw quite a few. My best friend in high school drove one.

By 1963, domestic compact availability and the general perception was that all small foreign cars- save VW- were junk. Most were. All the foibles of Dauphines, Fiats, Simcas, any English car sold in the late 50’s had come out. Why would you buy a Minx when a sturdy, roomy Falcon, Corvair or Valiant- service and parts readily available- cost about the same?

So did I. Bought it used, drove the fool out of it for about a year. Had no probs while I owned it…but the drivers seat could have had a little more padding in it. Everytime I got behind the wheel and looked out over the hood it reminded me of my 1969 Vette. The Vette was a 427 in Daytona Yellow with factory side pipes and the Opel was Sunburst Yellow…sigh…I liked the Opal but I REALLY I miss the Vette.

Hi, your Corvette sounded wonderful! I’ve been feel pull up, I bought it as a whim, so it turned out to be a play car. It was a lot better car than what the general public thought about the Opel.

I am basically a Porsche guy and had a 67 911 S, 911 4S, and Panamera, but on a whim again last year I bought a used FRS, had it tuned, and I absolutely love it! It only weighs 2700 pounds and the supra box is putting out about 102 hp/L so it has no torque, high revving, noisy, and with the suspension you need to wear a kidney belt ha ha Ha! Good fun!

Dictated. Not Reviewed.

Wm. Terry

Chrysler didn’t “leap” into the European market. They made an untimely investment in the Rootes Group, what had been the UK’s most profitable and well managed automobile company, at a time when the British government was seeking to force industry to relocate production facilities to areas of high unemployment. The misguided government policy sucked the life out of most of the British auto industry, including Rootes. In a misguided attempt to protect their now nearly worthless investment, Chrysler threw in much larger sums and assumed control of the company.

At the time, Rootes had a well established and successful world wide network of dealers, with the Hillman Minx being the best selling British automobile in the US until the advent of the MGB. What to do with Rootes existing US dealers and its’ newly acquired line of products proved problematic for Chrysler and was the real reason for the decline under it’s ownership.

What happened to the Citroen SM ?

In '71 my Dad bought the first Cricket to come into Champaign County, Illinois, and it was a great car for just over a year when I hit some ice and rolled it up into a little ball.A few years later I needed a cheap car and bought a used '73 Cricket, and found Dad’s was apparently the only good one that came to the US. That car wouldn’t even wait for me to get the last problem fixed before something else would break. I finally replaced it when the wife was about 6 months pregnant and I was afraid it wouldn’t get her to the hospital.

I was also in love with the Opel GT back in the day. The guy that taught me to play bass guitar in the late 60s had one for a while, and I thought someone had washed their Vette in too hat water.

The Hillman in the photograph is not a Minx, it is a Super Minx, an entirely different car. I should know, having owned a 1962 Minx and a 1964 Super Minx. Both were perfectly acceptable cars, getting pretty good mileage, especially in the case of the Minx with a 4 speed manual gear shift on the column. With a shift pattern reversed from the British cars the uninitiated had no hope of driving it. The Super Minx had a Borg Warner automatic, which gave anemic acceleration, but was capable of easily reaching comfortable highway speeds.

The biggest problem with Hillman and Sunbeam cars in the US was a lack of parts availability. That is why VW basically destroyed the British sedan market here single handed. Hillmans and Sunbeams were imported into the US from at least the 1950’s into the 1970’s before throwing in the towel.

My first P1800 was in fact a 62 P1800A which was actually a barn find. Vin # 1508 and I was the second owner. It took about two years to finally purchase the UK rust bucket from the owners. They purchased the car for $4,100 in 1961 at the NY car show. I received the original owners manual that showed P1800A on the cover. Egg crate grill and buck horn bumpers, not to mention that you had a choice between blowing your “city horn” or “country horn”. The Over Drive light was a strange pinkish color, won a few shows with that one. I used it for every day driving for a number of years and then sold it to a fellow in FL. Last I heard it was still going 20 years later. A great car.

I had an Opel GT for a while too. Bought it in Hawaii when my old Chevy Impala rusted beyond help and its windshield cracked. I took the Opel to the Pearl Harbor auto body shop and sanded and filled it as well as an amateur could and a friend sprayed it bright yellow. The black interior was fine and it ran fine and the lights flipped over no problem. Sold it when I bought my first new car, a 1979 Mazda RX-7 also yellow. Kept the RX-7 until had 127,000 miles and traded it in on a Black RX-7 Turbo…Buying a C8 Corvette…a long way from my “mini Corvette” Opel GT… to bad the good yellow is no longer offered or my C8 would be yellow too…

The Citreon SM was banned along with the Mercury Marquis de Sade by Justice Potter Stewart and the US Supreme Court in 1964.

Almost none of these cars meet the premise of the article. 6 times when cars flopped in other countries.
What country was the Lotus Elan a success in with only 3,855 sold world wide?
How about the 3,500 Cosworth Vegas? Where was that a sales success?
Opel GT meant as a low cost option to the Corvette. Six year production run and sold 100,000 units. Corvette lives on. Opel GT, not so much. I guess you could argue it was a success in the US at 70% of production, but, it was killed by the 240z worldwide.
Volvo P1800? Sold about 50,000 worldwide with a 10 year production run. Where was the big success/failure?
In what country did the Saab 9-2x, 9-7x and 9-6 enjoy success, in what country did that success then turn to failure?

Some real examples. Chevrolet failed in India. Mahindra failed in the US.

I recall the Opel GT being pretty popular at one time. They were expense to repair if you had a front end crash as it had a bunch of welded on braces and panels, including one that was easily bent but inaccessible without removing the rest of the inner structure first.

One you missed: the Austin Marina. A cute car that just didn’t sell well in the US.

The Opel GT was an initial hit that had a waiting list of customers eager to take delivery. What killed it was the introduction of a better sports car in the same price range that nobody saw coming. The Opel GT was eclipsed by the Datsun 240Z and the rest, as they say, is history.

The only thing I have to offer this discussion is a story. My friend had stolen his sister’s Opel GT and came by to pick me up for school one morning. We stopped by the local fast food joint first, and cruised by the bus stops on the way. But realizing that we had wasted too much time, he started to…”hurry”. Too fast down a Pennsylvania creek side road, was not a good idea in this car. It rolled over a couple times and ended up back on its wheels. Apart from being covered in hot coffee, we were fine. Fired it back up, and it ran. With no glass, a coolant leak, and a noticeable limp, it got us to school. The question of the day was, “Hey Mike, what happened to your sister’s car?” I walked home. The next day, HE showed up with a limp.

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I had a '71 Vega with a 302 Z28 engine. That was a fun car! I’d still like to have it…

I had a 1966 Sunbeam Minx in college, a very rudimentary car that taught me a great deal on how to repair them; out of desperate necessity to keep it running. Fond memories of “The Beam” but hard to believe I drove such a bucket of bolts. Things like the generator would simply fall off, head gaskets blown regularly it really wasn’t made for American highways. Best bet was to park it on a hill to jump start it. But you gotta love your first car.