Foreigners Love These Cars, But Americans Don’t Understand Why
Cars are different throughout the world. There is no doubt that oddities make the world of cars diverse and exciting. While American automakers have made unusual cars in the past, the majority of weird cars come from overseas.
Some of them have become famous thanks to their quirkiness, while others are simply forgotten. Nonetheless, virtually all of these foreign cars are difficult to understand for American buyers.
Civilian versions of military vehicles are often hits among American car buyers. The Hummer H1 is a prime example. The Mini Moke, however, is a completely different story. When the British automaker showed a military version of the Moke to the US army, it was quickly rejected.
A few years later, BMC developed a civilian version of the Moke. The quirky automobile looks like a weird mix of a dune buggy and a golf cart, and it’s easily one of the weirdest British vehicles of all time.
Ferrari 512 S Modulo
This forgotten Ferrari concept vehicle looks more like a spaceship than a regular automobile. The Italian automaker unveiled this radical creation, designed by Pininfarina, at the 1970 Geneva Motor Show. It was showcased as a glimpse into the future of supercars.
Ferrari only built one unit of the 512 S Modulo, instantly making it highly sought after by wealthy collectors worldwide. It packed a powerful V12 fitted behind the driver, as well as a spectacular body.
By now, most of us have probably seen one of these weird creations in a British movie or TV show. The Reliant Robin first hit the market in the early 70s, and quickly rose to fame. However, it became popular for all the wrong reasons.
Very few cars remain as infamous as the Reliant Robin. Its three-wheel drivetrain made the Robin truly awful to drive. In addition, this quirky car was prone to roll over when cornering!
The KR200 is yet another weird city car of the past. This weird microcar certainly outperformed the previously mentioned Peel P50, though. The KR200’s 9.9-horsepower motor enabled the car to shoot up to 56 miles per hour! Unlike the Peel, the Messerschmitt KR200 can fit a passenger behind the driver.
The distinctive styling makes the KR200 even more quirky. In addition, this microcar was manufactured by Messerschmitt, a defunct German aircraft manufacturer infamous for its World War 2 fighters.
The Volkswagen 181, often referred to as the Volkswagen “Thing”, is easily one of the weirdest automobiles ever released by the German automaker. Although it was initially developed as a military vehicle, Volkswagen also offered a civilian variant for a little over a decade.
Believe it or not, this quirky off-road convertible was shortly available in the US! The Thing hit the market for the ’71 model year, though it was dropped in North America just four years later as it failed to meet new safety regulations. It’s virtually impossible to come across one in the US today.
The infamous Fiat Multipla needs no introduction. The first units of this horrendous family car rolled off the production line in 1998. Interestingly, the model saw quite a lengthy production run that lasted over a decade!
The most distinctive feature of the Multipla is its questionable exterior design. While the car offers great visibility and plenty of room in the cabin, you wouldn’t really want to be seen driving one of those. The Fiat Multipla even won Top Gear’s Ugliest Car award back in 2000. No surprises there.
At first, you would think that the XL1 is some type of high-performance machine of the future. After all, this sleek plug-in hybrid looks like a monstrous supercar, complete with butterfly doors. That was not exactly the case, though.
In reality, the XL1 was all about fuel efficiency. The model was developed to travel 60 miles using just 1 liter of diesel (310 mpg). A sprint to 60 miles per hour takes almost 12 seconds, and the top speed is a little under 100mph. 250 units of the Volkswagen XL1 were made, all of which were sold in Europe.
Mercedes-Benz F015 Luxury In Motion
Concept cars were always meant to be crazy and futuristic. The Mercedes-Benz Luxury In Motion is no exception. In fact, it could even be one of the weirdest concept cars that have debuted in the last years.
As the name suggests, the Luxury in Motion is all about a lavish experience. This autonomous vehicle is equipped with lounge chairs that can freely rotate throughout the spacious cabin. The exterior design isn’t the strongest point of this concept car, though.
The Fiat 126 hit the market in the early 1970s. Although it shared many of its underpinnings with its predecessor, the beloved Fiat 500, the 126 featured an all-new body. The car was a hit throughout Europe, Fiat sold over 4.6 million units before retiring the model in 2000.
