As a pre-Christmas treat, we dug into our archives and came up with a collection of car images that we have titled ‘The Weird, The Wonderful and the Really Bizarre’. Over the years there have been some truly off the wall creations as well as some really great ones, and over the following months we aim to bring you a few more in this interesting series.
Any significant omissions, or indeed any inclusions for that matter, are not meant to offend anybody’s feelings about a particular vehicle, this photo album is meant purely to illustrate some of the more unusual cars that have graced our roads and race tracks over the years. This is simply a snapshot of some of the more unusual automobiles around, as well as some of the really great ones, and have been selected for no other reason than the fact that they bucked a trend at the time, demonstrating some interesting design flair or aerodynamic application. Of course, this is just a small selection of cars, and we will run similar blogs in the future featuring other car images from our vast collection.
Several of the vehicles below were in fact extremely successful in motorsport, or they may have started a production trend in some way, or have just dropped dead well before their time…we hope you enjoy our selection!
(…in no particular order)
The Bertone-designed Lancia Stratos broke cover in 1971 when it was shown at the Turin Motor Show for the first time. Striking or brutal yes, but ‘beautiful’ is not a word that comes readily to mind when talking about the Stratos, however it was a very successful rally car starting a trend in this field, as it was the first of its kind to be designed from the outset as a dedicated rally car. The Stratos was powered by a 2.4-litre V6 Dino engine, and just 500 were made between 1972-1974.
The lovable ‘Moke’ was designed by Alec Issigonis in 1959 (he was knighted in 1969), the same man who gave us the Mini, the two cars being developed at the same time. The first production Mini Moke was however only manufactured in January 1964 at BMC’s Longbridge factory in Birmingham, England. Production continued until late October 1968 with around 15,000 being produced, at which point production switched to the company’s Sydney plant in Australia. Later, under British Leyland management in 1983, production was moved to Portugal until the rights were sold to the Italian company Cagiva in 1990 where the Moke survived until the last model was manufactured there in 1993.
Contrary to appearance, the Messerschmitt KR200 (the ‘KR’ stood for Kabinenroller or Cabin Scooter) was not made from left over Messerschmitt cockpits after the War, it was in fact an extremely clever and innovative three-wheel design by Fritz Fend to produce micro cars to satisfy a specific transport need in post-war Germany. The vehicle possessed scooter-like controls with a kick-starter and handlebar steering complete with twist-grip throttle and clutch. Around 40,000 units were manufactured between 1955-1964, and even a few hundred four-wheeled Tiger models were produced that had a top speed of almost 80mph. The KR200 model also came in a cabriolet form (later KR201). So we have ranked this one in the weird category.
The Edsel is probably the one model that Ford most wants to forget about. Although 84,000 units were sold over the car’s three-year life, this was regarded as an extremely poor performance at the time, especially in the burgeoning US market. The company lost $350-million on this model in 1960, a considerable amount of money back then, but the hurt ran deeper as the embarrassment to Ford was significant coming off the back of record sales of its Thunderbird (220,000 sales over the same three-year period). Despite considerable publicity, the Edsel did not deliver what the sales talk claimed, and ‘an entirely new kind of car’ it most certainly wasn’t as it shared many parts with other Ford models. Speculation ran high as to how and why the Edsel flopped, but at the end of the day it was agreed by most that it was simply the wrong car at the wrong time, as the market had moved on.
The Citroen DS series is a much-underrated model today, at least in the motoring world outside of France. Introduced at the Paris Motor Show in October 1955, the car was an instant hit with press and public alike and it is said that orders for the revolutionary new car reached 12,000 on the first day of the show. Ride and handling received special mention in most press reviews which was good news for the French still struggling to rebuild their economy in the decade after the War. Designed by the Italian Flaminio Bertoni with the French aero engineer André Lefèbvre, the DS19 was hailed for its aerodynamic and futuristic body design, while it boasted an innovative hydropneumatic self-levelling suspension, which gave the car its legendary smooth ride. In its twenty-year lifespan, the DS series sold almost 1.5-million units, finally bowing out in 1976.
Launched at the Geneva Motor Show in 2007, the KTM X-Bow (Crossbow) must rank as one of the wildest looking creations on four wheels. The ultra-light sports car is produced by the Austrian motorcycle manufacturer KTM and uses a four-cylinder Audi 2.0 TDI engine. The 2008 model produced as much as 237bhp, could accelerate from 0-62mph in 3.9 seconds and had a top speed of almost 135mph – there is a 300bhp model available if that lower output is not sufficient for you. Looking more like a cross between a Praying Mantis and a go-kart on steroids, the X-Bow is quite simply manic. Blisteringly quick, and with an eye-watering, bone-jarring ride that is guaranteed to loosen any dodgy fillings, it is one of those cars you absolutely have to put on your bucket list.
Easily the best looking two-door express of its time, the Karmann built BMW 3.0 CS (1971) and CSi offered tremendous performance from its 2,986cc straight six engine, which developed 180bhp in twin carburettor form, or 200bhp in fuel injection trim. Apart from driving a full-blown sports car such as a Porsche 911 or Ferrari, the BMW had a top speed of 137mph (3.0 CSi), but best of all, it could achieve this not only in great comfort but also with drop-dead good looks. The sleek body style is still a favourite today among BMW classic car owners and is without doubt the finest looking BMW coupe produced – ever!
The somewhat oddly designed Metropolitan has its own special place in automotive history, being the first ever car designed specifically with the female buyer in mind. Aimed at Mom who needed to run the kids to school and to do the shopping, or maybe for Dad to drive to the station to take the train into the city, the Metropolitan was intended to be an economical and small vehicle for those short city trips – hence its name ‘Metropolitan’. Research showed that the American nation, despite their love for large automobiles, wanted a smaller, more economical vehicle, and to make it more attractive to the fairer sex, it was finished in comfortable upholstery and had several optional extras as standard, that were optional on bigger cars. Marketed as a ‘Personal Car’, a new market niche in those days, the Metropolitan featured familiar characteristics such as the exterior, rear-mounted spare wheel and a two-tone colour scheme. Between 1953-1962, almost 95,000 of this economy, sub-compact model were produced.