Top 10 Scary Cars

With Halloween coming, we asked Tom and Ray to give us their Top 10 scariest cars. They came through and were even kind enough to tell us for whom exactly the cars are scary. Read on, if you dare (imagine spooky laughter here)...

1969 Ford Mustang

Scary for: Bystanders and other drivers

Looks like an early Ford Mustang, right? It is, on the outside anyway. The inside, however, is all Ford Falcon, a pedestrian vehicle if ever there was one. So what, you say? Well, drop a Boss V-8 into a Ford Falcon and what do you get? An overpowered car that doesn't have the shocks, brakes or structural rigidity to turn or stop well. In other words ... look out!

1969 Pontiac Trans Am

Scary for: Bystanders and other drivers

Garish? Sure, but that's not our complaint. This was the height of muscle-cardom. This was when American car manufacturers figured out how to make humongous, powerful engines. Sadly, they hadn't yet figured out how to do handling, so you had an overpowered rear-wheel-drive car with no weight in the rear end. As a result, when there was half a drop of rain on the ground this thing spun around like Dizzy Dan from the Battling Tops. Anything but perfect weather, and it was totally uncontrollable.

1971 Ford Pinto

Scary for: Firefighters and plastic surgeons

What could possibly be scarier than a car endorsed by both the Shriners' Burn Ward Fundraising Division and the League of Asbestos-Clothing Manufacturers? These cars had an unfortunate tendency to explode when hit from behind, since that's where the gas tank was located. Ford did eventually fix the problem, but the damage was done, so to speak. Being anywhere near a Pinto still gives us visions of Robert Duvall calling in airstrikes in "Apocalypse Now."

1973 Volkswagen Microbus

Scary for: Drivers

Here's a scary idea: Design a car so the occupants' legs are the very first line of defense in a frontal crash. Then add poor stability. Shaped like a pizza box standing on end, the Microbus blew around on the highway like Calista Flockhart in a wind tunnel. Drivers never had time to worry about these issues, though; they were too busy trying to keep themselves warm in the chilly Bus.

1974 Volkswagen Thing

Scary for: Onlookers

Just take a gander at this. No wonder they named it the Thing; it was styled by the same guy who invented the cookie sheet. Thankfully, they rusted quickly enough that few remain to invoke PTSD for former owners.

1980 Chevrolet Monza

Scary for: Mechanics

The Monza was designed as an economy car, so it was built to have a four-cylinder engine. Unfortunately, when sales slowed down, some geniuses at Chevy decided that what the Monza needed was a V-8, so they shoehorned one in there. The result? Half the spark plugs are almost impossible to reach; to get at them you need rappelling equipment and an air chisel. Whenever one of these beauties reared its ugly grille in front of the garage, every mechanic with more than six weeks' experience would go running for the men's room and lock the door.

1986 Suzuki Samurai

Scary for: Drivers

Rolling over is fine if you've got personal knowledge of Knuckles Goldberg's wrongdoings and you're heading into the witness protection program. Rolling over at 70 miles per hour on asphalt, when you're swerving to avoid an errant chipmunk? Not so good. These cars were cheap, so they were purchased mostly by young drivers — the people most likely to end up hanging from the seat belt with four wheels in the air. Scarier still, the Samurai wasn't that much worse than other SUVs of the era.

1987 Ford Festiva

Scary for: Drivers

Take a good look at this car. Kind of small, wouldn't you say? Now imagine yourself in a Festiva surrounded by amphetamine-snacking tractor-trailer drivers. Going 75 miles per hour. At night. In the rain. Scared yet? We sure are. We once got in trouble for saying this car came right from the factory with a funeral wreath on the grille.

2004 Hummer H1

Scary for: Society, the environment and therapists

When you stop to think about what kind of person would buy a Hummer, you begin to worry about the future of our country. This is a person who feels so inadequate inside that he has to drive around pretending the 82nd Airborne will be backing him up in his next argument over a parking space. On the environmental side, the Hummer burns through resources like there's no tomorrow. And if enough idiots keep driving them, there won't be.

2005 Pontiac Aztek

Scary for: Onlookers

Well, now we know where the designers of the Volkswagen Thing went to work after VW canned their sorry butts. Take a good look at this vehicle — it's a tribute to the art of unfortunate compromises. Someone at GM said "take a minivan, whack off a few corners and make something we can call a utility vehicle." The car itself was not bad — rather utilitarian, actually — but it pinned the needle on the visual pollution scale.

Posted on 10/2/06