Racing in America has evolved by leaps and bounds over the decades. From high-performance Formula One speedsters to beautifully crafted box cars, there is no shortage of high-octane performance vehicles cruising around tracks throughout the world.
The cars you’re about to view may not be what we currently watch during Sunday race days but they sure did break the mold. From one race car that looks like two missiles attached at their center to another that was quite literally flipped on its head, these are some of the strangest race cars to ever be invented and hit the track.
Tyrrell P34: A Six-Wheeled F1 Racer
This Formula One prototype is unique specifically because it’s a “six-wheeler.” The car was designed by Tyrrell’s chief designer, Derek Gardner, and it required a special build, unlike anything we’ve ever witnessed from F1.
To create the Tyrell P34, the vehicle required four custom 10-inch diameter wheels upfront with two normal-sized wheels at the rear. The vehicle actually found some Formula One success and it’s still recognized as one of the sport’s most bold attempts at re-imaging the F1’s typical design.
The Golden Submarine Was Built For Safety And Speed
The Golden Submarine was designed by Fred Offenhauser and Harry A. Miller and was built in 1917. The car was built for Barney Oldfield, a developer of carburetors based out of Los Angeles.
The goal of this beautifully designed race car was to offer a speedster that was also capable of protecting the driver during accidents. Oldfield set out to create the vehicle after a good friend, Bob Burman, was killed during a race. The car is a powerful vehicle its time, with its 4.7-liter engine helping it to win 20 races.
Meet The 1950 Cadillac ‘Le Monstre.’ Series 61
The 1950 Cadillac Series 61 was nicknamed “Le Monstre” by the French after it appeared at the Le Mans. The vehicle was created in an attempt to reduce weight and wind resistance. It was the work of Briggs Cunningham.
The vehicle’s body was helped along by a Grumman engineer and it was tested at scale inside a wind tunnel. The vehicle was capable of traveling at 130 mph, a full 13 mph faster than the stock Cadillac it was built upon. Despite a speed advantage, the Le Monster finished 11th.
The Ferrari 25O GT SWB Breadvan Was Definitely Interesting
The Ferrari 250 GT SWB Breadvan was a 1962 model based on the 1961 car of the same name, minus the “Breadvan” moniker. The vehicle was built to compete with the 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO during the 24 Hours of Lemans.
The Breadvan came into existence when engineer Giotto Bizzarrini hired Count Giovanni Volpi to rework the Ferrari 250 GTO. Volpi had a contentious relationship with Enzo Ferrari after he hired former Ferrari employees to work at ATS. The final product was a strange-looking Ferrari with a lightweight body and chassis and a 286 bhp Tipo 168 engine with Testarossa-type heads.
Nardi Bisiluro Damolnar
The Nardi Bisiluro Damolnar is an Italian designed car that oozes of 1950s design. The race cars Art Deco influence with an asymmetrical design is enough to make this race car special but it, sadly, lacked performance that could match its design.
With an almost sidecar style for the passenger seat, it definitely looked like a futuristic automobile at the time of its release. The vehicle ended up retiring early during the Le Mans race at Circuit de la Sarthe in 1955. It was also involved in a crash that tragically claimed the lives of at least 80 spectators.
The Rover-BRM was a gas turbine-powered prototype that debuted in the 1960s. The vehicle was developed in a partnership between Rover and British Racing Motors. The car was unique at the time as it offered a gas generator with a compressor-driving turbine.
Rover started working with gas turbines during vehicle manufacturing for World War II and had developed several road-ready prototypes. The company eventually entered the Rover-BRM into the Le Mans. The race was offering a prize to the first gas turbine car to finish 3,600 km during the 24-hour race. The car finished and then competed in 1963, 1964, and 1965 Le Mans.
Chaparral 2J “Sucker Car”
Jim Hall has no problem pushing the limits of car design, even at the top of his game. Case in point, the Chaparral 2J “Sucker Car.”
This odd-looking vehicle features two engines, including a Chevy V8 that powered two fans to manipulate airflow behind the vehicle. The manipulation of airflow led to the creation of the “sucking” movement that helped name the vehicle. The vehicle managed to pick up some wins before opponents argued that its dual engine design broke racing rules.
BMW H2R: A Clean Energy Wonder
We admit that the BMW H2R actually looks pretty futuristic. It was also a record-breaking vehicle when it debuted with its V12 engine. What made this strange-looking race car so special? It was powered by liquid hydrogen and incredibly fast.
The BMW H2R could travel at more than 300 mph and the “cockpit” is located right in the middle of the car for a solid driver experience. This vehicle was discontinued after 100 were manufactured.
Not all strange-looking race cars on our list debuted decades ago. The Nissan DeltaWing first showed up in 2012. The DeltaWing was fast and it looked like a fighter jet with the performance that matched.
