Younger enthusiasts don’t remember the Panoz. But back in the ’90s, this company was one of the most famous limited-production American brands out there. Successful in racing, Panoz was a brand that offered racing technology for street-legal vehicles. And that’s what made them favorites with fans of performance driving.
Panoz presented their Roadster model in the early â90s. It was a modern-day version of the legendary Shelby Cobra. It was a stripped-down open-top two-seater built out of aluminum to keep the weight down. Interestingly, Panoz used a lot of Ford Mustang components including the engine, drivetrain, and suspension. That helped the Panoz Roadster produce a whopping 300 HP to deliver brutal performance.
Back in the early â90s, Subaru wanted to enter the sports car market to promote its biggest assets: all-wheel drive and the flat-six engine. To make that happen, Subaru hired Italdesign to design a sleek and modern coupe. In 1991, they debuted the SVX with strange styling and complicated side window panels.
However, it came with sublime handling and great performance. Under the hood was a 3.3-liter flat-six that propelled this rare car to 60 mph in just 7.3 seconds. Unfortunately, they only sold approximately 14,000 in America until 1996.
In the â90s, most people knew the Lister Company as a popular racing outfit. They made racing cars for many mainstream manufacturers like Jaguar, Maserati, and Chevrolet. But in the mid-’90s, Lister decided to make their own supercar using a highly-tuned Jaguar V12 engine. The idea behind the supercar was to introduce a brutally fast four-seat Gran Turismo coupe. Also, it had to be able to break speed records and transport passengers in comfort. They named the new model the Storm. It featured a V12 engine producing 550 HP.
The engine, which they derived from a Le Mans racer, offered 7.0-liters of displacement. Interestingly, Lister made their own body with a wider track to accommodate the wide tires. The Lister Storm had lots of scoops and spoilers for better cooling and aerodynamics. At the same time, Lister offered the Storm as a passenger car at almost $450,000, as well as a racing version for private teams. However, despite delivering brutal power with a 4.0 second 0 to 60 mph acceleration time and over 210 mph, only four customers ordered it.
During the â80s, Ford tried several approaches to revive its performance image and one of them was introducing the Merkur XR4Ti model. This was basically a British Ford Sierra they packed with a special aero package. They added a 2.3-liter turbocharged four-banger and made various other improvements as well.
Ford envisioned the XR4Ti as a hot hatch with rear-wheel drive. It had to have racing credentials and better driving dynamics than its front-wheel-drive competitors. Unfortunately, the Merkur XR4Ti proved to be unsuccessful. It was expensive and the American market just didn’t understand Ford’s offering.
The Super High Output (SHO) was a performance model in the Taurus lineup. It featured a Yamaha-sourced 3.0-liter high revving V6 with 220 HP. Today, this doesn’t sound like much, but in 1989 it was a lofty figure.
The performance was outstanding with an acceleration time from 0 to 60 of 6.7 seconds. On the outside, the Taurus SHO looked like any other regular Taurus. In fact, only the badge on the back revealed its true nature.
Not too long ago, Isuzu SUVs were common and respected in America. During the â80s and â90s, thanks to cooperation with General Motors, Isuzu sold numerous models on the American market. Soon, they gained a reputation for being durable and dependable vehicles. But, in 1997 when Isuzu presented the VehiCross, the market just didn’t react the way it should.
The vehicle was strange-looking. In fact, some say it was ugly because it came in crossover form. But in reality, it was capable and a quality-built off-roader. U.S. sales were slow, so in 2001 Isuzu discontinued the VehiCross.
The SV-1 was the brainchild of automotive entrepreneur, Malcolm Bricklin. In fact, they produced it in Canada from 1974 to 1975 in less than 3,000 examples. For a short while, they marketed the SV-1 as the best, most advanced American sports car. However, as soon as the first cars started rolling down the assembly line, it was clear the SV-1 was not as good as people expected.
The idea was to produce a safe yet fast sports car as the name, Safety Vehicle One (SV-1), suggested. Bricklin designed the car with big bumpers, warning sensors, and power Gullwing doors. It had no cigarette lighters, but it had an integrated roll cage and lots of other things. But all that made it heavy, so it wasn’t agile. The power came from its 360 AMC V8 engine, which wasn’t all that powerful. So later the company turned to the 351 Ford V8, but it still couldn’t deliver brutal enough performance.
