The exact recipe for making a car that will be remembered and recognized for ages is not yet known. At least, for now. There are cars that do not have anything remarkable about them and yet make a name that lasts. And then, there are cars that excel in every field and yet fail to make a name. Some of these cars were so overshadowed that you’d have probably never seen them on roads.
Lamborghini Jalpa – The Little Known V8 Lambo
This was the ‘budget’ Lamborghini of the 1980s and the last Lambo to use a V8 engine. It was priced at $32,000, which translates to $65,000 today. This car was introduced to rival the low-priced models from Ferrari and other sports car brands at that time. Performance-wise, this was a pretty capable car, especially considering its price point.
The main reason Jalpa is unknown to many of us today is that it was not a flagship model of Lamborghini. If you see the trend of luxury and sports cars, only the top-of-the-line models are well-known.
Toyota Mega Cruiser – The Japanese Humvee
When the Hummer H1 was released, it had a class of its own. Almost all other automakers wanted to make something to rival it. One of the most successful attempts at that was the Toyota Mega Cruiser. This 4-door, 4-wheel SUV from Toyota was the largest ever 4WD vehicle to come from Toyota.
It had a 4-cylinder turbo diesel engine mated to a 4-speed automatic transmission. Part of the reason you have not seen or heard about this car is that only 3,000 units were ever produced between 1995 and 2020 – and most of them were sold to military forces.
2010 Maserati Quattroporte – A Cheap Way to Look Rich
If you want to create an impression of wealth and extravagance on a budget, go for this Maserati. This car does not only look premium but is actually a pretty luxurious ride. The Quattroporte name was coined by Maserati in 1963 and these cars are still in production.
While a new one will cost you upwards of $100,000, you can get a model from the 2010s for a price lower than a new Yaris. The reason these models are so unknown and cheap is that they have a lot of quirks and gimmicks that have a propensity of malfunctioning.
LM002 – The First Lamborghini SUV
If you think that Urus is the first SUV made by Lamborghini, you are wrong. The LM002 was the first production SUV from Lamborghini and, boy, this truck was no joke. The engineers at Lamborghini somehow managed to fit the V12 from the legendary Countach under the hood of this monstrosity. That too while keeping the weight of the truck under 2,700 kg.
On paper, LM002 was the perfect luxury off-roader, but the world was not ready for it. It was 1986 and off-road cars were meant to be utilitarian. Lambo finally pulled the plug on this awesome truck in 1993.
Spyker C8 – The Outrageosly Expensive Dutch Car
The Spyker C8, introduced in 2000 by the Dutch automaker Spyker, has everything that makes a car successful. It weighs in at just 1,250 kg, has a supercharged Audi V8 under the hood, and has two really cool doors. Still, you would hardly have seen one of these cruising down the highway or on the track.
The main reason for this car not being a popular one is that you don’t give a new entrant in the automotive world the better part of half a million dollars of your hard-earned money. The $400,000 price tag on this car is probably the main thing holding it back from being a household name.
Subaru SVX – The Lesser-Known JDM Gem
I am sure you can identify a BRZ, an Impreza, or a Brat with your eyes closed but how many SVX have you seen? This car was made by Subaru between 1991 and 1996. It was only offered as a 2-door variant. The H6 engine in this car was available with front-wheel-drive or all-wheel-drive options.
The reason Subaru SVX has never been famous is due to the sheer number of cars coming from Japan. The market at that time had so many Civics, Skylines, Corollas, and RX7s that this car always remained hidden in plain sight.
BMW Z1 – The Car with Disappearing Doors
You’d have seen the Z4 a lot. They are awesome cars by all standards. But have you ever seen a BMW Z1 on the road? This was a revolutionary car of the early 1990s that paved the way for the subsequent models in the BMWs Z-series of roadsters.
The most important feature of this car was not its engine, transmission, or suspension. It was the doors! The doors on this car did not open upwards or outwards. They just disappeared into the door sills! However, that was apparently not enough to keep this car alive. Next time, you see a Z4 doing a 100 in a 60 zone, remember the granddad who made it possible.
Alfa Romeo GTV – A Car Design From the Space
With a radical design for its time, an optional V6 engine, and serious performance and handling characteristics, the Alfa Romeo GTV was one of the best sports cars of its era. This Italian car even earned the 29th spot on the list of BBC’s Top-100 sports cars, made by Jeremy Clarkson.
