No automaker designs anything, especially for the mass market, with the intention of having it labeled ‘weird,’ yet such vehicles do exist. Designed as a radical new idea or just as a means of standing out from the crowd, here are the cars that we would classify as weird if seen rolling down the street.
While some of these were, indeed, disruptive, others are just weird because they don’t fit in with our taste in cars today. We’ll show them to you, and you be the judge: would they have been weird three, four, or five decades back?
What happens when a refrigerator company designs a car? They make it small and put a big door on one side. That’s, in short, the story of the Isetta. It might look funny but the Isetta did excel in one area: fuel consumption.
The Isetta became the first car to achieve 94mpg in 1955. If you don’t mind being in an extremely unsafe (and illegal) car, you can use this to get to work while fuel prices are through the roof.
Even before Chevy had this ridiculous idea of making a three-wheel car possible, Ford tried having one with only two. How did this thing stay balanced you ask? Well, it used a gyroscope for that.
Ford, however, learned pretty fast that it is not really efficient to keep a 300lb dead weight spinning at hundreds of RPM even if there is no global energy crisis.
While flying cars still remain a thing of the future, floating cars are a thing of the past. Remembered as the most famous non-military amphibious vehicle in history, the Amphicar was produced between 1961 and 1967.
It had a set of propellers in the back while the front wheels provided basic rudder functionality, enabling the car to cruise at seven knots through the water.
Alfa Romeo Disco Volante
Aerodynamics is one of the chief considerations in the design of any purpose-built race car today but back in the 1950s, engineers relied more on brute force and precise handling.
Alfa Romeo was way ahead of its time back then, decades at least. They came up with the most aerodynamically ‘slippery’ design possible without wind tunnel testing. It looks weird but gets the job done.
Chevy El Camino
Coupes and pickup trucks are on the entire opposite spectrum of automobiles, yet in the 1960s, Chevy got away with making a hybrid of them both.
Do you need a 300-hp V8? It has it! Do you want to haul lumber for home improvement? El Camino can haul it! All while looking sick still in this age.
Desperate times call for desperate measures and the L’oeuf Electrique (the electric egg) is an example of that. This car was made by a French designer during WWII because of the gasoline shortage.
With a battery, an electric motor, some aluminum, and a lot of plexiglass, this thing was capable of moving at 44mpg and going up to 60 miles on a single charge. However, with three wheels and that body, safety (and looks) is not the best aspect of this car.
Even though this ‘thing’ is called a car today, the creator, Buckminster Fuller, refused to call it one. This machine was aimed to be capable of carrying a dozen passengers along with the ability to move on land, through the air, and in water.
The idea attracted people like Amelia Earhart, Henry Ford, and Isamu Noguchi, but the 1930s’ tech was not enough to realize those ambitious targets. The project was finally trashed when one of the prototypes was involved in a high-profile accident at the 1933 Chicago World’s Fair.
Leave the shape aside, the very name of this thing is enough to get sued in this age. Even though this looks absurd, the Wienermobile does have the guts.
Powered by a 6.0-liter V8 this is not only a show car, it can move at respectable speeds with considerable agility.
Chevy Astro III
This demon love child between a batmobile and a jet aircraft was a product of the time when jets were just becoming a thing and researchers had discovered this fancy new science called aerodynamics.
Designed to be as aerodynamically efficient as possible, this two-seater jet for the road had one less wheel than what’s universally expected for a car, which ironically prevented it from attaining any speed that could make use of that aerodynamic efficiency.
Citroën DS was one of the only two models produced by the Citroën motor company for many years. It was an era when there was an understanding of the concept of aerodynamics but no methods had yet been devised to determine the most efficient shape.
The optimal solution was to make the car as smooth as possible. And innovators did it no matter how weird the product looked…
General Motors Firebird III
If there ever was a car that was more aircraft than an automobile, this has to be it. The third iteration of the Firebird had a turbine engine, wings and tail fins, airbrakes, and a fighter jet-installed joystick for steering.
Even though this car could run on anything from jet fuel to cologne, the complications of turbine engines finally forced Ford to abandon the project.
This was the first ever car to be made by Daihatsu for large-scale passenger use. The Bee had a single wheel in the front because three-wheeled cars were taxed less than the ones that had four.
