Lowest, cheapest, widest, and the car with the worst MPG ever recorded.
If an automaker wants hype for a sports car, it'll aim to be the fastest, whether that's in acceleration, top speed, or around the Nurburgring. For a luxury vehicle, being the longest or the most expensive car get some headlines, and no truck maker has gained bad press by having the biggest engine, torque number, or towing capacity. But what's the slowest car ever made? The lightest? The heaviest? The one with the worst gas mileage? Those are just some of the questions we're seeking to answer here.
According to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) numbers, the car for having the worst miles-per-gallon ratio is the 1986 Lamborghini Countach. Its 5.2-liter V12 engine drinks fuel to the tune of 6 mpg in the city, 10 mpg on the highway, and 7 mpg combined. If you put your foot on the floor, you can see the fuel indicator go down as the speedometer goes up. However, the EPA only started recording its figures in 1984, and we know that there was a time where miles per gallon weren't much, if any, of a consideration when buying any car. That's why the worst gas guzzler in automotive history is generally recognized as being a particular Chevrolet Camaro. Surprisingly, not a V8 or a Camaro with an SS badge. If you bought an early 1966/1967 Camaro with the 3.8-liter straight-six engine and the Saginaw three-speed manual transmission, you got 140 horsepower and anywhere between 5-7 mpg. Most sources place it at 5.2 mpg combined.
It's natural to expect a car with more cylinders to have more displacement, but that's not always the case. More cylinders aren't always used just to generate more power, although torque does directly scale with more cylinders. Using ten cylinders can create the same approximate power numbers as using eight larger cylinders, but the engine's behavior will be different. For example, the power strokes are shorter, and the impact of a falling cylinder is lessened, leading to power coming quicker and the engine being smoother while revving higher. Hence, the V10 engine in the Lexus LFA measures just 4.8 liters of displacement with 553 horsepower and 354 lb-ft of torque. Because of the engine's setup, the horsepower doesn't peak until 8,700 rpm (300 rpm short of redline), while 90% of its 354 lb-ft of torque is available from just 3,700 rpm and peaks at 6,800 rpm. Most impressively, it was smaller in physical footprint than most V8s of the time.
For reference, a current Honda Accord weighs between 3,150 and 3,430 pounds. A Cadillac Escalade weighs from 5,635 to 5,823, and the new Hummer EV weighs in at 9,045 pounds with all its batteries. However, the king of heavy production cars is a luxury sedan built to withstand fast-approaching lead projectiles and small explosions. The armored-from-the-factory 2017 Mercedes-Maybach S600 Pullman Guard weighs 11,244 pounds, which is the cost of its ballistic protection. The doors are so heavy that they are fitted with electric motors, and the car needs a 6.0-liter V12 engine to push it down the road with any enthusiasm, just as today's example does. If you're wondering, the 6.0-liter V12 isn't the smallest-displacement V12 made. That honor goes to Ferrari's first grand touring car, the 166 Inter with its 2.0-liter V12 that was built between 1948 and 1950.
The production car with the lowest overall height isn't much of a surprise. When Colin Chapman designed the original Lotus 7, it was road legal, but only so it could be driven to the track. It had a ground clearance you could measure using your finger and thumb, then measured a grand total of 32 inches tall. The current Caterham 7 CSR, the latest high-spec continuation version of the Lotus 7, is 40 inches tall and, as far as we can make out, the lowest current production car. If you want to avoid paying for parking in boomed lots, this is the car for you.
Conveniently, the Lightweight Car Company (LCC) still claims the title of lightest weight production car to have hit the road with four wheels. The lightest three-wheeled car was the 1962 Peel P50 which was advertised as being just about big enough to fit "one adult and a shopping bag" inside. It weighed an absurd 123 pounds while the also-British LLC Rocket weighs 850 pounds with an extra wheel and all the necessary extra weight needed to be road legal from 1991-1998. LLC was the brainchild of Gordon Murray and racing driver Chris Croft and the Rocket was a tandem two-seater powered by a 1000-cc Yamaha engine delivering either 143 hp or 165 hp depending on the specification. To make the minimalist car even lighter, Murray and Croft embraced motorcycle technology as well as a space-framed chassis and cutting-edge materials of the time.
We mentioned the three-wheeled Peel P50 as being the lightest production car, but part of the reason it weighed so little was that it used a single-cylinder 49.2-cc engine. Due to its lack of weight, the Peel P50 will accelerate fine, but due to its tiny transmission and gearing, its top speed is around 38 mph. The transmission lackesa reverse gear, so Peel included a useful handle on the back so it could be physically moved around. As far as we know, you can still buy a Peel P50 as the company was reborn in 2010 and updated the design - although it still weighs around the same and isn't much more desirable.
The current widest production car is the Bugatti Chiron, which holds a bunch of spectacular headline-grabbing records. The 1954 Chrysler Crown Imperial beat it by 2.9-inches in its day with a total of 82.9 inches. It's an absolute boat, but far more interesting is the world's widest convertible production car, which was just 0.4 inches narrower than the Crown Imperial. Maserati built the 2004 and 2005 MC12 supercar on the chassis of a Ferrari Enzo, but it was much larger once the engineers finished working on it. It's 202.5 inches long but a massive 82.5-inches wide, earning the crown of Widest Production Targa Top. That's s just 0.1 of an inch short of the widest full-convertible production car - the Lamborghini SVJ Roadster.
Working out what the cheapest car ever made comes down to doing some math spanning a century. The Briggs & Stratton Flyer sold for just $125 in 1922, which would be $2,068 at the start of 2022. More recently, the Tata Nano launched in 2008 for $2,500, which would be $3,227.41 in 2022 when adjusted for inflation. However, that $125 from 1922 would have been the equivalent purchasing power of around $1,600 in 2008, which is how we're going to judge this and call the Briggs & Stratton Flyer the cheapest production car ever sold. Another contender was the infamous East German Trabant P601 which cost $1,862 in 1963, but that $125 from 1922 would have been around $234 when the Trabant was at its peak of production. In today's money, a Trabant would cost you a startling $16,429.82 for a car only marginally faster, more comfortable, and more practical than a 1922 Flyer.