The worst car ever? Auto-Kabine, a VW Bug on steroids

James Raia

The ugliest car ever made is an ideal topic over a great burger and couple of beers. There’s plenty of room for discussion. But the worst car ever? There seems to be a consensus: The Hoffmann Auto-Kabine.

M. Hoffmann, a post-WWII engineer and entrepreneur, built bicycles and Vespas in Germany in the late 1940s and then decided to entry automobile manufacturing. It was disastrous.

The Auto-Kabine, circa 1951-1954, is considered the worst car ever.
The Auto-Kabine, circa 1951-1954, is considered the worst car ever.

The Auto-Kabine microcar, which resembles a VW Bug on steroids, couldn’t have been a more contrary mechanical assemblage.

The engine drives the single rear wheel mounted on a cradle. It pivots on a kingpin in the center of the vehicle’s triangular frame. An extraordinarily complex lever mechanism operates the steering. The short wheelbase, rear-wheel steering proved to be the vehicle’s demise. The engine was a 200cc single-cylinder with 6.5 horsepower.

There was little control or stability except at low speeds. The top speed was about 27 miles per hour. 
In its three-year tenure, about 100 Auto-Kabine microcars were manufactured, with a cost of $690.

The Auto-Kabine microcars remaining are relegated to private collections and displayed at vintage car shows.

One reviewer described the Auto-Kabine experience as “driving a forklift at high speed.”

Jason Torchinsky, a writer and commentator for Jalopnik, reviewed the Hoffmann. He lived to tell the story of the “worst car ever.”

Article Last Updated: February 27, 2017.

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