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Highway HORROR!!!!

Aaaaaaaaaaaahhhh!Tomorrow is Halloween, and our culture is once more engaged in its annual flirtation with the macabre and the supernatural--ghosts, witches, ghouls, monsters, ancient legends that turn out to be all too real, mad scientists tampering with Things Man Was Not Meant To Know, open portals to Hell, and nameless horrors from A to Z.

In the, ah, spirit of the times, Car Lust today counts down the five most horrifying things ever to roll on four wheels.

Come along and see for yourself. 

You're not scared, are you?

Not all monsters are overtly monstrous. Often, the most terrifying thing is something that looks harmless, or even enticing--but is unspeakably malevolent beneath the surface. The car in the number five position in our countdown looks so harmless, so friendly, so gosh-darned cute...and yet, there's something about it that just--you know, deep down, that it wants to eat your soul. "It's just a harmless little bunny....."

#5 -- 1958-61 Austin-Healy "Bugeye" Sprite.


Then, there are the eldritch abombinations, manifestations of powers far darker than any man can conceive. There's no mistaking what they are; these monsters wear their monstrosity on their sleeves. H.P. Lovecraft's Cthulu is perhaps the best-known example from literature. What is not generally known is that after he retired from writing, Lovecraft moved to France and secured a job in the styling studio at Citroen. How else to explain this grotesque, mis-shapen horror on wheels:

"Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn"#4 -- 1961 Citroen Ami 6


A different kind of horror arises when mad scientists go to work. Their motives may range from simple scientific curiosity to greed to even a noble desire to help mankind. Whatever the case, something goes tragically wrong, or they lack a sense of perspective and dabble in things that are better left undabbled, and their creation emerges horriffic and unnatural, and often as not turns upon its creator. The archetype of the mad scientist's evil creation is Frankenstein's monster, as rendered in the classic film from 1931. Other examples are the robots of Karl Capek's play R.U.R. and the creatures inhabiting H.G. Wells' Island of Doctor Moreau.

In the automotive world, the best example of this is the number three entry in our countdown, an attempt to build a versatile multipurpose vehicle which came out looking like an angry kitchen appliance--and which turned on its creator, dragging GM down into ridicule and bankruptcy and its Pontiac division into oblivion.

"You have created a monster, and it will destroy you!"#3 -- 2001-05 Pontiac Aztek


With the dawn of the nuclear age, a new source of man-made horror emerged: radiation. A full-scale shooting war between the nuclear-armed superpowers would destroy civilization as we know it--and blasts of radioactivity would transform the survivors into hideous mockeries of their pre-apocalyptic selves, like this mutant minivan: That's no teenage turtle!#2 -- 1998-2003 Fiat Multipla


And now, if you haven't already run away screaming in panic, it's time for the most terrifying thing on the roads, the Number One Highway Horror. What makes it so terrifying is its utter relentlessness: once it starts coming after you, you can't run away, you can't hide, you can't fight back, and if you plead for mercy, your pleas will be in vain, for it knows nothing of mercy. It is the most frightening thing on the highway, especially when it looms in your rear view mirror....

"You in a heap o' trouble, boy!"#1 -- Ford Crown Victoria Police Interceptor

--Cookie the Dog's Owner

The publicity images for the Japamese release of the 1977 horror-exploitation flick The Car came from film fansite Futuro Finale 2080AD. The photo of an Austin-Healey "Bug-Eye Sprite" is from My law school classmate Jay took the photo of the Crown Vic--unfortunately for him, it wasn't staged. The other illustrations came from Wikipedia.


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Even after seeing them all these years, that view of the Aztek gave me a start.

What were they thinking... what WERE they thinking?

The Aztek's platform was based off the Montana minivan, and I remember it was actually supposed to conjure up images of a "fun" AAV (all-activity vehicle), sort of the anti-SUV. You could even order a tent for the back as a dealer accessory. It was actually a neat idea (although hardly new)... but for some reason Pontiac insisted on making the damn thing so ugly that most people didn't care what it was supposed to be about. Hard to believe a company that once made cars like the 1967 GTO, 69 Firebird and such would willingly make such an ugly-duckling like the Aztek.

Anyway, I'd certainly add the AMC Gremlin to the list, as well as a late-50's early 60s Rambler Ambassador (some would add the Pacer... but since that car has achieved cult status I'll give it a left-handed pass).

Certainly an early 60s Plymouth Valiant/Dodge Lancer belongs on the list (especially the one with the toilet-seat shaped trunk lid).

Just about any Datsun made in the 70s I think qualifies (except the Z-series cars).

As far as new cars, the Nissan Juke (cross between Joke/Puke?) absolutely qualifies - the Cube (Pube?) comes in a close second.

I was also going to mention those early '60s Valiants. Uuuuuugly. I also have a distaste for some Toyota . . . well, Prius obviously, but something else whose name escapes me. It's not ugly really, but the look of it just makes we want to pluck out both eyeballs with a rusty nail.

Ah, the Paseo. *shudder*

I LOL'd so hard on the #1 choice, because it's true.
Next year, I would like to see the more-door Dodge Charger police cruiser. That one sent chills down my spine when it was tailing me at night while going 5-10ish mph above the speed limit. I made my move to the right lane, anticipating the worst, but it kept going. It turned out to be a civilian model. It still took me awhile to relax.

Guys, your choice of "Highway Horror" vehicles in the comment box are, dare I say it, predictable.

Anthony, the Paseo?
To me, looking at them, specifically the first generation (the second one is rather rare around these parts and therefore warrants a curious look when found), induce sleepiness rather than horror... unless you wanna go into further detail to explain your phobia.
I need a good scare. I'm all ears.

A guy down the street has a Bugeye Sprite in seafoam green and moss-patina sitting kind of half behind his house, covered what seems like a greasy bedsheet pulled up at the corner so one eye is peeking out... I always have to look when I go by, and it always gives me chills...

Great read....even though I am getting to it a few days late! I laughed out loud when I saw the Aztek, as it was already in my head when I started to read the article.

We wrote our own scary ride list (, albeit ours are mostly fictional vehicles!

About to buy a bugeye ;)

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