29 extremely strange cars

29 extremely strange cars

Some people say that today’s cars are boring.

Certainly when one observes a traffic jam half-full of medium-sized crossovers, we sometimes have to agree. This story is not however about crossovers – rather it’s about the oddest, strangest and downright weirdest cars that have ever been made – let’s take a look:

Leyat Helica

In 1909 Frenchman Marcel Leyat aspired to build an aircraft but ran out of money so instead turned his hand to produce a plane without wings – and the Helica was born. Made of wood, it was light and quite efficient in its own way and could hit 106mph, but although interest was high after it appeared at the 1921 Paris motor show, just 30 were ever built as production was tricky. Just four of them survive today, it seems.

(Liam Walker)
Tesla Cybertruck

Before Elon Musk unveiled his new EV pickup in concept form, most envisioned it would resemble a slightly more streamlined F-150 or Silverado. But no: it resembled something that has possibly travelled to this planet from Mars. Given its creator’s apparent obsession with that planet, that may well have been the point. We await with baited breath what the version people will actually be able to buy will look like – but it probably won’t be boring.

Fiat Multipla

The first Fiat to carry the Multipla name was the 600 Multipla of 1956, a tiny 3531mm-long machine that theoretically could carry six people and can reasonably make a claim to be the world’s first MPV. The Multipla of 1998 was in many ways also ingenious – it too was a six-seater, carrying this off by having two rows of three seats – astonishingly clever packaging in a car less than four metres long. But its looks were controversial to say the least, and it seems even Fiat were taken aback as the 2004 facelift toned that appearance down by 80%.

Stout Scarab

Fiat may have a claim to be the maker of the first mass-produced MPV, but America’s Stout arguably got there even earlier, albeit with a car that didn’t even make double figures in production terms. But just look at it - imagine the impact it made when the world first saw it in 1932?

Incredibly aerodynamic, it featured a unibody aluminium chassis and a Ford Flathead V8 engine at the back, allowing for plenty of space for six, but marketed as an office-on-wheels - albeit an extremely expensive one, and that did for it commercially. Designed by John Tjaarda – father of Tom Tjaarda, another noted car designer – this is another weird car that we must also respect for its sheer chutzpah.

Reeves-Overland Octoauto

Indiana’s Milton Reeves had been one of America’s earliest tinkerers of ‘horseless carriages’, and was an inventor of various early engine technologies. But in 1910 he tackled a key problem with driving at the time: appalling road surfaces. So he took an 1910 Overland and added four wheels – the theory was that the extra wheels would smooth out the ride, much like how multiple wheels did on trains – and all eight wheels steered.

The Ocoauto was indeed comfortable, but also very long (248in - 6300mm), complex to build and thus pricey to buy. With no customers, Reeves lopped off one axle to make a six-wheeler, but that didn’t work either, and Reeves returned to his engines.


We’ve got a lot of odd cars here, but surely none matched the vision of this Dymaxion. For in the early 1930s American inventor Buckminster Fuller conceived a new people-carrying vehicle that could not also drive but also, in time, fly as well. It featured a rear-mounted Ford Flathead V8, but with front wheel drive, and three wheels in total, the single rear of which was steerable. This enabled party tricks – it could move to 90-degrees allowing the car to rotate – but also made it very hard to control at speed, as an early test driver discovered to his cost when he died in a crash, and the flying ambition was dropped.

It was all a bit too strange at a time when most people were focused on finding enough to eat in the Great Depression and interest dwindled; just one of the three produced survives and can be seen today at the National Auto Museum in Reno, Nevada. Famed architect Norman Foster produced a replica in 2010 (pictured); he worked with Fuller, a hero of his, from 1971 to 1983.

Zippo car

The heyday of promotional vehicles in 1940s America coincided with a time when smoking was highly fashionable. To make the most of this, lighter manufacturer Zippo commissioned its own vehicle based on a 1947 Chrysler New Yorker. The centre section was a scale replica of one of its famous lighters, complete with flip top and flame.