The price tag of nearly $70,000 combined with the fact that Alfa Romeo is not a brand quite as exclusive as other Italians like Ferrari, this car never made it to the bedroom walls of teenage car guys. Nonetheless, it is still a very good car and if you want to have one, it will put a serious dent in your bank statement.
Lexus SC – The Japanese Luxury Car
Ever since it was founded as a luxury division of Toyota, Lexus has made some of the best cars to ever come from Japan. The SC was no different. Made between 1991 and 2010, the SC was a front-engine, rear-wheel-drive grand tourer. It was offered with a 3.0-L V6 or a 4.0-L V8 engine.
The main reason you don’t see this car much on the road is that it was a car from the era when Lexus was still in its infancy. People did not start taking Lexus seriously until the LFA was released. In short, no one was willing to buy a luxury car from a brand (Toyota, the parent of Lexus) then known for making economic utilitarian vehicles.
Dodge Stealth – The Japanese Dodge
You are an American automaker but this time you want to make something that is not reliant just on raw power. What do you do? You go to Mistubishi in Japan and rebadge one of their cars. This is the story of the Dodge Stealth.
The Dodge Stealth is, in fact, a Mistubishi 3000 GT at the core. The engine options in this car were plentiful with the most powerful being a 3.0-L twin-turbocharged V6. The Mitsubishi 3000 GT is a pretty well-known car but the Dodge Stealth is not, mainly because Dodge is supposed to make muscle cars with big honking V8s in them.
Lotus Elan – The Front-Wheel-Drive Sports Car
Lotus is a specialty automaker famous for giving cars the maximum possible power. (The latest offering from this brand is going to have a power output of 2,001 horsepower.) The Elan, however, was not that powerful. Some don’t even count it as a sports car because it is a front-wheel-drive vehicle.
To make driving fun, the car had a 1.8-L petrol motor and a 5-speed manual transmission. You don’t see these cars on the highway every day because it was never the flagship offering from Lotus – and Lotus itself was not that popular at that time. Consequently, the Elan faded into the dust.
BMW M5 (E34) – Overshadowed by the M3
The M5 E34 was a pretty capable car but it was not famous. It happened because the M3, a lower-end model from BMW, got all the attention and love. While the M3 of the same era made a name for being a car loved by tuners, the M5 was more of a family sedan – one no one thought much about.
Under the skin, the M5 had a 3.7-L I6 engine that was mated to the rear wheels. It was a fun-to-drive car that could be used as a family car and daily driver too. It’s not like there are very few of these on the road, but people generally tend to consider these a variant of the more popular M3.
Suzuki Equator – A Pickup from SUZUKI?
Suzuki is the last company to come to your mind when you hear the phrase ‘a Japanese pickup truck,’ but that did not keep them from making one. It was not technically a Suzuki. It was a rebadged Nissan Frontier that was even manufactured in Nissan’s assembly plant and sold in the North American market.
This truck came with a 2.5-L I4 as the base engine but you could upgrade to a 4.0-L I6 motor. Like most of the vehicles on this list, the Equator was a good vehicle in itself but it did not quite match with the image of Suzuki, and that led to it being eventually discontinued in 2012.
Suzuki Samurai – The Minimalist Utilitarian
Even though this small SUV has just a 1.0-L I4 that struggles to put out 80 horsepower on a good day, Samurai is a very capable SUV. That is because it is lightweight and has a straightforward four-wheel-drive system.
A rugged body and economic price made this car famous in developing countries where it was used widely by governments and private users. It never managed to be a notable car in the US automobile market mostly because it lacked the amenities the Americans are used to.
Toyota Celica Supra – The Ancestor of the Legend
Before the Supra was a cool tuner’s car, there was the Celica. This was the very car that made the Supra possible. Adopted from the Celica liftback, the hood of this car was elongated by 5.01 inches to squeeze the legendary 2JZ I6 engine in it instead of the I4 offered in the base model Celica.
This car did not get the same name as the subsequent generation of Supra because no one thought in 1978 (the year this car came out) that Toyota could make such a great car. Regardless of it being an unknown car, this is the reason we have the Supra.
Panoz Roadster – The Street Legal Go Kart
You need to have some serious nerves to press the pedal on this thing. What you are looking at is a sports car that weighs under 1,200 kg and has a 5.0-L V8. This thing was the very definition of insanity when it came out in 1992.
