Weird and Wonky European Cars

May 27, 2016 by Ian (Driver Weekly)

European automakers are renowned for their sophisticated engineering and seductive style—think Ferrari, Rolls-Royce, Maserati, or Mercedes-Benz. But even the most proficient automakers can make strange decisions at times. These aren't concept cars but production vehicles and while some are from infamous European manufacturers others were designed and sold for the European market. From communist rust buckets to three wheelers and cocaine smuggling, check out these twenty-one weird and wonky cars from Europe.

1973 Austin Allegro


Jon Bennett / Flickr

The slow death of the British automotive industry generated a slew of strange cars renowned for their poor quality. During the 1970s and 1980s, almost every automaker in the country had been reorganized into British Leyland in an attempt to salvage the stagnant industry. Unfortunately, British Leyland did more harm than good over the next two decades, and the Austin Allegro was no exception. British Leyland was supposed to revive the company’s flagging fortunes and desperately needed a popular new car to replace an aging product line. As a result, the Allegro was rushed into production in 1973. British Leyland wanted a “timeless” appearance instead of the sharper edges favored at the time, but the rounded design immediately earned the moniker “the flying pig.”

Unfortunately, Austin squeezed an underpowered, shall we say, “classic” engine under the hood as well. Finally, the sloped rear was an obvious fit for a hatchback but instead had a miniature trunk. In short, the vehicle was hamstrung with unusual design choices. It sold well as the solitary newcomer in an aging fleet, but it soon developed a poor reputation and was discontinued in 1983.

Morris Marina


John Shepherd / Flickr

Morris Motors and Austin Motors were the largest automakers in Britain when they were reorganized under British Leyland. Unfortunately, the new management was stunned to learn that Morris was still marketing cars from 1948! The Morris Marina was supposed to be a simple, economical vehicle that would serve as a stop-gap measure while the company designed a better car. Instead, it’s troubled development took more time and money than (at the time) more advanced and expensive Austin Allegro!

When the first Marina finally arrived, the traditional style was well-received by families and economical buyers and the car sold well. Unfortunately, when drivers got the car on the road they soon realized that outdated engines generated a measly 37-40 horsepower with lethargic performance. The car was difficult to handle, and the windshield wipers had been set up on the wrong side! Plagued with minor errors, while the cars continued to stream out of the factory, they became renowned as one of the worst cars of all time and emblematic of British Leyland’s poor management.

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