Fast cars have been an emblem of rebellion forever, but you probably don’t associate the term hot rod with a car that spontaneously bursts into flames. It may also be news that people put an airplane engine in a 100-year-old car for fun.
We’re dedicating this article to the most menacing cars ever to exist. These vehicles ranged from odd to expensive to political, but all had one thing in common: a taste for danger.
BMW Isetta (1955-1962)
Isetta was a microcar of Italian design. It was endearingly nicknamed “Bubble Car” and was about as safe to travel in as an actual bubble—but it was cute and sold well upon its initial release. Isetta was the first car in the world to achieve a fuel efficiency of 78 miles per gallon.
Alas, saving money on gas doesn’t matter if you aren’t alive. The Isetta’s single front-loading door and canvas sunroof were its only exit points, and it didn’t take much more than a fender bender to trap people inside. Its redeeming quality? Isetta became known as a choice vehicle for helping Germans escape East Berlin because checkpoint soldiers thought its tininess didn’t require a thorough inspection.
Chevrolet Corvair’s Checkered Past (1960-1969)
Back in the 1960s, Chevrolet Corvair had the slick exterior stylings of the next classic American automobile—except for its tendency for its passengers to ask, “What’s that smell?”. Don’t worry, it’s just toxic engine fumes.
Holding your breath inside the cabin wasn’t the only drawback of the Corvair; its rear-mounted engine caused weight disproportions, making handling in early models unpredictable. The final nail in Corvair’s coffin was being the poster child of everything wrong with the US auto industry in Ralph Nader’s book Unsafe at Any Speed. Chevy discontinued the Corvair in 1969 (but you can still buy one).
The Exploding Ford Pinto (1971-1978)
Ford was long known for their range of affordable vehicles with enviable gas mileage. To sustain this reputation, they developed the 70s-era Pinto.
The Pinto seemed practical, but it was hiding a dirty secret. The far back placement of the fuel tank meant that even the slightest amount of pressure on the flimsy bumper was enough for the Pinto to burst into flames—or even explode. Its fiery temperament was no laughing matter. 27 lives were lost due to Ford Pino combustions, but some say the unofficial number may be much higher.
Flaming Hot Ferrari 458 Italia (2010-2015)
Like an evil queen, the Ferrari 458 Italia was beautiful on the outside but destructive within. Ferraris practically begs to be driven at high speed—the only problem is, speeding in the 2010 model of the 458 Italia caused a literal explosion.
The adhesive applied to the rear wheel arches was highly flammable. Once the flames reached the exhaust manifold, a fireball consumed the entire car, resulting in an instant recall. All 1,248 owners across the globe were alerted to return their $225,325 vehicles so Ferrari could amend this terrifying problem, but it still only lasted five model years.
The GV in Yugo’s moniker stood for good value, but it might as well have meant a graveyard voyage. Yugo was a product of—you guessed it—the former Yugoslavia, and come 1986, this boxy little hatchback was cleared to leave the Soviet Bloc and arrive stateside.
GV was unapologetically cheap—prices started at $3,990, which would be about $10,000 today. Structural materials were flimsy, often falling off at will. Still, the worst part was that the force of a frontal crash sent the engine barreling into the cabin and practically into the laps of front-seat passengers. Yugo America went bankrupt by the onset of the 1990s, but seeing as we live in apocalyptic times, it’s only mildly surprising that the GV has garnered a cult following.
Perhaps the most brashly dangerous car is Brutus Experimentalfahrzeug—that means experimental vehicle in German, but he’s Brutus for short. After World War I, many aircraft engines were lying around, and since the Treaty of Versailles banned Germans from using them, BMW got creative.
For kicks, BMW fit a 47.0-liter engine onto a 1908 American-LaFrance wooden-rimmed chassis to see what would happen. The result? A Victorian body whose 12-cylinder engine rumbled its way to infamy. Brutus is a beloved Frankesteinian track racer that reaches a top speed of over 125 mph and averages 0.18 miles per gallon.
The Fiery Pontiac Fiero (1984-1988)
Early models of the Fiero had issues with engine fires, largely due to a design flaw that caused engine oil to leak onto the hot exhaust components. By 1987, the number of 1984 models catching fire had risen to 20 per month.
Although the Fiero was produced for several years, Pontiac engineers knew the car’s problems before it hit the market. According to an urgent internal memo dated October 6, 1983, two Fieros had suddenly caught fire during test drives. Despite the dangerous defects of early models, the Fiero has amassed a cult following.
This article originally appeared on MyCarMakesNoise.
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