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Remember when Mustangs and Corvettes were all the rage? Well, now, it’s Pintos and Chevettes—at least for a specific subset of automotive enthusiasts. Facebook groups, such as “I Love Terribly Ugly Cars” and “Malaise Motors”, are making it hip to be square. Or ugly. Or both. 

Cars once deemed abominations are suddenly becoming collectible for several reasons. First, vehicles from the late 70s through mid-90s (the so-called ugly period) are the cars Generation X and older Millennials grew up with. At this point, both age groups have the desire and financial means to buy the cars they remember from their youth. 

There’s also a counterculture automotive movement that aims to overthrow the reign of traditional classics (built prior to 1975) with more obscure models made between the late 70s and mid-90s. 

Buckle up—the future of collectible automobiles is about to get weird.  

Evidence that Quirky and Ugly Cars are Gaining Popularity

800px Blue Yugo GV in San Francisco
 Yugo GV / Photo by Irina / Public Domain

So, what is considered a quirky or ugly car? The answer is basically anything from the late 70s through the mid-90s that isn’t traditionally considered to be desirable. We’re talking about everything from once-forgotten 70s commuter cars to minivans from the 90s. If a car is vintage, and most automotive enthusiasts would scoff at it, it probably fits the bill. 

Spend a little time perusing auction listings or scrolling through social media, and you’ll quickly discover that oddball cars are catching on. Facebook groups and auction websites are just two platforms where you’ll find evidence that the vintage vehicles that were once shunned are steadily developing a fan base. 

Enthusiast Groups for Oddball Cars

Have you been avoiding Facebook so that you don’t have to see posts about what your second cousin had for dinner? Well, while it’s true that you can’t escape a never-ending stream of food posts on Facebook, the website is also now a popular platform for automotive enthusiasts. 

There are many Facebook groups dedicated to different types of cars, including groups with tens of thousands of people who share a love of “ugly” vehicles from the late 70s through the early 00s. Some of the most popular groups that cater to misfit vehicles include I Love Terribly Ugly Cars, Malaise Motors, and Underappreciated Survivors.

I Love Terribly Ugly Cars

Pontiac Aztek IMG 20180408 125542
 Pontiac Aztek / Photo by Alexander Migl / Public Domain

If you appreciate rusted-out 80s commuter cars, wooden-clad wagons, and the occasional Pontiac Aztec, the group I Love Terribly Ugly Cars is for you. Currently, there are nearly 60,000 members creating hundreds of posts each month.

The group, which was founded in 2016, describes itself as being a portal to show off “70’s, 80’s, 90’s, and late model cars that many folks would consider ugly, but we shamelessly love.”  

And there’s no shame in that. 

Malaise Motors

1979 Ford Thunderbird rear left
1979 Ford Thunderbird Photo by Mr. Choppers / Public Domain

Malaise is the automotive era (typically considered to be from 1973 to 1983) when newly introduced emissions regulations and fuel economy standards began to take a toll on new vehicle performance. The general consensus has been that the cars from the period are some of the slowest and the ugliest ever made. 

But there’s also a subculture of collectors who live for the velour upholstery, vinyl tops, and 8-track players of the Malaise era. Many of those individuals belong to Malaise Motors— a group that celebrates the models from the Malaise era, as well as slightly more modern vehicles built prior to 1995. The group has over 10,000 members creating dozens of posts each day. 

The Malaise Motors group states that it’s “Dedicated to the history, design, manufacture and “roadability” of the unloved cars of the Malaise Era. We are the Brougham package of car groups! Our seats are button tufted, roofs landau and we roll on the shiniest genuine wire wheel covers!” 

Underappreciated Survivors

1997 Oldsmobile Aurora
Oldsmobile Aurora / Photo by The Oldsmobile Edge / Public Domain

It’s relatively easy to find performance cars and exotics that have survived several decades. But regular commuter cars? Not so much. 

