The Booth Babe Chronicles: Ugly Is As Ugly Does

The Booth Babe
by The Booth Babe
the booth babe chronicles ugly is as ugly does

The beauty of humanity is that we all have different tastes, that our aesthetic preferences create a marvelous tapestry of beauty, and that this creates a market where there’s something for everyone. Whether it be cars, shoes, or a life partner, what you think is absolutely hideous could very well be the greatest thing your boss has ever seen, and you’ll have to lie through your teeth about how awesome it is in order to keep your job.

Opinions are like the proverbial anatomical orifice, the only difference being that people have no problem spreading their opinions all over town and the Internet. (If you do the same with said orifice, please do not share the details here.) Of course, auto show visitors love to share their opinions with us product specialists. This is great! This is one of the reasons why we’re there, and we pass your feedback along to corporate after every show.

Constructive feedback, that is.

Here is an example of what is not constructive feedback:

Visitor: “That POS car is the ugliest thing I’ve ever seen!”

Product specialist: “I’m sorry you feel that way. What don’t you like about it?”

Visitor: “It’s just ugly. And you can tell them I said that.”

*Visitor stomps away*

Hmmm, what shall I write in my auto show report? “Unshowered wannabe Eurotrash male guest wearing obscenely tight True Religion jeans and an orange and green Affliction shirt purposely two sizes too small in a pathetic attempt to make his puny arms look passably muscular ironically thinks vehicle XYZ is the ugliest thing he has ever seen.”

That, my friends, is specificity – which is more than can be said of our visitor’s opinion.

I’m always interested in why people don’t find something aesthetically pleasing, but more than that, explaining why you feel that way – in a constructive manner – helps manufacturers make design choices and changes to adapt to market better. Case in point: Acura. The 2009 and 2010 grille is utterly heinous, to the point that many dealers are actually repainting them at customer request. Result? There’s talk that the company may be replacing the monstrosity as part of their refresh cycle, which typically happens every two or three years and includes tweaks to things like the aforementioned grille, headlamps, etc.

My personal #1 ugliest vehicle ever? Any incarnation of the Hummer. Beyond becoming a symbol of American oil gluttony, its utter rectangularity, hugeness and heft was just so “My man junk is very, very tiny,” even more so than the Unnecessary Truck. I like curves. Even most of those trucks have some eye-pleasing curves on the hood and nose, even if ever-so-subtle.

I took a very informal Twitter poll, and my followers had quite a list of ugly cars. Their top fugly vehicles of all times included the Edsel, the Mustang II, BMW X6, Pontiac Aztec, Porsche Panamera, Suzuki X90 and the Ssangyong Rodius, some Korean piece of crap so fug that Wheels magazine described it as “having a face like a burnt thong.”

Let’s hear it: What are your votes for the ugliest cars ever, and more importantly, why?

The Booth Babe is an anonymous auto show model who dishes about what really goes on behind the scenes. Read her blog at And if you treat her nicely, read her each Sunday at

Join the conversation
2 of 45 comments
  • George B George B on May 24, 2010

    For me, most ugly cars suffer from the automotive equivalent of Achondroplasia dwarfism where the middle passenger section of the car is way too big relative to the ends of the car. Too many ugly small cars to mention, but sometimes the proportions are wrong even with lots of length to work with. I think the 1996 Ford Taurus is hideous while the 2000 update makes the Taurus less ugly by increasing the trunk size to match the passenger compartment. The Pontiac Aztec achieves ugly through a bad body shape, made worse with a really ugly front facia. The Buick Rendezvous starts with the same platform but, with good proportions and an OK front facia, ends up being attractive. Another thing that always makes a car look disposable and frequently ugly is plastic pretending to be exposed or plated metal. Contrast the honest painted steel wheels on a base pickup truck or some CUVs like the base Honda CRV with plastic wheel covers. Contrast a Ford Fusion with the Gillette chrome plastic grill to the same car with the body color grill. Same with VW Jetta vs. GLI. Chrome plated plastic or plastic pretending to be aluminum always ends up looking like the plastic that it is.

  • Power6 Power6 on May 24, 2010

    Booth Babe, I think you've zeroed in on the challenge designers face. I am always interested in the science of decision making, and my girlfriend had mentioned to me at one time that she had learned during her master's program that most people give reliable feedback about whether they like a "design" in general, but their feedback about what is wrong with it is not very reliable, i.e. they can't tell you how to "fix" it. Seems to be in line with what you have found. Though, typical of you, you seem to have turned it around as yet another point of disdain for your "customers" but I am sure the people doing the actual sculpting recognize this as their challenge. There seems to be something to the "face" idea as cars do mimic the human form somewhat. So there may be some sort of formual for a good looking car. I do tend to think that this is overshadowed by the tribal mentality of humans, we tend to agree with those around us. If everybody says Subaru makes ugly cars then it must be true. I've said it before, and once again: Few will buy a car that they think others perceive as ugly.

  • Johnny ringo It's an interesting vehicle, I'd like to see VW offer the two row Buzz in the states also.
  • Chuck Norton And guys are having wide spread issues with the 10 speed transmission with the HP numbers out of the factory......
  • Zerofoo "Hyundais just got better and better during the 1990s, though, and memories of those shoddy Excels faded."Never. A friend had an early 90s Hyundai Excel as his college beater. One day he decided that the last tank of gas he bought was worth more than the car. He drove it to empty and then he and his fraternity brothers pushed it into the woods and left it there.
  • Kwik_Shift There are no new Renegades for sale within my geographic circle of up to 85 kms. Looks like the artificial shortage game. They bring one in, 10 buyers line up for it, $10,000 over MSRP. Yeah. Like with a lot of new cars.
  • Ribbedroof In Oklahoma, no less!