A Brief History
On July 23, 1903, Ford Motor Company, the product of the Henry Ford’s engineering genius, sold their first automobile. By the early 1920 perhaps half of all cars in the entire world were Ford, but somehow, something went wrong, and the market share of the once mightiest car company on Earth now ranks #5 (#2 in the US).
There has to be a reason for this decline, and here we list 5 of the worst Ford products that contributed to declining sales and reputation. For each lousy car, we will name a great automotive product just to be fair. (Note: The author buys Ford almost exclusively.)
5. Bad- Maverick, 1970-1977.
Another crumby attempt by the US to create an “import fighter,” the Maverick was not laid out with any sort of efficient use of space or ergonomics. Like many other Ford models, the car initially sold quite well, and then tapered off when people realized it was a rust bucket heap. The car originally offered 2 and then 3 different inline 6 cylinder engines, and in 1971 a 210 horsepower V-8 was offered, which would have kept power hungry Americans happy but for the lousy fuel economy. Disc brakes (front) were not standard until 1976, but by that time the car was on the way out.
Good- F-Series Pick Up Trucks, 1948-present.
Especially in recent years, these trucks have evolved into great looking, incredibly comfortable, powerful machines for work and play. The F-150 has been the best selling vehicle in the world for 32 years in a row now, and the best selling pick up truck for 43 years. The current engine lineup starts with a 282 horsepower V-6 and peaks with a 385 horsepower V-8. Most of the body is now made of corrosion resistant aluminum for great longevity and steel components are now 77% high strength steel.
4. Bad-Mustang II, 1974-1978.
Ford took their wonderful Mustang that spawned the “Pony Car” class and ruined it by producing the Mustang II using the woeful Pinto as the base car. Hard to believe this loser was Motor Trend’s Car of the Year in 1974! You could not even get one with a V-8, kind of blowing the whole reason for making the cars. The 1975 Mustang II with a 5.0 liter V-8 chugged from 0 to 60 mph in a boring 10.5 seconds. The base engine of 1974 had only 88 horsepower, which dropped to 83 in 1975!
Good- Flex, 2010-present.
(Using the original or current Mustang here would be too darn predictable.) Just the greatest car I have ever owned. Quite square, the style might not be your idea of good looks, but with a contrasting color roof and a roof rack it looks a bit like a 1970 Jeep Wagoneer for nostalgia buffs. It has oodles of rear seat legroom for adults and a 3rd row that is actually useable (not so much for long trips by adults). Cargo capacity is excellent, the ride is comfortable and sure (all wheel drive) and power with the V-6 or the turbo powered model is terrific. Ours runs like new with over 118,000 miles on the odometer.
3. Bad-Fiesta, 1978-1980.
Generation 1 of this nameplate as sold in the US were tiny little tin cans with motors of less than 100 cubic inches (1.6 liter). Built in Spain, The UK, and Germany, these foreign built cars did not seem at all American and looked foreign and cheap. Horsepower on the early cars was as little as 54. (Do not ask about Festiva and Aspire, they are too depressing.)
Good- Fiesta, 2010-present.
Yes, same name, but the 6th and 7th generation cars named here are nothing like their predecessors. The author’s family owns a 2010 with about 100,000 miles on it and it is like new. The car is “tight” as in no rattles, handles well, and gets around 39 mpg on the highway. A bit smaller than a Focus, it is still roomier than the really little sub-compacts and is surprisingly attractive. The top sporty engine of the latest generation makes a decent 197 horsepower, while most models are producing around 110-123 hp.
2. Bad- Pinto, 1971-1980.
Pinto plunged the public into the small Ford era to compete with Japanese imports, and despite initial good sales, ended up being a lousy little rust bucket. Powered by a 1.6 liter 4 cylinder motor (then later a 2.0 liter then a still anemic 2.3 liter, then a wimpy V-6) did not impress a public used to V-8 power, and controversy over gas tank safety in collisions made the car a national joke. Horsepower ratings went from 54 for the weakest engine to 103 for the most powerful 6 cylinder. Only the fact that the AMC Gremlin and Chevrolet Vega that the Pinto competed with were as bad or even worse kept sales from being terrible. Most lists of the worst cars of all time include the Pinto.
The video of the introduction of the Ford Pinto embedded above is used here courtesy of King Rose Archives.
Good- Focus, 2000-present.
An enormous improvement in the compact car department, the Focus is a peppy little car with more room than the truly tiny ones, making it economical and practical.
1. Bad- Edsel, 1958-1960.
Named after the founder’s son, the Edsel was supposed to be an upscale car to compete with Chrysler, Oldsmobile and Buick, while Lincoln would be upgraded to compete with Cadillac. Ford promised consumers a new, modern car, and instead gave them one with the same old engineering that other Fords had, and a goofy looking front end that reminded people of a horse collar. It became the biggest flop in automotive history and the name Edsel is now synonymous with something that is a failure.
Introduced in 1986 and an instant hit, this front drive family car has become the standard Ford sedan, and is now in its 6th generation. Originally a mid-sized car, it is now a full sized car and combines excellent comfort with decent power, handling, and economy. The SHO and Limited models are pretty sharp looking, too.
Question for students (and subscribers): Which cars would you add to the list? Please let us know in the comments section below this article.
Your readership is much appreciated!
For more information, please see…
Cheetham, Craig. The World’s Worst Cars. Barnes and Noble Books, 2005.