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The ugliest cars we still love, for some reason

Not to toot our own horn. But we at Acceleramota have developed a bit of a reputation during our ongoing infancy for our colorful (and disjointed) mix of eclectic personalities, which some could argue is for better or worse. Pfft, I say the former, all bias accounted for. It’s that diversity in our tastes and backgrounds that creates stories worth telling, experiences worth sharing, and opinions worth, uh, debating. Yeah, debating, for sure. And what better topic for the internet than to dive into the world of downright hideous cars? I mean straight-up heinous, horrendous abominations. Cars where you’d almost believe the lead designers were drunk, high, or asleep at the helm. Why not? After all, this would be no greater exercise in trying to prove to the internet that there’s more to a car’s soul than what lies in its sheet metal. So scroll on through and see what Acceleramota crew justifies the ugliest cars that we still love.

Jeric: BMW M3 (G80)

At launch, the BMW G80 M3 sedan – and, by extension, the G82 M4 coupe –  was panned for its styling. It still is. Good. Because it’s fucking heinous. Just look at the thing. You can snort all the booger sugar right out of Latin America from across the Canadian border in one inhale with a schnoz that big. It’s an Angry Birds pig with a broken nose. Even those who’ve grown accustomed to the face still speak ill of its design language for existing in the first place. But I can forgive when the car drives as well as it does. 

While the Bimmer critics are correct on a few things, such as numb steering and inflated size, the G80 M3 is still a damn fine driver’s car or as good of a driver’s car as a 3,800-pound luxury sedan can be. The silky S58 straight-six engine is a powerhouse that makes all the right noises without being obnoxious. Gone are the days of the F80’s farty chainsaw rasp. The handling and grip levels defy its weight. The still-numb steering is accurate, quick, and more natural feeling than the F80’s. And the availability of a manual gearbox is heartwarming, even if it’s that love-it-or-hate-it BMW rubberiness (I love it).

The G80 is also easier to push hard than the F80, a huge plus unless you enjoy that older car’s more manic and explosive demeanor. That said, the G80 M3 is still a hellaciously power-drunk savage when prodded and a riot to drive, nonetheless, ugly mug or not.  

Gabe: first-generation Scion xB

Remember your first car? My dad found mine from a private seller for six grand with 110,000 miles on it. I wanted a Nissan Cube. But no, fortunately for me, those were prohibitively expensive at the time. Instead, I ended up with its superior Toyota counterpart, a state-of-the-art 2006 Scion xB. We called it “The Fridge,” and there was no name more befitting. Facebook boomers love to refer to EVs as appliances. But The Fridge was a real petrol-fueled kitchen appliance on wheels. It was weird. It was boxy. In that respect, it was Adam Driver.

Like the wardrobe to Narnia, the interior of the Scion xB was disproportionately vast. Its cabin was unexpectedly spacious, with more headroom and a larger cargo area than our Alfa Romeo Tonale. But there’s more than one reason this body style went out of fashion. Compared to the turbocharged, coupé-like crossovers we see today, the xB’s quadratic frame doesn’t exactly lend itself to aerodynamics, nor does it pack much pep. Its tiny 1.5-liter naturally aspirated engine made just 103 horsepower and 101 pound-feet of torque. It was a ten-second car, at least in its 0-60 time. Mine even came with a tow hook. One might call it an honorary truck.

Nearly 20 years after scooting itself onto dealership lots in 2004, you can find the Scion xB at your local neighborhood takeover, clapped out and modified by young enthusiasts with questionable taste. As for mine, it lives on as a memory. Of cruising to my high school on an empty road at 110 miles per hour as Modest Mouse floats on in the background. When life was simple and the stakes were low, I hadn’t the faintest idea what life-threatening adversities lay ahead. That is to say, I totaled The Fridge. Ugly as sin, that car. I miss it dearly.

Nathan: Nissan Juke 

Nissan. You may have heard of it. From its pinnacle in the ‘90s, the days when Skylines roamed the streets, to the cost-cutting measures that have defined the company until now, Nissan exudes different feelings for different folks. The car that personifies the latter period the most is the Nissan Juke.

The bulbous bullfrog exterior looks like Kermit after a few Red Bull Vodkas. The interior is laden with hard plastics and feels cramped for such a large-looking vehicle. Still, if you’re in the market for this car, you don’t care about any of those things. You want an A-to-B SUV for those days you need to grab Brayden and whisk him off to your ex-husbands so you can have some “me-time.”

But there’s a secret to the Juke. It’s a fun car to drive. Seriously! The people at Nissan gave it a six-speed manual, 180 hp, and more torque than your mansplaining male bestie. The handling is more like a ‘90s French hot hatch, which makes sense as a French man captained Nissan’s ship during production. Among all the drab and damned cars Nissan was putting out in the 2010s, it delivered a characterful, spirited SUV when no other company could.