The height of the Zippo car meant its drivers had to be very careful when approaching bridges, but that didn’t stop them taking the car to all 48 contiguous states of the US. The original Zippo car disappeared without trace in the 1950s, but Zippo recreated it in 1998 based on another Chrysler New Yorker.

Volkswagen Thing

Adolf Hitler co-parented the civilian Type 1 ‘Beetle‘ but then his fondness for invading other European countries triggered the Second World War, forcing it to be rapidly morphed into the military Kübelwagen. Volkswagen continued developing it after the war and the West German army and other NATO forces ultimately adopted 50,000 of them between 1968 to 1979.

VW realised it could have civilian appeal, and started selling the car that was known as Model 181 in Europe in 1971 and America the following year. It didn’t last long in the US as safety regulations arrived to throttle its birth. Odd to look at and certainly with an interesting prehistory, but the car surely wins in this story for its name in America: The Thing.

(Neils De Wit)
Nissan Cube

The Cube wasn’t a car – it was a mobile living room. Or at least that was Nissan’s idea apparently, with a tightly defined brief to appeal to young couples in their 20s or early 30s. Its small stature and practicality for multiple generations proved popular in Japan, but exports were less successful as it was usually sold at prices that proved optimistic.

Chrysler Turbine Car

The Chrysler Turbine Car was a concept car produced from 1963 to 1964. All coloured in bronze, the Ghia-designed-and-built cars were powered by a gas turbine engine that could run on diesel, unleaded gasoline, kerosene, or even tequila. At full-tilt the engine pumped out 130bhp, an impressive 425lb ft of torque, and turned over at an extraordinary 60,000rpm.

Of 55 built, 50 were given to the public to test; however, many of them were baffled by the complex starting procedure and unimpressed by its sluggish acceleration, enormous fuel consumption, and noisiness. Chrysler conclude there was little future in the technology and withdrew the cars and junked most of them; nine are still left, with two of them still owned by the company and most of the rest in museums, including one at The Henry Ford in Dearborn, Michigan.

Cheeseburger car

This unappetising wheeled burger is to be found in Kansas City, promoting the bap-bracketed food medley that awaits you within the Westport Flea Market, should your cravings remain undimmed. Should that be the case, your five-patty burger awaits, floating in an ocean of fries.

LCC Rocket

Chris Craft and Gordon Murray were chums from motorsport and fancied something that harked back to an earlier era of racing. The Rocket was the result and it went on to sell 55 units in total, including the cars built for the company’s founders. The size of the Rocket dictated a tandem layout and it previewed the central driving position that Murray would use in the McLaren F1. The Rocket had a Yamaha motorcycle engine delivering 143bhp via 10 forward gears.


Carver designer Chris van den Brink wanted to marry the comfort and weathertight abilities of a car to a motorcycle’s manoeuvrability. Thus it allowed the main body section to pivot from side to side like a bike while the rear portion with two wheels remained upright. This brief dictated a tandem two-seat layout to ensure the Carver remained narrow enough to achieve the 45-degree lean angles it needed for cornering. Power came from a 65bhp 660cc four-cylinder engine which could take it to 120mph.

Butagaz Car

The French have always had a penchant for unusual vehicle styling, but even by their standards, the Butagaz car stands out. Seven of these vehicles were made, each seemingly plumped on a Simca 1000 to provide the propulsion and with the steering modified to allow the driver to sit further forward.

The Butagaz cars were built as part of the tradition of promotional vehicles that make up the Tour de France caravan as it travels around the country each July. To make sure the Butagaz cars got noticed in this melee, each had loudspeakers above the cab to blare out advertising messages.

Nissan Land Glider

Nissan has explored many unusual ways to improve the car and the Land Glider was another attempt in this search. With electric power, the Land Glider was billed as a zero-emission city commuter car to predate the Renault Twizy by some margin. Unlike the French machine, the Nissan used a tilting wheel design to mimic a motorcycle’s leaning action, which counted against any real prospect of it making it into production.

