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Rob Griffin

The best & worst American cars


From muscle cars to converted army trucks, the USA has produced plenty of motors. Journalist Rob Griffin takes a look at the good, the bad and the ugly.

Best and worst American cars


The United States of America is not only the land of the free it's also the land of cheap fuel prices, wide-open freeways and the powerful engine.

With this in mind, here is a look at the best and worst cars born in the USA.

The best American cars ever made: Chevrolet Corvette

Best and worst American cars

Take a look at any Chevrolet Corvette and the chances are you will instinctively know from which era it dates because each decade has a particular style.

For example, the fifties were all about shiny chrome, which gave way to a simpler look in the sixties, followed by longer, curvier lines of the seventies.

The Corvette has always been America's sports car and every incarnation has sold well, but the 1965 Sting Ray must rank among the very best ever produced.

The best American cars ever made: Ford Mustang

Best and worst American cars Ford Mustang 

If the Corvette was America's sports car then the Ford Mustang was its muscle car.

Arguably the car most synonymous with American automotive success, the Mustang has been part of the motoring landscape, in one form or another, since the 1960s.

It led the way for so-called pony cars - defined as compact machines with a sporty edge - and quickly generated a loyal following.

The best American cars ever made: Jeep Cherokee (XJ) 1984

Best and worst American cars Jeep Cherokee

It might seem like a box on wheels these days but when the Jeep Cherokee arrived on the scene 30 years ago it was revolutionary and its sales helped save the company.

The version that came along in 1984 had a rigid, yet lightweight chassis, a low centre of gravity, and striking looks that made it an instant hit.

Giles Chapman, author of SUV: The World's Greatest Sport Utility Vehicles, believes it paved the way for modern SUVs.

"It looked like a Jeep but drove like a car," he says. "Since then a lot of SUVs have become more car-like."

The worst American cars ever made: AMC Gremlin

Best and worst American cars AMC Gremlin

Did this car ever stand a chance?

It was basically being a shortened version of a predecessor and resembled a shoe horn.

It was also given a name defined in the dictionary as a "gnome-like creature to which mechanical problems are attributed". Bizarre.

In essence it was a "cack-handed response" to the Japanese cars that were starting to be sold in the States, points out Giles Chapman.

He adds: "It was also rear-wheel-drive which meant it wasn't very roomy and came with some stupidly powerful engines which didn't make sense bearing in mind the fuel crisis at the time."

The worst American cars ever made: Cadillac Seville (diesel)

Best and worst American cars

Okay, it had the looks - if you liked limousine styling - but Cadillac's decision to put a diesel engine in a Seville back in the early 1980s was pretty disastrous.

In hindsight it was a brave move to try to change American tastes away from petrol at a time when the fuel crisis was uppermost in minds, but diesel engines back then were simply horrible.

Chapman says: "Cadillac is held up to be the best of America but I think their cars are always rubbish."

The worst American cars ever made: Chevrolet Corvair

Best and worst American cars

The Chevrolet Corvair of the 1960s will forever be linked with Ralph Nader, the political activist who published Unsafe at any Speed.

This was a book railing against the safety record of American manufacturers. The Corvair was one of his particular targets and it was a fair point.

The combination of a powerful engine and rear-wheel-drive meant it suffered horrendous handling problems with fatalities caused by people being unable to drive the motor.


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