It was far from being stable, as you can probably guess. And then there was the weak 540cc boxer engine that struggled to produce 18 horsepower on a good day. All things combined, Diahatsu only managed to sell 300 of these before life insurance claims began piling up.
Stutz Weightman Special no 26
If you claim to be a manufacturer of high-end sports and luxury cars and you manufacture atrocities like this, you are bound to go defunct sooner or later. That was the fate of the Stutz Motor Company, the maker of this.
What appears to be four tires bolted to a drum, was one of their top race cars… go figure out what the rest would have looked like.
Norman Timbs Special
Designed by the legendary designer and inventor of ground effect, Norman Thimbs, this car was centered around aerodynamic efficiency. Mr. Thimbs didn’t care if it looked like a bloated fish, he wanted his car to be as slippery through the air as possible.
Unfortunately, the only Norman Thimbs special was burnt to the frame in a fire that consumed the designer’s house in 2018.
The Bond Bug was designed by Tom Karen of Ogle Design for Reliant Motor Company who manufactured it between 1970 and 1974. This 2-seater 3-wheel automobile was designed as a cheap way of transportation for the masses but it never became a big success.
That’s because when you delete a wheel from the established formula of a car, the result is inherently unstable and not very safe to drive.
General Motors Le Sabre
It was 1951, the world was still recovering from the war and General Motors came up with this abomination of a car. Named after the F-86 Le Sabre fighter plane, this car was meant to revolutionize the post-war auto industry.
However, taking design hints from aviation didn’t prove to be the best approach for making the ‘car of the future.’
Daihatsu Mira Walk-Through Van
Imagine being caught in a crosswind while driving (or even parked) in that thing. Based on the Daihatsu Mira Kei car, this van was designed to provide an efficient way of transport for mobile food vendors.
This self-driven cabinet is as unsafe as cars can get and yes it is painfully slow too!
Fiat 600 Multipla
When a normal car hits something, there is a crumple zone that is destructed before the impact can harm you. In the 600 Multipla, however, the crumple zone is your own knee.
Other than looking extremely weird, this thing was entirely unsafe and uncomfortable, and it lacked safety equipment even by the standards of that time.
When Matra introduced the Rancho back in 1977, the term crossover SUV was not even a thing. However, the Rancho was exactly that.
Based on the Simca 1100, the Rancho had large glass panels all around which not only gave it a well-lit interior but also made it a very easy target for break-ins. It had many other weird features as well.
Who could tell the makers of this would go on to form one of the most prestigious car brands of all time: McLaren?
The Trojan’s enormous bonnet might trick you into thinking that it had an engine under there. However, the unreliable 4-cylinder 2-stroke was actually placed flat under the seats. It also had solid rubber tires, welded front differential, and numerous other atrocities that are unthinkable in this day and age.
Honda wanted in on the action by making something like the Midget. These small inexpensive cars are really popular with the Japanese public.
The Vamos followed the same bare-bones design but added the option of an extra row of seats and increased the width a bit to make the vehicle more stable. And while the performance wasn’t that bad, the looks were not its strongest point.
Chrysler Turbine Car
This might look like any other car from the 1960s but that’s only until you don’t see under the hood. This car was powered by a turbine engine, yes the same thing that powers commercial aircraft.
Chrysler made 200 of these as an experiment and gave them to selected families for real-life testing. They soon figured out that sitting on top of a literal jet engine for a 100-mile road trip is not very comfortable and soon pulled the plug on the project. Nine of the 200 turbine cars still exist today, of which five are driveable.
Trossi Monaco was inarguably the weirdest car (if we can designate it as one) to ever be designed for Grand Prix racing. Designed by Augusto Monaco and financed by the Italian race car driver Count Felice Trossi, this car never even started a Grand Prix though.
That’s because the weight of the 16-cylinder 4.0-liter radial engine pushing down on the front wheels made the oversteer too bad to safely drive this thing at any speed.
After the El Camino got the reputation of a classic, Subaru attempted to replicate the same formula of a coupe-pickup truck. The result of that quest was the Brat.
However, this one does not have the big honking American V8 under the hood and never gained the same status as the El Camino.
Saab is actually an acronym that translates to Swedish Aeroplane Company Limited… if that’s not evident from the teardrop shape of this car.
Even though it was not a very good-looking car, the aerodynamic advantage was observed in performance and handling, leading to this car being one of Saab’s most successful ones until the 1980s.