Lamborghini LM002

The LM002 is one of several very powerful off-road trucks built by Lamborghini in the past, and the only one to go into production before the Urus arrived in 2017. The LM002’s notably angular body concealed a big V12 engine which drove all four wheels. To put it mildly, this was not exactly the kind of thing Land Rover was building at the time.

If an off-road truck seems an odd thing for a sports car maker to have built, remember that Lamborghini originally built farm tractors, and the LM002 could have been a truck produced for the US Army, but the contract went to Hummer instead.

Birdseye Pea Car

A small pea demands a small promotional car, so frozen food firm Birdseye based its Pea Car on a go-kart chassis. It uses a Honda engine and was capable of up to 50mph, which must be terrifying given its shape, centre of gravity and tiny wheelbase.

The Pea Car is also one of the more recent promotional cars to come on the scene as it was introduced in 2005 and made in London. Volkswagen fans will spot the Beetle headlights, which have been rotated 90deg to curve with the round bodywork, and campervan bonnet vent.

1968 Oldsmobile/American Quality Coach Jetway 707

Flying was glamorous and exclusive in the 1960s, and the journey started well before you got on the plane. At least that was the theory, triggering the creation of all manner of very large and often outlandish ‘airport cars’, of which the Jetway 707 is perhaps the epitome.

Instead of being based on a station wagon or limo, its creators started with an Oldsmobile Toronado personal car instead. Still, the Toronado’s stand-out feature, its front-wheel-drive architecture, did make a certain amount of sense to making a limousine, but there was still a heck of a lot of work to do to make this 28-foot-long behemoth capable of carrying 12 to 15 people. 52 were made, and a handful survive today.

Glenfrome Facet

The Bristol-based customiser firm Glenfrome built an array of interesting cars in the ‘80s, including elongated versions of the Jaguar XJ and Mercedes S-class. But it’s probably most famous for a 7-door stretched Range Rover, and then the Facet, also based on the British luxury 4x4.

Designed in an extreme way to catch the attention like nothing else, it targeted the Middle East market and combined a targa roof with various fibreglass body panels. It was enormously expensive - £55,000 in 1983 at a time when that was the average house price in London - but a vaguely impressive 50 examples found homes nonetheless.

Tatra T77

Strange in appearance it may be to today’s eyes, Czechoslovakia’s Tatra T77 must have looked unworldly when it first emerged in 1934, standing out as one of the very first cars designed with aerodynamics in mind. It featured a rear-mounted 3.0-litre V8 good for 60bhp, though this was later boosted to 75bhp. Heavily influenced by aircraft technology – planes being the big new thing at the time – it would in turn be a major influence on the Volkswagen Type 1 ‘Beetle’.

However, while the German car would go onto sell 21.5 million examples, the expensive T77 cracked just 106 sales from 1934 to 1936, and just a handful survive today; one sold at a US auction in March 2023 for $390,000.

(RM Sothebys)
Fastest Shed

Most promotional vehicles are trying to sell something, but Kevin Nicks’ Shed was created to raise money for the Katharine House Hospice, in Oxfordshire. To prove his grand hutch on wheels was the best, Kevin took it to Pendine Sands, where it hit a top speed of 101mph.

Underneath the custom shiplap bodywork built by Kevin at home lies a Volkswagen Passat 4Motion. The original 2.8-litre V6 engine has given way to a newer twin-turbo V6 with 265bhp from an Audi that, Kevin hopes, will help further raise his existing record for the world’s fastest shed.

Oeuf electrique

When the Germans conquered France in 1940 they promptly stole most of the country’s cars – and deprived those they didn’t of petrol. Multi-disciplined industrial designer Paul Arzens came up with this response: a minimalist egg-shaped car made of aluminium and Plexiglass, powered by electricity, delivered via five 12-volt batteries.

Its 350kg weight helped to give it a vaguely impressive range of 60 miles or so, and a top speed of 43mph. It didn’t catch on, and just the single examples made, used by Arzens until his death in 1990.