Sadly, Nissan and the team at DeltaWing ended up in a court battle over intellectual property rights and this odd but well-performing vehicle was shelved. We doubt this will be the last rocket on wheels we end up seeing on the race track.
Buggati Type 32
The Bugatti lineup of modern-day cars is synonymous with speed, power, and luxury. In 1923 the team at Bugatti created the Bugatti Type 32, also known as “Le Tank.”
This car was not up to par with the company’s namesake. Featuring a 1991cc inline-four and two Zenith carburetors, the car pushed out 80 horsepower and was said to have horrible handling. It wasn’t the automaker’s finest moment but today you can easily pay over $1 million for a Bugatti so they definitely got the last laugh.
March Engineering 711
In 1971, March’s Frank Costin developed the March Engineering 711 which featured a unique front wing design he called “Spitfire.” The car didn’t manage to claim any wins but it finished second during four races and even ended up as runner-up in the World Championship.
The design didn’t catch on but it made for a memorable race car that once again showcases the automotive innovations that are most often tested in Formula One racing.
Do you think modern-day streetcars have a spoiler to drool over? Meet the Chaparral 2H, the creation of designer Jim Hall.
Hall envisioned and then created this race car with its enclosed cockpit and the promise of better balancing and handling. Then, Hall added a wing that gave the race car the nickname “The White Whale.” The wing also created a ton of drag and its engine gave out before it could finish a qualifying round. You can’t win them all.
Upside Down Camaro-Festiva Monster
Take a Camaro, turn it upside down and you have the Upside Down Camaro-Festiva Monster. This hilarious race car showed up in 2013 and it’s actually based off two cars.
The goofy looking creation features the chassis of a 1990 Ford Festiva with the inverted body of a 1999 Chevy Camaro. The race car is the creation of Jeff Bloch. His Homeowners Association apparently took issue with the car after it broke some neighborhood speed and noise records. By the way, it’s street legal, somehow.
BMW 320i “Art Car”
The 1970s had its own art renaissance in the United States. BMW took advantage of that renaissance with help from the likes of Andy Warhol. Combining BMW design with artistically crafted cars was a thing that actually existed and it’s where the BWM 320i “Art Car” was founded.
This particular car was combined with the work of pop artist Roy Lichtenstein. The artist said the car’s design was “a depiction of the road, showing the car where to go.” The car also had some impressive performance and finished ninth at the 24 Hours of Le Mans event.
Mini Marcos GT
The Mini Marcos GT doesn’t look like a typical race car and it didn’t perform like one either! That’s not a compliment. This 1,232-pound vehicle pushed out just 78 horsepower.
Despite the lack of power, it competed in the 1966 Le Mans and finished in, shocker… last place! It was slow on long stretches and it performed poorly while climbing hills. Joking aside, for its size, it made an admirable attempt.
In 2011 the Smart Fortwo attempted to redefine what a race car looks like by putting one inside the body of a sub-compact hatchback. It sounds absurd but there were plenty of these cars driving around the United Kingdom when they debuted.
Like a scene out of a really weird Fast & Furious movie, car fans started adding spoilers and wings to this automobile, making it one of the most oddly modified cars we’ve found to date. As an added bonus, they were actually fairly capable race cars in their own right.
The Italcorsa/TARF II looks like a weird set of missiles that were combined to create the ultimate race car. It wasn’t a hugely successful race car but it did set some speed records during its short production run.
The vehicle featured a 720cc Maserati four-cylinder engine that in 1952 pushed out an impressive 290 horsepower. The car broke some land speed records, including the fastest kilometers per hour. Plus, it just looks like a ton of fun to drive, especially since we know the driver could control both tubes!
STP Paxton Turbocar: That’s A Weird Engine Placement Choice
The STP Paxton Turbocar is unique in that it placed the engine on the left side of the car, directly next to the driver. Designed by Ken Wallis, the car was created for the 1967 Indy 500.
The vehicles mid-mounted engine managed to stay balanced out thanks to Wallis’ ingenious design work. With a strong framework and a unique engine placement, the vehicle did well in the race. In fact, it led most of the race until its transmission gave out with just eight laps remaining.
Tommy Ivo “Showboat”
Tommy Ivo is a legend in the car design industry and his 1961 “Showboat” is no exception. Who wouldn’t want a car with four engines and 2,000 horsepower? Yes, you read that correctly.
Ivo built this masterpiece for exhibition purposes, mainly because race officials were never going to allow his race car to compete. However, it was allowed to race in several competitions and when Ivo raced the car it required a chute to brake.
Dallara Doran Racing JE4
We have to admit that the Dallara Doran Racing JE4 is not the craziest design we’ve reported on but it definitely doesn’t follow the typical style of modern-day race cars.
While it might not look fast, it has managed to pick up some Top 10 finishes and that’s not bad for a prototype that’s competing against a lot of seasoned design choices. For what it’s worth this weird looking concept car is powered by an impressive 500 horsepower Roush-Yates Ford V-8 engines.