If you get more excited about a mint 1996 Oldsmobile Aurora than a Ferrari worth six figures, you’ll want to check out Underappreciated Survivors. The group pays homage to the unsung heroes that have weathered several decades while ferrying children to school, making grocery store runs, and acting as daily drivers. 

Underappreciated Survivors, which has nearly 200,000 members, is self-described as being “a very friendly community that’s about the common and everyday cars and trucks from 1973-2003”.

Examples of Quirky and Ugly Cars Commanding Money at Auction

800px VWGolfHarlequin
Volkswagen Golf Harlequin / Photo by Analogue Kid / Public Domain

Facebook groups aren’t the only place where quirky and ugly cars are starting to get the attention they deserve. Underdog vehicles are also beginning to command a lot of money through classifieds and auctions. 

One of the most popular automotive auction websites is Bring a Trailer (BaT). A quick scroll through the site makes it clear that sports cars and muscle cars aren’t the only vehicles commanding money these days. On BaT, oddities, such as a $30,000 Saab from the 1980s, aren’t odd at all—they’re commonplace. 

Here are a few noteworthy examples of quirky cars earning top dollar on BaT.

1996 Volkswagen Golf Harlequin

Sold on 8/6/21 for $25,500

You might be wondering: What on earth is a Volkswagen Harlequin? Well, in 1996, Volkswagen produced 264 multi-colored Golfs and referred to them as Harlequins, in reference to a type of jester that wore colorful clothing during the 17th century. The car features one base color (red) and four body panels of different colors that always appeared in a specific order. Basically, the little hatchback looks like a Rubik’s Cube on wheels.

1986 Subaru Brat

Sold on 8/6/21 for $25,500

The Subaru Brat (Bi-drive Recreational All-terrain Transporter) is a funky little trucklet from the 1980s. Subaru built the curiosity on the same chassis as the Leone station wagon. A selectable all-wheel drive system (known aptly as Bi-drive) and four-cylinder boxer engine came standard at the time. 

1988 Saab 900 Convertible

Sold on 6/21/21 for $30,000

Saabs are cars that you either love or hate. Historically, that polarizing effect has kept Saabs from the 80s and 90s from being valuable. Now, however, the shift towards quirky vehicles—and we all know Saabs are quirky—is increasing the popularity of these Scandinavian-built classics.

1985 Pulse Autocycle

Sold on 7/17/21 for $21,500

Is the 1985 Pulse Autocycle, a motorcycle, an airplane, or all three? Since the machine can’t fly, that rules it out as an airplane, but it does combine select elements of both a car and a motorcycle into one of the weirdest contraptions ever made. 

1981 Honda Motocompo

Sold on 7/13/21 for $8,200

No, it’s not a car, but the Honda Motocompo, which recently sold on BaT for a staggering $8,200, is quirky enough that it deserves an honorable mention. The Motocompo is a folding scooter produced by Honda from 1981-1983. Originally designed as a “trunk bike” to fit in the back of small cars, the Motocompo was an urban runabout with a top speed of about 18 mph.

Go Against the Grain—Buy Yourself a Quirky Car

With enough money, anyone can own a traditionally cool muscle car or sports car. But if you want to stand out at the next car show—and everywhere else you travel—consider getting something a little more unusual. 

Perhaps a nice Yugo GVX or AMC Pacer would look good in your driveway?  When it comes to quirky and ugly cars, the possibilities are endless. 

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Fred Matula

I got me a 90 Plym.Horizon,everyone seems to laugh at,but also want to buy.I’m up to 2g’s so far.Even a new car dealer wants it! Has never not started.Bone dry on the garage floor under it.Orig.drivetrain.Nothing needs rebuilding.Could use valve seals though.I own it 4 23yrs.Wish it was a G.L.H. model.CA-Ching$$!

CarParts.com

Hi Fred,

Plymouth Horizons are starting to have quite a fanbase! I actually have a 1979 Plymouth Horizon TC3 of my own. If you hold on to your car, it could be worth good money in the near future.

-Mia, Chief Mechanic @ CarParts.com

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