Top Gear Thursday: What’s the Worst Car in the History of the World?

The best of the worst.

The best of the worst.

Next week, Top Gear embarks on an epic quest. The grail is The Worst Car in the History of the World, which, conveniently, also happens to be the title of the show – and which is why the first letter of each word is a capital letter.

It’s the opposite principle behind this week’s show, which celebrates the best of British cars – well, it’s more like all of British cars, but let’s not quibble.

Quibbling, however, is what you’re likely to see lots of on next week’s episode, because in addition to coming across lots of cars and having very exacting – and idiosyncratic – standards, Jeremy Clarkson and James May have very strong opinions about everything, as you surely already know. So they’re certain to clash on everything, including the criteria they should use to judge the worst car ever.

See what they themselves have to say in this trailer for the show:

The search for superlatives in the automotive world is an ongoing one – petrolheads are constantly seeking out the world’s best and, as in the case of next week’s Top Gear (airing Monday, Aug. 19, 8:30p/7:30c), the absolute worst.

And in the never-ending search for the worst of the worst, the most mediocre of the mediocre on wheels, many have embarked on the journey before Top Gear. Yes, dear reader, the highway of life is littered with the bodies of those who didn’t make it back.

Still, some have survived and lived to tell the tale.

Just last month, AOL Autos ran a story titled the “Five Worst Cars Ever Made,” but their judging criterion appeared at first to be sales. It struck us as an overly mercenary way to look at it, suited mostly to business executives and not car lovers – until the following explanatory sentences immediately won us over: “These failed car models never took off because their strange styling and bizarrely engineered features made them evolutionary dead-ends in the marketplace. These are cars full of innovations no one needed and unique features that made no sense.” Now you’re talking, Aol Autos – “strange styling,” “evolutionary dead-ends” and “innovations no one needed” are exactly what we want to hear about:

Also last month, the L.A. Times ran a photo gallery of “The 10 worst cars sold in America.” Remember the controversial 1976 Ford Pinto – it’s in there, as are the 1958 Edsel Corsair (“The legendary flop of all automotive flops.”) and the pick for number one worst car: the 2001 Pontiac Aztek, “the only car on the list to kill an 84-year-old car company,” writes the Times. “It’s undeniable that the Aztek’s utter hideousness drove the biggest and last nails into Pontiac’s heavily side-clad, plastic coffin.”

2001 Pontiac Aztek: "utter hideousness" (L.A. Times/General Motors)

2001 Pontiac Aztek: “utter hideousness” (L.A. Times/General Motors)

Why limit the worst to five or even ten? Time, with its sweeping historical view, offered a list of “The 50 Worst Cars of All Time” in 2007. You can take a look at them here, grouped by time period, beginning in 1899 with the Horsey Horseless, a “brainfart” writes Time, that came complete with a model horse’s head on the front of the car in order to make actual horses more comfortable around cars.

So now you should be really prepared for the worst that Top Gear can deliver.

The Horsey Horseless: gimmicky names, even in 1899 (Time)

The Horsey Horseless: a “brainfart” (Time)

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 What are you waiting for?  You know the drill – it’s  your turn to tell the world your choices for the worst cars of all time. Get to it – start posting your comments below!

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