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Ford has a storied 120-year history that elicits strong emotions from American car buyers. The Blue Oval’s record is primarily positive, filled with innovation and iconic cars. But the auto giant has also struggled. It has missed the mark on some of its riskier ideas. It has faced quality-control issues at various points, including in 2023. And it has churned out a few lemons, including the worst Ford ever made.

Any company with a history as long as Ford’s will have some lemons in the lineup. Because it produced the Model T, one of the most pivotal mass-market technological advancements, the famed automaker has earned some leeway. But at their worst, the results are nearly as infamous as their successes are famous.

The Edsel was among the biggest failures. After spending an entire year hyping an upcoming series of cutting-edge vehicles, Ford launched four sedans and three station wagons. But they were ugly and hulking, leading to poor sales and a $350 million loss for the company.

The Edsel line was discontinued only a couple of years after its splashy launch. But even some of Ford’s most popular and beloved vehicles have had some terrible one-off mistakes — even the F-150. For instance, three F-150 years are plagued with problems. Electrical issues emerged down the line for some, while a recent model had a braking issue that infuriated new buyers.

But those models don’t hold a candle to the worst car Ford ever built.

Why is the Pinto the worst Ford car?

The worst Ford car is the Pinto, shown here on fire after the electrical system went up in flames during a test
A Ford Pinto on fire | Bettmann/Getty Images

Several Ford models face problems to this day. Lately, the automaker has had high recall rates, outpacing all other car companies, although that’s partially due to the Blue Oval’s willingness to provide repairs for even minor endemic issues. But the single worst Ford car is on another level.

No Ford model is more notorious — and dangerous — than the Pinto. These subcompact cars were built for affordability and were popular as no-nonsense daily drivers from a trusted brand. Sadly, the story grows dark from here.

The Pinto’s fuel tank design left the rear end of this late-1970s car vulnerable in collisions, Mother Jones and many other outlets reported. Ford produced three million Pintos, so a decent number traveled the roads during that era. But they disappeared nearly as rapidly as they had become ubiquitous after consumers caught wind of the many fatalities. At least 27 deaths were tied to preventable fuel tank combustion in the worst car Ford ever made.

Should these terrible vehicles define the company’s reputation?

The Pinto marked the worst period in the carmaker’s 120-year-old history. But Ford has hit far more than it has missed over the years.

It has created legendary, beloved models like the F-Series, Mustang, Explorer, and Bronco. Sure, some have had one-off misses. But all are exceptional vehicles coveted on the secondary market for years after their launches.

For example, Ford’s 2023 lineup abounds with models that will likely become highly sought-after used cars. And it’s not just long-running nameplates like the Mustang. It’s also the Maverick, a less instantly recognizable model but one that hybrid truck buyers adore.

After surviving the Pinto fiasco, Ford has likely put its worst days behind it.