Believe it or not, the 126 was similar to a sports car in a lot of ways. Its two-cylinder 0.6L motor may have only made 26 horsepower, though it was installed in the rear of the car. The 126 is lightweight too, they only weighed around 1300 pounds!
Citroen C4 Cactus
The Citroen C4 Cactus may not be as quirky as some of the automobiles of the past, though it’s still weirder than most cars on the market today. This small subcompact SUV has been on the market since 2014.
The AirBumps, located on the doors, is perhaps the most controversial feature of the C4 Cactus. They are designed to protect the vehicle from small scratches and dents. The car’s weird styling may not be to everyone’s taste, though it’s definitely unique.
Lancia Stratos HF Zero
The Lancia Stratos remains one of the most legendary rally machines of all time. A few years before its 1973 debut, the Italian automaker unveiled the crazy Stratos HF Zero concept. It was a little more controversial, to say the least.
Don’t let the futuristic exterior design fool you, though. The Stratos HF Zero prototype came powered by a tiny four-cylinder motor that only produced 115 horses. This precious one-off became highly sought after by collectors virtually right after its debut.
If we were to pick the weirdest British car of all time, this would be it. The Peel P50 is a tiny microcar that originally debuted in the early 60s. It has a little 3-cubic inch one-cylinder motor. The top speed is a whopping 37 miles per hour.
The Peel P50 is extremely tiny and weighs little to nothing. In fact, the driver could lift its rear end and carry it around just like a spinner bag.
At first sight, this weird concept car may not seem like anything special. That could not be further from the truth, though!
This is the BMW Gina, a concept car that was in the making for around 6 years. The body of the car is made out of spandex. As a result, exterior conditions, as well as the car’s speed, can change its shape! This shape-shifting sports car is truly unique, no doubt!
The latest, third generation of the Nissan Cube was introduced for the 2008 model year. Unlike its predecessors, the third-gen Cube was offered on the US market! Nonetheless, this vehicle is still quite weird by American standards.
The US version of the Nissan Cube came with a flat-four rated at 122 horsepower underneath the hood. Despite its rather controversial design, many buyers were convinced by its fuel efficiency. The Cube can get as far as 47 miles on a single gallon of fuel!
It did not get any better than this back in the mid-50s, at least in Czechoslovakia. Back then, the Tatra 603 was the ultimate luxury vehicle money could buy.
The quirky-looking front-end is far from the only quirky feature of the 603. This four-door saloon came powered by an air-cooled V8 motor, fitted in the rear of the vehicle. The Tatra 603 was discontinued after 1962 when it was replaced by the 613.
The Isetta was a tiny microcar that was originally designed in Italy. BMW was one of the few automakers that decided to build this bubble car under license.
Despite its questionable design and an absolute lack of interior space, the BMW Isetta was innovative for its time. Back in 1955, it was the first-ever mass-produced automobile to achieve a fuel consumption of 78 miles per gallon!
Mercedes-Benz G63 AMG 6×6
This monstrosity is easily one of the craziest production vehicles ever released by Mercedes Benz. For some odd reason, the automaker must have thought that the regular 536-horsepower G63 AMG wasn’t enough.
Extending the wheelbase, adding two more wheels, and installing a pickup bed in the rear was the perfect answer. The 6×6 G63 AMG is essentially a G-class on steroids. The manufacturer built a little over 100 units in total.
As kids, we all wanted a car that could turn into a boat. Back in the 1960s, a small automaker from Germany decided to turn this crazy vision into reality.
The Amphicar used a weak four-cylinder motor borrowed from Triumph. It could reach up to 7 knots on the water, or around 8 miles per hour. A little over 4,000 units were sold in total.
The Heinkel Kabine is yet another quirky German microcar that was released in the ’50s. Just like the previously mentioned Messerschmitt KR200, this odd-looking car was developed by an aircraft manufacturer.
Kabine translates to the cabin, and the model name is essentially a full description of what this automobile has got to offer. It came powered by a tiny motor that only produced 9.2 horsepower. The top speed was nearly 60 miles per hour! However, it’s hard to believe that anyone was brave enough to drive this thing that fast, though.