Peel P50

Made by the Peel Engineering Company on the Isle of Man, the three-wheeled P50 came in red, white or blue. Originally built between 1962 and 1965 (around 50 were made), it featured a 49cc DKW single-cylinder engine good for 4.2hp and a top speed of 37mph. No reverse gear was available.

In 2011 it was revived: a petrol version now has a 49cc Honda moped engine offering a heady 4.8bhp via a CVT, but a lower top speed of 28mph. The electric version is slightly less powerful and offers a 20-mile range which in a normal EV would be tiresome but not, we expect, in a car like this. Priced around £15,000, they’ve been exported all over the world and buyers reputedly include the famous ‘Rainbow Sheikh’ car collector based in Abu Dhabi.

Cadbury’s Creme Egg car

Rather more durable and decidedly less munchable than the chocolate product it advertises, the Creme Egg car was commissioned by chocolate maker Cadbury-Schweppes in the late 1980s. It’s based on a Bedford Rascal van and five were built, their ovoid forms resembling a less healthy version of the Outspan Mini. Corgi Toys makes a model of the car that, slightly disappointingly, proves inedible.

TASCO (1948)

Designer Gordon Buehrig worked on several Duesenberg and Cord models before he founded The American Sports Car Company (TASCO) after WW2.The company’s first and only model looked a little bit like a plane without wings and looked downright weird in 1948, and still does today. It was powered by a Flathead Ford V8, modified for better performance.

The Special remained a one-off - it would have been too expensive to produce - but its T-top roof caught the attention of designers around the world and Buehrig patented the design in 1951. He sued GM when Chevrolet released a Corvette with a similar roof design in 1968, and he won, and the idea was later used in the Chevy Monte Carlo, the Nissan 280ZX, and Toyota MR2 among others.

(Ronan Glon)
Yamaha OX99-11 (1992)

One of the rarest and most exotic supercars of an era when makers were pushing boundaries in every direction, the Yamaha OX99-11 borrowed heavily from Formula One technology. That included a central seating position for the driver, but unlike the forthcoming McLaren F1, Yamaha placed its car’s passenger right behind the driver.

The design made for an unusual appearance for the OX99-11, but that was soon forgotten when the 400bhp 3.5-litre V12 engine was fired up. It sounded sensational and every bit like a Formula 1 motor, which was not far from the truth given Yamaha’s involvement with that branch of motorsport at the time. Only three OX99-11s were ever made as Yamaha realised it would never work commercially.

Toyota i-Road (2013)

Building a tandem seater car is a good way to stand out from the crowd, but Toyota went much further with its i-Road at the 2013 Geneva Motor Show. As well as the 1+1 seating design, the i-Road was a mere 90cm wide, making it as narrow as most motorcycles. This was to give the car city-busting manoeuvrability and it also had leaning suspension like a motorbike’s to aid stability.

Inside, the cabin was slung for two but quiet thanks to electric power that gave a range of up to 30 miles on a single charge. Toyota planned to let the residents of Grenoble in France use the i-Road as part of a vehicle sharing experiment. The i-Road made up part of a 70-strong fleet of electric vehicles used in the three-year study.

Outspan Orange

Designed and built by the Brian Thwaites company of Sussex between 1972 and 1974, these cars were used by South African orange producer Outspan to promote its fruit around Europe. The company is still in business today, and at least three of the Oranges are known to survive, one still with Outspan. Underneath is a Mini, whose mechanical layout lent itself well to reconfiguring bodywork.


The Amphicar is unique in this feature in that it had presidential approval. 3878 were built in Germany by this semi-sibling firm of BMW between 1961 and 1968. Powered by a rear-mounted 1.1-litre Triumph Herald engine good for 43bhp, it could do 70mph on land and 8mph on water. Lyndon Johnson owned one and would terrify passengers by pretending the brakes had failed before driving into a lake at his ranch in Texas.

(LBJ Presidential Library)

29 extremely strange cars Forget your small SUVs, superminis and family hatchbacks, this story is about the downright strangest cars ever made