Peoples’ understands of vehicles when they first go on sale isn’t always perfect. It leads to things like the Pontiac Aztek being a laughing stock 20 years ago, rather than just being a boring run-of-the-mill crossover that it would be if it were on sale today. That’s what prompted yesterday’s question.
We wanted to know what you all thought were the most misunderstood vehicles of all time. You all had some very impassioned answers (which we absolutely love here).
Old cars, new cars, cars of all shapes and sizes made it into our inbox. Bless you all for following directions and telling us why you felt the car you chose was misunderstood.
And with that, let’s take a look at what you all feel are the most misunderstood vehicles of all time.
Fiat 500 Abarth
Fiat Abarth, trouble free for the past 11 years. In Europe, Fiat 500 sale very well for many many years, it just didn’t catch well in North America (but fare better in Quebec). People should forget about the FixItAgainTony reputation. Now built Fiats are more reliable and don’t rust as much as in the 70s.
I love the Abarth so much, and I deeply wish Fiat sold the new 500 here in the States. It’s such a nice looking little thing, and that’s coming from someone who isn’t much of a small car person. On top of that, the Abarth’s exhaust note is absolutely excellent.
Submitted by: minardi
It was panned because it didn’t have a V8 under the hood, but Chrysler never intended it to be a drag racer or a track star. It was marketed to middle-age guys with a lot of disposable income who wanted a hot rod with all the modern amenities to cruise around on Sunday afternoon , but didn’t want (or didn’t have the mechanical ability) to tinker with a REAL ‘30s ‘rod,
The Plymouth Prowler absolutely fucks. End of story.
Submitted by: Earthbound Misfit I
Introduced during the Great Depression, Chrysler proved they had balls when it came to styling—no car on the market was as streamlined as the Airflow. This car came out during the era of Tin Lizzies with separate fenders and running boards—about as aerodynamic as kites—so the Airflows were a sales disaster. It was too much aero too soon—just too radical for the times. The car was rushed to market, so its build quality wasn’t stellar either.
And since cars have to have aero nowadays for high MPGs or long battery range, talk about doing the right thing way before everybody else…that was the Airflow. It was the Edsel and Aztek of its day all rolled into one vehicle—too advanced for the times and a failure that nearly drove Chrysler under.
The Airflow is absolutely sick looking, and not remembered as fondly as it should be. I’m very glad the company is reviving the nameplate for its upcoming EV.
Just as a note, it’s a strange coincidence that our first three submissions are all sort of Chrysler products. There’s something funny about that.
Submitted by: the 1969 Dodge Charger Guy
They are not just for those who remember the giant wood grain sided vehicles from the 60’s and 70’s but for those who are intelligent enough that want a sporty car while at the same time being practical without the feeling of rolling over in a truck or suv.
Also there lower profile makes it easier to load a kayak or bike on the roof.
Wagons are truly God’s gift to the automotive world. It’s really such a shame that they are, indeed, misunderstood, because now they are very much a dying breed. Only a handful are still around today, and those probably aren’t too long for this world, either.
Submitted by: Witchy Whale
It is a great city car. Super roomy, easy to park. Fairly efficient for city use. It’s misunderstood because people sees the badge and thinks it is a traditional BMW. I believe if you understand the purpose or intend of the vehicle, it would be more accepted by the public I reckon.
The whole “city car” thing is well and good, but the i3 cost far too much money for such a limited purpose. The only thing it was really missing was any sort of usable range. Other than that, it’s a cool lil’ fella. Look at the wheels. They’re so skinny. It’s hilarious.
Submitted by: SennaMP4
Nissan Murano CrossCabriolet
Nissan Murano cross cabriolet. I don’t want it, but I’m glad it exists. It is an interesting idea in a sea of cars that all seem the same. I still think it will go up in value someday. I like convertibles, but don’t care about SUVs so it’s not for me.
This person fuckin’ gets it. Go you, WhatsUpDOHC. I don’t care what anyone says, the CrossCabriolet is good, actually.
Submitted by: WhatsUpDOHC
Mitsubishi 3000GT/GTO & Dodge Stealth
The 3000 GT/GTO/Stealth
They were cool to look at, comfortable as hell to drive long distances, fairly mechanically reliable, fun to drive with plenty of power on tap, and steering that left no mysteries as to where the limits of grip were.
The platform was overshadowed by the razor-sharp handling of the RX-7 and the big power possibilities for the Mk IV. Supra.
It was always a comfortable GT car, not a track or drag monster. That led to it being called heavy, despite it being as fast as it’s stock contemporaries, and the electronic complexities scared a lot of 3rd and 4th buyers leading to them being called unreliable.
I remember being a child and lusting after these things like nothing else. In fact, I still lust after them. They’re just so good looking… and neat. If you have one, let me drive it, please.
Submitted by: Theoretics
You can tell from its name that Renault knew it was ahead of its time. I’d argue that time still hasn’t caught up.
The Avantime doesn’t belong on this planet simply because this planet is not good enough for the Avantime. I very much want one.
Submitted by: Nakam
The Chevrolet SS Sedan was NOT a failure of marketing that would have been some huge hit if GM just got their act together.
Remember what was happening in Australia around the time these cars were being built. Factories were shutting down left and right, and this was a golden opportunity for GM to get the most out of these facilities while they still could.
That’s why you’ll notice so little effort in the way of marketing and positioning. Even the owner’s manual for these cars shows signs of cost savings.
I don’t think this car was ever meant to be some huge volume seller. They built exactly as many as they needed to before the factories in Australia were shuttered, and I think it was smart to send us their overstock.