To call this ‘thing’ a car might not be the best way to refer to it. Only 44 of these things were made for the whole world, making it a pretty rare car. The ones who have it keep it as a collector’s item, that’s why you might never have seen one of these zipping across the highway at ungodly speeds.
First-Gen Infiniti FX 45 – Nissan’s Luxury SUV
The FX 45 from Infiniti is one of the least known models of Nissan to be sold internationally. This mid-size luxury crossover was offered with a V6 or a V8 engine with a maximum power output of 420 horsepower. The inside of this car offered every bit of luxury you’d expect.
Even though this was an amazing car, by all means, the FX45 could never be a famous car. The reason behind this is mainly that Nissan is known more for making fast cars that handle well rather than family-hauling SUVs.
Honda CR-Z – A Mad Civic
To make this car, Honda used the best they had. It was designed to be a two-seat coupe. The car features Honda’s hybrid drivetrain that has a 1.6-L, 111-hp gasoline motor and a 14-hp electric motor. The electric motor also delivers an insane 58 lb-ft of torque.
The CRZ was a pretty awesome car and was fun to drive but it failed to make a name for itself because it was a Honda. Don’t get it wrong, Honda is known for making family sedans and reliable cars for daily driving. A sports car from Honda is not a very good proposition for many.
Chrysler Crossfire – Remarkably Well-Stylized
The Crossfire is a 2-door, 2-seater, rear-wheel-drive, sports car made by the collaboration of Daimler and Chrysler. This car is based on the Mercedes-Benz R170 format, the same as the SLK. It has a supercharged V6 under the hood that is mated to the wheels via a 6-speed manual transmission.
When the crossfire was released, it was one of the best cars of its class and had some serious stats like a 4.8-sec 0-60 mph time and a top speed of 155 mph. It is a general trend that the cars made by collaborations almost never turn out to be successful in the longer run. That was probably what killed the Crossfire.
Lexus LC 500 – Left in the Dust of LFA
Once you make a legendary car, your excellent cars can never get the love and attention they deserve. This is the case with the LC500. When Lexus made the LFA, it changed the very game. It was a car that was perfect in everything. It proved that Lexus (and ultimately Toyota) was not to be taken lightly.
Then came the LC500 in 2017. It is an amazing car in itself. It has a hybrid powertrain that produces a combined power output of 471 horsepower. The interior has all the little things you can want in a luxury car. The only reason LC500 couldn’t get fame is that it got overshadowed by the LFA.
First-Gen Lexus GS – The Lesser-Known Lexus
The GS is a mid-size luxury SUV offered by the premium cars division of Toyota, Lexus. It was first offered in 1991 and was finally discontinued in 2020. The car was offered with engine options up to a 4.0-L V8. Having all the features a 1990s car could have, the GS was a perfect car, on paper.
Lexus sold this car in large numbers but it never stood out. This was because there was nothing particularly great or striking about this car’s looks and features. It’s not like you’d never have seen this car, but you won’t remember it because it was just another sedan of the 1990s.
Nissan Juke – The ‘Ugliest’ JDM Car of All Time
The Juke is a subcompact SUV made by the Japanese carmaker Nissan. It was released in 2010 and was meant to rival the likes of Honda Vezel and Toyota CH-R. This car has an exterior styling that truly stands out. But while some people absolutely love it, others call it ugly.
Under the hood, you can get anything from a 1.0-L I3 to a twin-turbo V6 with a 3.8-L displacement. The AWD system in this SUV makes it easy to drive no matter how bad the surface is. Juke is not a popular car because other manufacturers offer far prettier options at the same price.
Audi TT – The Little Audi
The A8 and R8 might get all the appreciation but this small Audi is equally as formidable. This little toy that weighs under 1,200 kg has a 2.0-L turbocharged engine that puts out a nice 228 horsepower as the base engine. You can get this car with up to 3.2-L V6 engines.
The TT is offered as a convertible and a coupe. If you are not that into cars, you might mistake this for the R8. From performance to comfort, this car stands out in every field. It is not an obscure car and a lot of people know it but it is not as famous as it deserves to be.
Genesis G70 – The Coolest Hyundai Ever
The luxury vehicle division of the South Korean automaker Hyundai makes some very cool cars but they seldom get the fame they rightfully deserve. The G70 is no different. Released in 2017, this car comes with a V6 engine and is a true luxury car by all means.
