Road Rebels: The 6 Most Dangerous Cars Ever

Fast cars have been an emblem of rebellion since forever, but you probably don’t associate the term hot rod with a car that spontaneously bursts into flames. It may also be news to you that people put an airplane engine in a 100-year-old car for fun.

We’re dedicating this article to the most menacing cars to ever exist. Vehicles that range from odd, to expensive, to political, but all had one thing in common: a taste for danger.

BMW Isetta (1955-1962)

BMW Isetta
Image Editorial credit: Gaschwald /

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 was cute and sold well upon its initial release. Isetta was the first car in the world to achieve fuel efficiency of 78 miles per gallon.

Alas, saving money on gas doesn’t really 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 thorough inspection.

Chevrolet Corvair’s checkered past (1960-1969)

Chevrolet Corvair
Editorial credit: Steve Lagreca /

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 that made handling in early models unpredictable. The final nail in Corvair’s coffin was being the poster child of everything that was 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 Pinto
Image Editorial credit: Steve Lagreca /

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)

Ferrari 458
Image Editorial credit: Alberto Zamorano /

Like an evil queen, the Ferrari 458 Italia was beautiful on the outside, but destructive within. Ferraris practically beg to be driven at high speed—the only problem is, speeding in the 2010 model of the 458 Italia caused a literal explosion.

Turns out the adhesive applied to the rear wheel arches was highly flammable. Once the flames reached the exhaust manifold the entire car was consumed by a fireball, 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.

Yugo GV: cheap and scary (1975-1989)

Yugo GV
Image Editorial credit: S.Candide /

The GV in Yugo’s moniker stood for good value, but it might as well have meant 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, but 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.

Brutus: a Hellian science experiment

Image Editorial credit: Dmitry Eagle Orlov /

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 there were a lot of aircraft engines 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 to this day, that reaches a top speed of over 125 mph and averages 0.18 miles per gallon. 

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Author: Mary Cahill

Mary K. Cahill is a writer from New Haven, Connecticut. She specializes in creating content that combines the automotive world with history and pop culture. When she’s not writing, you can find her absorbed in a novel, traveling the city on foot in search of vintage treasures, or having movie night with her family.

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