Peugeot 402 Darl’mat Coupe
The next time you complain to a higher power about being alive during the pandemic, be thankful for NOT being alive in a time when this was the most desired supercar.
Available with a fixed hard top, a soft top, and as a roadster, the Peugeot 402 is reported to be the only “supercar” of its time.
Antarctic Snow Cruiser
Designed to be a self-sufficient mobile work base, home, and lab for a crew of 14 on an antarctic mission, this was one of the biggest things to ever move on the land.
The Cruiser was however extremely underpowered, unreliable, and impractical to the point that it had to be abandoned eventually.
Appearing to be the offspring of the Fiat Multipla and the Popemobile, the Nissan S-Cargo is inspired by the mid-20th century French Buggies.
Powered by a tiny engine and having the aerodynamics of a snail, this is not the cargo vehicle you want carrying your same-day delivery packages.
While American trucks are big and have engines larger than this thing, the Japanese tend to make small vehicles that get the job done.
With a 660cc engine, an option for one or two seats, and the spare wheel mounted on the front, this aptly named truck is literally the bare minimum needed to get the job done.
The Europa was very unusual when it came out in 1966, even though it does not look very peculiar today. It was also fairly unique in having a mid-engine layout.
It initially came out with a Renault 16 engine which was later replaced with Lotus’ own Twin Cam engine, derived from the Ford Kent.
Can you think what life would have been like for a peasant when the elites roamed around in things like this? Looks aside, it had 20 horsepower, three forward gears, and NO FRONT BRAKES.
It was the 1920s and automobiles were just becoming a thing so we cannot be very hard with the criticism.
Horch 853 A
If you think the term cabriolet applies to sexy cars like the Maybach S600, think again. This is also classified as one. The Horch 853 A used to be one of the most impressive cars of its time.
With a straight-eight engine and a 4-speed manual gearbox, this must have been a treat to drive in its prime years but it’s an ugly, slow, and unsafe vehicle by present standards.
That thing still looks sick in 2022, imagine showing up to the prom in one of those in the 1980s. The stainless steel panels, straight lines, and wedge shape of this car made it way too modern for its time.
9,000 of these were made before financial and legal troubles led to the closure of DeLorean Motor Company in 1982. The car was immortalized by the sci-fi thriller Back to the Future. Yes, it was weird – but in a cool way!
Vintage Subcontinent Buses
Based on 1950s truck chassis, these buses are not manufactured by any particular automaker and are rather designed by street artists.
While it might look cool and full of culture on the outside, the inside will make the seats of the cheapest EU bus feel like first class and safety features are practically nonexistent in these things.
Malcolm Bricklin refused to even include an ashtray in this car but the only thing this thing is known for is spontaneously catching fire and burning to the axles.
The Bricklin is often named among the worst cars of all time, and for good reason. It honestly looks like a wedge on wheels.
Red Cord Convertible
This car is the spiritual ancestor of the Plymouth Prowler. You can either love it to the point where you sell your house to get your hands on it or you feel disgusted even looking at it.
The Red Cord came with hidden headlights, supercharged V8, chrome wheels, and all the great things BUT it was a front-wheel-drive.
This is not a vintage car, but the shape sure makes it feels like it was found in a barn, abandoned for 50 years.
The Takayanagi Miluira was made by combining the latest EV tech with design hints from the Lohner-Porsche, the first ever gasoline-electric hybrid vehicle made between 1900 and 1905.
This thing looks like a Corolla, and even drives like one with its 1.5-liter engine but the similarities end the moment you want to get into or out of the car.
That’s because this Corolla-looking car has gates that open like a Lambo. If you want to enjoy a sports car on a budget, maybe this is it.
Mercedes Benz 300 SL
The SL or Super Light is one of the most sought-after cars of all time and I know I will get a lot of hate for including this classic in this list.
But if you forget for a second that it’s the prized 300 SL, you’d agree that it is actually a quite weird design. I mean the wing doors just don’t go with a 50s Merc!
Part of the reason the average life expectancy was 50 years in the 1920s was that things like these were allowed. It was designed by the French biplane designer Marcel Leyat with the reasoning that transmissions and clutches were unnecessary complications.
Powered by an 18-hp 1000-cc Harley Davidson Twin, this death machine with an amputator at the front was not exactly the safest automobile to go cruising in. And by the way, I don’t know why it’s even considered an automobile.