Joe: Volkswagen Type 181

The West German Army used these boxes on wheels in the 1960s. Later, they were sold to the public as a courier car, and for some reason, people bought them. Their simple design and utilitarian nature allowed for easy repairs and durability, but the trade-off was that your car looked hella dumb.

The Volkswagen Type 181 goes by a number of names across the globe, including the Safari, the Trekker, the Kurierwagen, and the Thing. This thing was literally called the Volkswagen “Thing” in the United States. The Volkswagen localization team knew what they were doing. 

I’m pretty sure the German army just dismantled a bunch of metal sheds and built a car out of them. It’s just several sheets of metal leaning against each other like a house of cards. This is what a four-year-old would end up with when trying to draw a car. The Type 181 does share the same mechanical underpinnings as the Volkswagen Beetle of the time and evidently looks like how one would render if you were to boot up Forza Horizon 5 on a Commodore 64. It’s perfect in every way.

Ural: GMC Envoy XUV

Living in Louisiana for some time during my late teens and early twenties, I found myself making loads of friends as a transplant from California. One of my best friends around that time owned a GMC Envoy XUV. It was totally unattractive but had a character that’s been missing from more modern SUVs lately. Unlike the Chevrolet Avalanche, which was a crew cab truck with a folding midgate, the Envoy XUV was an SUV with an enclosed cargo area that included retractable windows in the midgate and tailgate.

GM implemented a quirky sliding roof mechanism inspired by the old 1960s Studebaker Lark Wagonaire. This allowed for an open truck bed when retracted. Interestingly enough, the entire cargo area was designed to be water-resistant, and GM went to extreme lengths with an overkill drainage system capable of expelling 1,505.76 gallons of water per hour.

The amount of stuff me and my friend were able to load into that truck despite it having less cargo space than the Envoy XL felt magical. Styling didn’t matter, not one bit, as this was purely form over function in every way. While the Envoy XUV received positive reviews for its versatility in frigid climates and unique features, such as the ability to hose out the cargo area, it failed to resonate with the general public. Despite its eccentricities, the Envoy XUV remains a one-of-a-kind creation in GM’s history, marking the end of an experimental era. 

Roger: Chrysler PT Cruiser

DaimlerChrysler was firing on all cylinders at the turn of the century. At a time when cars were starting to lose their personality (see: any sedan released by an American carmaker in this era), they took some big swings. The Prowler (originally a Plymouth model but later a Chrysler) stands out as the most extreme version of this experimentation. Basically, a concept model brought to life, this open-wheel “hot rod” turned a lot of heads when it first dropped in 1997. 

In this spirit of retro-futuristic exploration, the PT Cruiser was born. The automotive equivalent of hearing a new pop song that interpolates multiple hits of the past, the PT Cruiser is very much “not your momma’s station wagon.” The “PT” stands for “Personal Transport” and while I’ve always felt it was evocative of classic showbiz names like “PT Barnum” – the PT Cruiser is far from a clown car. 

It’s no surprise that this handsome hatchback has found a second life in the modding community despite the model being discontinued in 2010 – a Facebook group dedicated to the car has over 14,000 members and is still quite active. If you throw some flames on one of these bad boys, it is just automatically going to look cool – even in a junkyard. Back in 2008 or so, I happened upon a meet-up of PT Cruiser enthusiasts at Wildwood boardwalk in New Jersey, and 1.) all of the cars were outstandingly beautiful, and 2.) every single person who owned one kicked total ass. 

Although they may have been seen as a little goofy in their own time, I’m always a little excited when I see a PT Cruiser still on the road. It reminds me of a moment when carmakers still cared about making vehicles with different form factors (and colors!) 

Sheilah: Fiat Multipla

When Godzilla rallied the Kill Crew on Monster Island, the Fiat Multipla was there in attendance. I do find its unnecessary levels kind of endearing. But, like, why?  The opinions on the Multipla were always split. And I agree. It is, in fact, a beautiful Italian monster. Upon first glance, it looks like it was supposed to be two different things but fused in the womb of ideas. An automotive set of conjoined nonsense.

This six-seater short stack seems more like a child’s drawing than an actual car. It first hit the market in 1998, in all its mismatched glory. It was a Top Gear darling in 2000, named “Car of the Year,” and Jeremy Clarkson expressed a particular fondness. But it seems only he and Italian citizens fell in wacky love with it. Sales globally were not… bene

The Multipla was revamped in 2004 to make it more palatable to a wider audience. While the facelift looked lovely, the damage to the line was done. Drivers did rate the car quite well on the compactness and versatility for the narrow streets of a country like Italy. But overall, they just couldn’t handle being made fun of for driving something so ridiculous-looking. And thus, it was set off into the scrap yard in the sky in 2010.
However, I wish I could have raced the Multipla modded out with a C7 Corvette Z06 engine – insert sweating laughing emoji.

Fiat Multipla Meme

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