Finally, someone who understands the SS situation. Everything you’ve said here is correct. Still, it’s an awesome car that’s only let down by one thing: owners who swap Holden badges onto it. That is so goddamn corny. Stop doing that, I beg of you.
Submitted by: Aldairion
Toyota GR86 & Subaru BRZ
People kept saying MORE POWER! but that’s not what that car is about. I think about the review on Top Gear where Clarkson is drifting around a corner at like 30mph.
It doesn’t matter if these cars had 500 horsepower, the engine would still sound like a tinny piece of shit that is about to send a piston through a fender. Other than that, it’s a brilliant little piece of work.
Submitted by: Unacceptably Dry Scones
Misunderstood – American Pickups but because they are misunderstood, they sell.
This is not a lifestyle accessory for your morning commute to the accounting firm and the lazy Sunday run to Home Depot to “start” the patio project, give up, and hire someone in a Ford Transit to complete.
FYI – Farmers have rusted out Rangers for “farm use” and non-lifted HD trucks with Vinyl seats and gooseneck.
Chevy even has a commercial with the “High Country” model owner worried about getting muddy.
The way they are marketed means that pickup trucks actually aren’t misunderstood anymore. They are now meant, for better or worse, to just replace daily driver vehicles. Because of that, they can sell way more of them than ever before. Unfortunately, I fear it’s actually you and I who misunderstand them now.
Submitted by: FutureDoc
From personal experience – and for not the usual reasons – I’m going with the Corvair.
It’s still associated with “Unsafe at Any Speed” which, while it did exaggerate the Corvair’s suspension faults, still had valid points – the 1960-63 Corvair would definitely suffer turn-in on the rear wheels in tight maneuvers. This problem was corrected in ‘64 and totally redesigned away in ‘65. It also had plenty of other flaws – It was exempt from a steering wheel lock ignition in ‘69, it never had a “Park” position for it’s automatic, fan belts would randomly fly off, and if you didn’t under-inflate the spare, it would blow up all over your engine.
Unsafe at Any Speed didn’t come near killing the Corvair, though. The book came out in ‘64 and the car survived until ‘69. In the late ‘60’s, gas got cheap. For Corvair money, you could get a Camaro and with cheap gas, the choice was pretty obvious.
TL;DR, the Corvair’s flaws were someone misunderstood/unearned, and it’s failure is mostly misunderstood as Ralph’s book may have had some good points, but the car survived.
Corvair: good. People who think otherwise: bad. It’s as simple as that. The Corviar is soooooo cool.
Submitted by: Sid Bridge
Everyone used to be on the same page with the Mitsubishi Mirage: it is a not-great car where the only redeeming feature is its low price.
Now that cars are expensive, people are misunderstanding it as a great value. A penalty box is still a penalty box, no matter how cheap relative to other new cars. I say, do yourself a favor and find a similarly priced used (and probably old) Honda or Toyota. Your self-respect will thank you.
You underestimate the appeal of a factory warranty. People want that, and this is the cheapest way to obtain one. Never shame a person for buying a Mirage.
Submitted by: paradsecar
The G Wagon
Because it’s supposedly a great off-roader, but 99% of the time it’s bought as the show-off daily driver for some rich house wife or the CEO that want’s to look cool and thinks a Cayenne is trying too hard. These things never see so much as a gravel road, let alone a small patch of mud.
I love seeing G Wagons, and I do not care where it is. They are so fuckin’ cool. Would it be cooler off-road? Absolutely, but I’ll take what I can get. Ya know what I mean, friend?
Submitted by: SlickS30r
I mean, people still think because there used to be races on tracks with pony cars, that any and every muscle car is supposed to be as good as a Cayman GT4 at its highest peak.
The new Challenger’s get confused with being pony cars. It’s the only pony car to grow up into a muscle car. And people to this day say “iT cAn’T tAkE cOrNeRs” even though that has never been its purpose.
If it happens, it’ll take some time, but maybe one day people will finally realize not every damn vehicle is built to post track times.
I may or may not have some Dodge Challenger for sale pages open right now. There are few other ways to get a non-German stick shift sporty vehicle with enough room for four adults. It’s the best. I love it
Submitted by: T2400
Tesla Model 3
It has to be this
Tesla Model 3.
You’ve got one group that has seen pictures and reviews and believes that it’s a poorly built harbinger of doom thats coming for their ICE engines.
Then you’ve another group that thinks of it as a deity on 4 wheels that can do no wrong.
The reality is somewhere in between. It’s not nearly as bad as the haters believe, and not nearly as good as the Uber-fans want you to think. Overall, it’s just a good car with problems like many others.
You take your measured and well thought out response and shove it up your ass! Just kidding, just kidding. You bring up some very good points here. The Model 3 is just “a car.”
Submitted by: dolsh
Yes, it was expensive. But it had clever aluminium construction which made it light and excellent packaging which made it roomy and practical. It was good to drive (in the traditional german autobahn behaviour) and even with not very powerful engine reasonably brisk (with excellent fuel economy to boot).
Sadly, nobody saw it. It is the best Audi ever made.
Here’s the real issue with the Audi A2: it’s extremely ugly. For most vehicles, that is a non-started, no matter how good it may be otherwise.
Submitted by: Ferrer
The lack of marketing – let lots of mistruths / misleading statements about the car to be spread. Remember the stupid arguments on whether it was a real electric car or it was a serial vs parallel hybrid – all that really mattered – it can use electricity day to day and still go anywhere on gas.
It’s a shame they didn’t expand the Voltec powertrain to other vehicles.
It should have sold a lot better (the cramped back seat didn’t help either)
The Volt really did deserve better. I’d argue it still makes sense in today’s market. It got people to dip their toes into the electric life. For that, it deserves our praise.
Submitted by: thisismyid2
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