Was this Buick concept the ugliest car ever? | Top Gear
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Was this Buick concept the ugliest car ever?

The 1998 Buick Signia concept had a face even a mother might struggle to love

  • What on earth is that?

    This unfortunate looking beast was revealed to the public at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit in 1998, whereupon the villagers immediately set after it with torches and pitchforks, chanting ‘kill the beast’ over and over while grabbing free merch from neighbouring stands. 

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  • What were they thinking?

    Buick had hit upon the idea of a car-like crossover SUV, probably using the same focus group it ended up patching the design together with. It was naturally keen to ensure that its new lifestyle wagon would take the market by storm with pure pizzazz. It was supposed to be an exciting car that married sporty shenanigans with practical do-anything ability that would have made it indispensable to absolutely everyone. 

  • It must have had something going for it...?

    Its creators touted the car’s SUV-like stance that made it easy to get in and out of (a loud dog whistle for old people, no matter how young and hip a carmaker thinks its audience is going to be) and its flexible loadspace. We all know there’s nothing quite so alluring as a flexible loadspace. 

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  • Any crazy concept touches?

    All of the Signia’s crazy concept touches were on full display. In fact, let’s start at the Signia’s rear end, where the bulbous hatch over the boot featured similar tech to your dad’s specs from the early Noughties. The smart glass tech darkened the hatch depending on how bright the sun was, and the 25kg hatch was removable for extra practicality. The art deco-inspired wood clad interior married the latest technology with an antiques warehouse vibe, just to make sure that people wouldn’t be freaked out by futuristic computers and suchlike. 

  • What was under the bonnet?

    To be honest, we’re just here for the engine. The Signia had a transverse-mounted 3.8-litre supercharged V6 under the bonnet, pumping out a heady 240bhp. Unfortunately, to add insult to the eye injury caused by the styling, the Signia sent its horses to the front wheels, by no means the rear-wheel drive sleeper car that its bulging rear arches and eager stance implied. Electric motors were installed at the back of the car, but they were meant to kick in if the car lost traction, preventing slides. Bad news if you try and deliberately crash it into a tree.

  • Why didn’t the Signia go into production?

    We can chalk this one up to ignorance, really. Can you believe that the shallow buying public puts so much stock in cars looking so-called ‘nice’? Buick played it cool, trying to pretend that the car was never actually meant to go into production, it was just showcasing a few things. All very casual. It sort of went into production as the 2001 Buick Rendezvous, an entirely conventional crossover-SUV that looked nothing like the Signia. Except the C-pillars, those looked the same. 

  • Whatever happened to the Signia concept?

    According to rumour (something we read that was posted on a General Motors fan forum in 2007), this poor unloved child wasn’t even granted the dignity of a solemn send-off in the corporate crusher, instead pushed off to the side of a General Motors car park to break down quietly. 

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  • Is it actually the ugliest car ever created?

    This is obviously an entirely subjective minefield of a discussion that could begin with a shortlist of many dozens of candidates, a prolonged argument about the criteria that should be employed to find the miserable winner (does a concept car even count, for instance?) and then arduous fisticuffs as the list was whittled down. But basically, yes.

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