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Pintos, PT Cruisers & More: Five Misunderstood Machines that Don't Deserve the Hate

Whether you are a serious enthusiast or just a casual observer of car culture, there are certain vehicle that have always gotten a bad wrap. Cars that easy to make fun of and write off. Sometimes there are some good reasons for the bad image, but other times the hate is unwarranted.

Here are five commonly laughed-at, disliked and sometimes despised vehicles that I don’t think are deserving of their reputations—and some reasons why that is.

Chrysler PT Cruiser

The Image: There was a time when the Chrysler PT Cruiser was about the last car you’d ever want to be seen in, with an image of tacky nostalgia mixed with sketchy build quality and reliability.

Chrysler PT Cruiser Turbo GT Blue

The Reality: The PT Cruiser was a massive hit for Chrysler when it was introduced. It had character not found in a lot of other cheap American cars. The turbo version was actually a pretty quick little retro wagon and there are a surprising number of these things still being daily driven today.

Chrysler PT Cruiser Hatchback Silver

Lexus SC430

The Image: An ultra-soft luxury convertible with funky looks, no sporting pretensions whatsoever and a country club image that would scare off any buyer younger than 60 years old.

Lexus SC430 Red Side View

The Reality: A well-built Japanese RWD machine with a velvety smooth V8, bulletproof reliability and even a strong connection to motorsports. It’s also just some wheels and a ride height adjustment away from big time sexy.

Lexus SC430 Black VIP

Ford Pinto

The Image: A horribly built death trap that will go up in a ball of flames if a car behind it even looks at it the wrong way. One of the most laughed-at cars of all time.

1971 Ford Pinto Green

The Reality: An important and great-selling product for Ford that rightfully caught heat for its safety issues, but still helped the brand to move into an era. Also one of the greatest underdog enthusiast cars of all time, from the road course to the drag strip.

Ford Pinto Cruising Wagon

Pontiac Aztek

The Image: One of the ugliest vehicles of all time and one of the biggest automotive failures of the 21st century. The car a down-on-his-luck Walter White drives in Breaking Bad.

Pontiac Aztek Yellow Front View

The Reality: An “active” crossover SUV that was ahead of its time in many ways. A preview of the adventure-heavy car marketing of today and styling that doesn’t look nearly as weird when compared to modern design trends.

Pontiac Aztek Rear View


The Image: The car you buy when you have a family and give up on driving something you like. Vehicle of choice for 1990s soccer moms and interiors that smell of unbathed children and spilled Cheerios.

1984 Dodge Caravan White

The Reality: One of the most practical vehicles you can buy. The modern ones are faster and nice than ever—and they can also be made damn cool with some aftermarket touches. With everyone switching to crossovers, it’s now the minivan that’s the unconventional family car pick. Embrace the van.

2015 Toyota Sienna R-Tuned

  • This just previews some of the points I bring across in the latest episode of The Auto Otaku where I break down exactly why these five vehicles deserve a lot more respect than they get. Check it out.
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