As with any form of business, taking risks has given rise to some incredible tales of triumph and victory in the car industry. Horacio Paganis gamble to take on the established supercar elite with the Zonda has proven to have been a very fortunate move, and the Volkswagen Beetles immense success would never have happened had a few key individuals not seen the potential in the curious little machine.
However, alongside the various cars and companies that benefitted from doing something different and reaping the rewards from it, there are those that werent so fortunate in their quest to outright success, and ended up being monumental disasters. Disaster such as the ones weve got listed below.
So, without further ado, here are the five cars, good and bad, that we reckon accounted for the biggest ever flops in automotive history.
Nowadays, this idiosyncratic German saloon with the rotary Wankel engine is seen by many petrol heads as an underrated classic. Not only does it look surprisingly modern for a car that was designed almost 50 years ago, but its also one of the most advanced big saloon cars of the era.
However, despite walking away of the European Car of the Year award in 1968, not many people back in the day held the NSU in such high esteem. Though undoubtedly a forward thinking car, there was one huge problem the Wankel motor.
It drank petrol like there was no tomorrow, the tips of the rotors constantly wore out, early cars had to have entire engine rebuilds after just 30,000 miles and hardly any mechanic in the UK knew how to properly service it.
This, along with NSUs allegiance to their warranty scheme, meant the Ro80 nigh on crippled the company. Eventually, the financially troubled firm was bought by Volkswagen, and NSU was consigned to the Retirement Home for Over-Ambitious Car Manufacturers in 1977 when the remnants of the business merged into what we now know as Audi.
In many ways, the British built Gordon-Keeble had all the hallmarks of being a hugely successful grand tourer. The Chevrolet sourced V8 motor gave brisk yet effortless performance for the standards of the day, and the Bertone styling was perfect for an era where the Italian studios were churning out the latest must have designs.
But the Gordon-Keeble sadly never became the cash cow that it could have been. The reason for this you ask? Its because the people who ran the company decided to sell the car for a ludicrously low amount of money in 1963, it was on sale for 2,798, which is a ridiculously small sum of dosh for a hand built, bespoke GT with a fibreglass body from a fresh-as a-daisy car company.
Couple this with the supply issues and the fact they couldnt keep up with demand, and its no surprise to hear that Gordon-Keeble went into liquidation in 1965, just two years after production began. The only real reconciliation is that, remarkably perhaps, nearly all of the 99 original Keebles that were made have survived to the present day.
Aston Martin Lagonda
You may be wondering why on Earth an Aston Martin
is on this list unlike NSU or Gordon-Keeble, the maker of James Bonds favourite set of wheels is still going strong in the modern day. However, the quintessentially British brand has failed every now and again, and theres no better example of this than the Aston Martin Lagonda.
On paper, the Aston Martin Lagonda initially appears to be a device thats literally out of this world not only is it one of the most visually striking cars ever made, courtesy of William Towns love-it/hate-it wedge styling, but the interior was also as incredible. Littered across the dash was a vast swathe of LEDs, cathode ray tubes and touch pads.
Unfortunately for Aston, though, this dream car ended up being a nightmare. Despite the huge amount of money that was spent on developing the electronics, almost every Lagonda ever made suffered from the systems poor reliability the first customer car was, reportedly, completely un-drivable when it was delivered. The steep price tag was also a major deal breaker, so in the end only 645 models were made in the cars 14 year production run.
Theoretically, the disastrous luxury limousine has been replaced, so to speak, by the far less radical Rapide. However, its not surprising to hear that the Lagonda isnt mentioned at all in the brochure of the cars spiritual successor!
Of course, you cant have a feature about big car flops and not have a Delorean in there somewhere. Its pretty much the textbook definition of how to go belly up in the most exuberant and controversial way possible.
What began as John Deloreans quest to provide the world with an distinctive and affordable car the 12 in the cars name denotes how many thousands of dollars the ex-Pontiac employee wanted to sell it to the general public for eventually resulted in that infamous and widely known disaster which not only tarnished the name of John Delorean, but also, if the rumours are to be believed, contributed to the premature death of the Lotus founder Colin Chapman.
However, despite the dark back story, there was a light at the end of the tunnel the DMCs starring role in the Back to the Future trilogy resulted in a cars rapid transformation into a cult icon, and a new company in Texas is in fact building brand new Deloreans from a huge stockpile of original parts, sourced from the factory in Ireland.
How ironic, perhaps, that a car which was initially riddled with faults, slated by the automotive press and associated with the trade of illegal substances has now become one of the most enduring and adored classics of all time.
The tale of the short-lived modern incarnation of the Maybach brand is quite similar to the one associated with the aforementioned Gordon-Keeble. Both companies had the vision of making one of the best cars in their respective classes, and the end product had the recipe for success. However, whilst Gordon-Keeble collapsed because they couldnt keep up with demand, Maybach will be shut down next year because there simply wasnt any.
The Maybach models were, by most means, incredible cars. As luxury limos, hardly anything else could come close to their levels of comfort, opulence and, in some areas, delightful quirks the reclining rear seats are similar to what youd find in the business class areas of jet airliners, and you could alter how much sunlight was let through the sunroof at the flick of a switch.
But, maybe because not many people outside of Germany knew what a Maybach was or that it was very similar to the vastly cheaper Mercedes S-Class, hardly anyone actually bought one whereas 744 new Rolls-Royce Phantoms
found homes in 2004, Maybach only had 244 customers that year. And that was when sales were at their peak!
Now the company is soon to be no longer with us, maybe the future will have better things in store for Maybach its possible that the 57 and 62 variants will follow in the footsteps of the great Duesenbergs and Hispano-Suizas and become coveted classics in years to come. However, for the time being, the one-time jewel in the Daimler Groups crown is now seen by many as one of the biggest corporate failures of the 21st Century so far.
So there you have it: a list of the five cars that played a part in what we reckon are the biggest flops in automotive history. However, this is of course just a small sample of monumental motoring mishaps. Do you know of any other calamities that you believe we should have mentioned? If so, let us know in the comments section.