Aston Martin Lagonda
The original Aston Martin Lagonda was an upscale four-door sedan. It was also one of the weirdest automobiles ever released by the British automaker. The first-ever Lagonda saloon hit the market in the mid-70s, and the line remained in production until 1990.
The first Lagonda borrowed most of its undercarriage from the Aston Martin DBS. The Lagonda Series 1 came powered by a 5.3L V8 motor rated at 280 horses. Only 7 units were made.
Fiat 600 Multipla
This horrendous creation can be considered a precursor to the minivans of today. This four-door MPV was based on the regular Fiat 600. Fiat decided to move the driver’s compartment forward, eliminating the car’s boot along the way. In effect, the new 600 Multipla was a lot more spacious than a standard Fiat 600 saloon.
The 600 Multipla was far from a high-performance beast, too. In fact, its top speed was a mere 56 miles per hour.
There is a great chance that you have never heard of this extravagant supercar. While its styling may not be adored by every petrolhead, there is no doubt that it is indeed unique.
Despite the car’s futuristic styling, the Mitsuoka Orochi is not exactly innovative. Most of its undercarriage was borrowed from the Honda NSX, as well as different Lexus automobiles. Orochi’s V6 motor only produced 231 horsepower!
Love it or hate it, the Citroen 2CV has become one of the most iconic French cars to date. It was first introduced on the market back in 1948 and remained in production all the way until 1990. Much like many other vehicles on this list, the 2CV was developed to be a budget-friendly automobile for the masses.
The spartan design and unique styling are perhaps the most striking features of the 2CV. Buyers could order one as a saloon, hatchback, utility coupe, pickup truck, or even a panel van.
Today, a Lamborghini SUV could hardly be considered uncommon. While the Urus is an exceptional vehicle in its class, it’s nowhere near as crazy as its spiritual predecessor.
The Italian automaker unveiled the LM002 between 1986 and 1993. It came powered by the same roaring V12 motor that can be found in the Countach. Its handling was awful, and the car wasn’t a massive hit among consumers. In fact, Lamborghini only built 328 of them.
It’s quite difficult to classify the X90. At first sight, you may think that it’s just a two-door sports car. The high suspension, however, would suggest that it’s more of a crossover SUV. The removable T-top only makes things even more complicated.
Whatever it is, the Suzuki X90 is simply weird. Naturally, buyers were not exactly drawn to this quirky jumble. The car was unsurprisingly discontinued just two years after its initial 1995 debut.
Virtually every European microcar is pretty weird, and Velorex automobiles are no exception. This Czech manufacturer has a long history of making rather odd cars, which dates back all the way to the 1940s.
Many of the Velorex microcars, such as the Oskar seen in the photograph above, were designed as special vehicles for the disabled. These quirky automobiles weigh less than 400 pounds and can reach up to 50 miles per hour.
This is easily one of the weirdest modern EVs on the market. The Twizy, just like any other Renault automobile built after 1987, has not made it to North America. Frankly speaking, this quirky EV would hardly make any sense on American roads.
Many countries don’t even classify the Twizy as an automobile, therefore it has to be registered as a quadricycle instead. Its relatively high price tag only makes this weird microcar even weirder.
There are tens of 90s Japanese sports cars that became icons in the automotive world. The Toyota Sera is certainly not one of them. Although this sporty coupe boasts sleek styling complete with butterfly doors and an impressive glass roof, it never really took off.
Under the hood, the Sera packs a four-cylinder motor rated at a mere 104 horsepower. Toyota only managed to build around 16 000 units, all were sold exclusively for the Japanese market.
Honda has used the Insight nameplate for its hybrid electric vehicles for a little over two decades now. While the latest two generations are regular production cars, the original Insight was a lot more quirky. Believe it or not, it was even available on the US market!
Despite being the first mass-produced hybrid on the US market, it was quickly overshadowed by its biggest competitor at the time- the Toyota Prius. The Insight remained a much weirder alternative. US sales of the first-gen peaked at under 5000 units in 2001.
Car buyers were never spoilt for choice in communist countries. Back in the mid-20th century, the Trabant 601 was one of the only vehicles available for people in East Germany. It was built as an alternative to the beloved VW Bug that was available in the West.