However, it never got famous like the other cars of its era because when people invest a substantial amount of money in a luxury car, they want it to be from a well-known company and not a brand that someone hardly knows.
Honda Ridgeline – Do You Even Know this Exists?
Of all the things Honda could do, they chose to make a pickup truck. The Ridgeline was introduced by Honda back in 2006 and is recently in its second generation. Honda has sold hundreds of thousands of these trucks in the last 15 years. In fact, this truck has got quite a name for itself for being reliable.
The reason you don’t remember seeing the Ridgeline is that it is the kind of vehicle that hides in plain sight. It has nothing remarkable about it – nothing that will make you keep this vehicle in mind. The pickup truck market is so saturated that unless you make something really insane, no one bothers.
Dodge Journey – An American Crossover
The Dodge Journey was a mid-size Crossover SUV made and marketed by FCA’s Dodge brand. It was offered between 2011 and 2020 and could be bought with engine options from a 2.0-L I4 to a 3.6-L V6. The 6-speed automatic transmission and a sophisticated all-wheel-drive system make this car a pretty capable one.
The reason this car was never a famous one can be divided into two parts. For one, people generally tend to buy Japanese mid-size SUVs rather than American ones. Secondly, this car was overshadowed by the bigger and more popular SUV offering from Dodge, the Durango.
Chevy Vega – The Economical Chevy Car
It was an era when American car manufacturing was focused on stuffing the biggest possible engine in a car. Then came the oil crisis, the largest influencing factor in the auto industry. Soon, the need of the time was a car that was not a gas-thirsty monster.
Chevy released the Vega, a car with a 2.3-L I4 engine and a pretty basic interior. The car was a perfect solution for the gas crisis but not quite in line with the brand, Chevy is. This led to the car receiving no particular attention and being just another 1970s car.
Isuzu I Trucks – Rebadged Colorados
The early 2000s were an era when the demand for pickup trucks, especially the mid-size ones, was on the rise and every manufacturer wanted in on the pickup truck game. This led to the introduction of a number of pickups that never got famous.
One example of this is the Isuzu I-series of trucks. These trucks were actually rebadged Chevy Colorados that were even manufactured by Chevy. The reason this is not a popular vehicle is that unless you look at the badge and monogram closely, you’ll take this for a Colorado.
Yugo Koral – The Serbian Economy Car
The Serbians are known for a number of things but not cars. The Koral was an economy car made by the Serbian car maker Yugo. It was introduced in 1988 and was meant to be the car for European families with low income.
Even though the Yugo Koral was a good economy car, it was never a famous one. More than 2,000 of these cars were imported to the US but you might not have seen one. Even if you have, this car is not one that you’d distinctly remember. It was just meant to take people from point A to point B.
Mazda RX-7 FD – The Rare and Expensive Mazda
The RX-7 is not an unpopular car, not by a long shot. If you have the least interest in cars, you’d know this car. However, the FD model is a rare sight. This amazing machine has a rotary engine that redlines at a jaw-dropping 9,000 rpm and can go all the way up to 180 mph.
The main reason this car is not very popular is that it blends right in with other RX-7 trims. However, it cannot be denied that this is a really amazing car and a popular one. But only a car nerd can tell the FD model from the others.
Toyota Corolla FX16 GTS – The Corolla Hatch
The Corolla has been the best-selling car in the world for quite some time but they are sedans, right? Well, wrong! The Corolla was also offered as a hatchback model, the FX16. It was offered between 1986 and 1991. It came with a 4-cylinder engine and was a pretty normal car.
Focused on providing an economic way of transport in the time when gas was expensive, this car never got very famous. The reason was that there were a lot of sedans at the same price point at that time and people thought it would be better to go for a sedan instead.
Honda Passport – Unknown Model of a Best-Seller Automaker
You definitely can’t count how many Civics or Accords you have seen in the last few days but you know exactly how many Honda Passports have you seen in your life. Honda, not particularly known for making SUVs, rebadged the Isuzu Rodeo to sell it as their 5-door SUV in North America.
The latest iteration of this Honda offers a V6 motor and has the styling as well as the interior quirks and features that make an SUV a good one. However, owing to Honda’s reputation as a sedan maker rather than an SUV champ, this car has never been a famous one.