The Trabant 601 was a truly awful car, though. It lacked any kind of build quality and was far from reliable. Its tiny two-cylinder motor enabled the 601 to drive up to 62 miles per hour. Despite all this, the automobile was in production for over 25 years!
The SM was a lavish high-performance grand tourer offered by Citroen between 1970 and 1975. It was one of the most unique cars on the market at the time, largely due to its dynamic ride and overall quirkiness.
You may be surprised to hear that the SM was even available in the United States for a few years. In fact, this innovative automobile was awarded the Car Of The Year title back in 1972. Despite its sleek styling and innovative features, Citroen only managed to sell around 20,000 units in total.
The Wartburg 353 is yet another vehicle that was incredibly popular among buyers in East Germany, largely due to its low price tag and the lack of any alternatives. Just like the previously mentioned Trabant, the Wartburg 353 was a truly awful automobile.
The 353 lacked any kind of quality, and the affordable price tag was perhaps its only real asset. Nonetheless, Wartburg managed to sell over a million units during the car’s 22-year long production run.
Believe it or not, the Melkus RS1000 has a few things in common with America’s favorite sports car, the Chevrolet Corvette. Both cars feature a body made entirely out of fiberglass!
Unlike the Chevy Corvette, this sports car was based on the infamous Wartburg 353. It even used a modified three-cylinder motor borrowed from the Wartburg! This quirky sports car was in production for an entire decade. However, Melkus only managed to build 101 units during the car’s production run.
The Microlino is a modern take on bubble cars of the past, such as the previously mentioned BMW Isetta. Just like its predecessors, the Microlino is indeed a pretty weird creation.
This tiny microcar is advertised as the ideal mix between a car and a motorcycle, at least according to its manufacturer. It can reach a top speed of 90 miles per hour thanks to its fully electric drivetrain.
The VehiCross could easily be one of the ugliest Isuzus ever or even one of the most horrendous Japanese cars of the 1990s in general. It should come as no surprise that the public wasn’t too fond of this SUV from the get-go.
Isuzu only produced this compact SUV for four years before shutting down the production lines. Less than 6,000 units were made in total, and most of them were exported to the United States.
If you ever wanted a Japanese alternative to the Chevrolet El Camino, the BRAT may just be the ideal pick for you. This quirky unibody pickup truck was offered by Subaru between 1978 and 1994.
The BRAT may even be rarer than the El Camino these days, at least in the United States. All BRATs came powered by a flat-four naturally-aspirated motor. The Japanese automaker also offered a more powerful variant with a turbocharged 94-horsepower flat-four in 1983 and 1984.
It may be hard to believe at first that this minivan was designed by Pininfarina, the same Italian coachbuilder that made nearly every Ferrari in the world. As you can probably expect, the Peugeot 1007 does not have much in common with a Ferrari.
Unsurprisingly, the Peugeot 1007 minivan was considered one of Peugeot’s biggest failures in terms of sales. The model was discontinued merely 5 years after its 2004 debut.
Most petrolheads have probably never heard of the Zaporozhets, perhaps except for those who are fans of automobiles that were built in the Soviet Union. These vehicles were built on a tight budget, unreliable, and simply awful in most ways imaginable.
ZAZ remains the main automotive manufacturer in Ukraine, and the Zaporozhets series of compact cars is one of their best-selling products of all time. It’s not like buyers had many alternatives, though.
Back in the late 80s, Nissan attempted to make utility vans a little more exciting. The S-Cargo featured quirky styling inspired by the previously mentioned Citroen 2CV, combined with the practicality of any other small van.
Perhaps this odd creation was too weird for potential buyers. Nissan only managed to sell 8,000 units in total before retiring the model in 1991. A successor was never unveiled, either.
The Yugo may not be the most exciting, reliable, or best-looking vehicle in history. In fact, the idea behind this Yugoslavian automobile was quite simple. It was developed to be a cheap car that most people could afford.
It may be hard to believe now, but the Yugo was shortly offered in North America! The car was pulled from the US market by 1992, and close to none remain on our roads today.