First-Gen Volvo SC90 – A Luxury SUV No One Knows
Known mainly for producing some of the best trucks and buses, Volvo also makes some lesser-known cars and SUVs. The second generation of XC90 has gained a lot of popularity since it was released in 2015 but the first generation is not a car everyone knows.
This luxury SUV debuted in 2004 and was offered with engine options from a 2.5-L I5 to a 4.4-L V8. The XC90, despite being a really good car, did not get much popularity because a lot of established brands in the market offered alternatives that had better options and features.
Acura EL – A Civic With Nicer Materials
What happens when an automaker known for making reliable economy cars makes an executive car? They add nicer materials to the car and maybe a few advanced features. That was the case with EL, the first Acura to be made in Canada.
On the very basic level, this was a Civic with the same 1.6-L naturally aspirated I4 engine and the same suspension and overall body. Inside, they offered things like automatic climate control and other nicer touches. But all of it proved futile. Acura EL was discontinued in 2005 mainly because it was more than a civic but not exactly a luxury sedan.
Cadillac Mirage Pickup – A Knock-Off El Camino?
You might mistake this thing for an El Camino but it is not. It is another truck from the same era and just like the El Camino, it has a bed and cab that are permanently joined with each other, unlike traditional pickups that have a separate cab and truck bed.
The reason this thing was made was that the 1970s were an era of designing cars that stood out. However, it was just a gimmick and had no utility as an actual pickup truck. As a number of functional and stylish pickup trucks were available at that time, the Mirage never got any popularity.
Mitsubishi FTO – The Most Underrated Mitsubishi Ever
Unlike the Lancer EVO and the Pajero, the GTO got no appreciation from the market even though it was every bit as good as any other Mitsubishi offering at that time. The GTO came out in 1994 and was discontinued in 2000. This car was actually a tribute to the Galant GTO Coupe, one of the first Mitsubishi sports cars.
The GTO featured a 1.8-L engine that powered the front wheels and was offered as a coupe or a convertible. As it turns out, front-wheel-drive sports cars hardly succeed and amount to something remarkable. That is probably the reason this car is not very famous now.
Chevy HHR – Inspired by the Chevy of 50s
Chevy HHR (Heritage High Roof) is a five-door, five-seater front-wheel-drive crossover SUV that was released in 2006. It remained in production for five years before being discontinued in 2011. The car featured a 2.4-L I4 engine and was inspired by the Chevy vehicles of the 1950s as is evident from the hemispherical grille and the large square fender flares.
HHR car was, undoubtedly, a bit ahead of its time. But it couldn’t gain the fame it deserved. The crossover market was not in its full bloom at the time and no one wanted an ‘SUV’ which did not have an all-wheel-drive system. The result is, hardly anyone knows this car ever existed.
Honda N Box – The Least Aerodynamic Car of All Time
If the Japanese had a dollar for every weird Kei Car they made, they’d be billionaires. The N Box is just another example of that. This car, like any other Kei Car, has a 660cc I3 engine that puts out under 40 horsepower and the same amount of torque.
This car is made to look like a minivan of sorts and that is probably the worst thing about it. Your refrigerator is definitely more aerodynamic than this thing. However, the inside is roomy and the overall package is comfortable enough for the city commute.
Suzuki Alto – The Best-Seller in Developing Countries
In the under-developed and developing countries, cars are just meant to transport you at the lowest possible cost. The cars that are cheap to buy, maintain, and drive are the most popular ones in such areas. The Alto is a bare-bones economy car that’s the number one choice of people in the developing world.
It has a 0.66-L I3 engine that produces 50ish horsepower and can take this tiny car to a maximum of 70mph. You’d hardly have seen one of these if you are from America or Europe because it is too boring for the consumers of both these markets.
Eagle Premier – A Bolide of 80’s Mediocre
A 1980s executive car made by the collaboration of American Motor Corporation (AMC) and Renault, the Eagle Premier had every bit of luxury the 80s had to offer. It was the first car to be manufactured in the Brampton Assembly Plant in Canada and was marketed in all of North America. It came with two engine options, a 2.5-L I-4 or a 3.0-L V6.
Even though it was not a limited production model and was a pretty cool car, it is not a very well-known one. Mainly because the 80s saw a lot of cool cars like the Lincoln Continental Mark VI and Chevy Camaro.