The Tucker Torpedo featured numerous innovations like safety glass and a central headlight that followed the movement of the steering wheel. Also, it had a roomy interior and engine in the back with lots of power and torque. Basically, the Tucker Torpedo was so advanced that the Big Three of Chrysler, Ford, and GM were afraid it would cripple their market share.
So while Tucker prepared for full-scale production, the Big Three prepared to set him up with a lawsuit. Eventually, the lawsuit stopped their production and sunk the company. And that is why they only made 48 cars that rarely come up for sale. However, if you want to own one of the most obscure cars on the planet, be sure to bid the next time a Tucker crosses the auction block.
The Excalibur Company is the brainchild of the famous car designer, Brooks Stevens, who worked for Studebaker. After Studebaker stopped producing cars, Stevens formed the Excalibur company. They were dedicated to the production of custom, retro-inspired cars Excalibur based on a regular chassis.
The SS came with a common drivetrain, but with interesting, somewhat kitschy styling inspired by the Mercedes SSK from the late â20s. The production of the Excalibur SS was around 3,500 cars. That makes them fairly rare today and a value proposition if you are in the market for camp cars of the â70s.
Named after a breed of fighting bulls, the Jalpa was Lamborghini’s entry-level model the company produced from 1981 to 1988. They based the design on the iconic Countach. So it had a wedge-shaped body, fender flares, a low silhouette, and a spoiler. Most Jalpas came as a Targa with an open-top, which was a desirable option.
Lamborghini placed the engine behind the driver as in any super sports car. But, instead of a familiar V12 unit, it was a 3.5-liter V8 producing 260 HP. That may not sound like much by today’s standards, but back in the day, it was respectable power that translated into decent performance.
Toyota’s off-road monster called the Mega Cruiser may have seemed unique, but to be blunt, it was a Hummer H1 rip-off. However, that is exactly why it is so interesting. They introduced it in 1995 and produced it until 2005. Like a Hummer, they designed it primarily as a military vehicle for the Japanese Army.
It got its power from a massive 4.1-liter four-cylinder diesel engine with a four-speed automatic transmission. You can find civilian versions, so owning one of those Japanese behemoths in the States would not only be cool, but is quite possible.
The 1976 to 1990 Aston Martin Lagonda is one of the quirkiest cars you could ever own. They envisioned it to be the ultimate luxury sedan. It came with V8 power, a bespoke interior, and top-of-the-line features. In fact, the Lagonda was one of the most expensive cars in the world during its production run. And that is why Aston only sold around 650 of them.
The main selling point was its exclusivity and unusual styling. But soon, the Lagonda showed its dark side. They were notoriously undeveloped and problematic, mostly due to the then-new electronic systems Aston Martin installed in the car.
If you don’t know what this car is, nobody can blame you. The Autozam AZ-1 is a tiny sports car powered by a turbocharged three-cylinder engine with 660 CCS and 64 HP. Mazda built it and Suzuki sold it in limited numbers from 1992 to 1995. During that time, they made less than 5,000 of them. Despite its size and 1,500 pounds of weight, the Autozam AZ-1 was a proper sports car. In fact, some people consider it the only supercar in the Kei Car segment. With its perfect chassis, gullwing doors, and decent performance, it was a favorite driving machine in Japan at the moment.
The bizarre styling but lively driving dynamics provided a unique driving experience. And that is one of the reasons you should consider importing this little gem. And since they never officially sold the AZ-1 outside of Japan, it’s even rarer. But now you can now import it to the USA since it’s been around for more than 25 years.
You have probably heard of Morgan. They’re one of the last small classic car companies that built their cars completely by hand. The Morgan is known for its Plus 4 retro roadsters and unique Morgan Three Wheeler, a half car-half motorcycle. However, the car most people remember the most is the Aero 8.
It was an elegant, retro-inspired roadster packed with BMW power and then added unique styling. The Aero 8 is an exclusive model Morgan sold in limited numbers. Due to its lightweight construction and powerful V8, it was amazingly fast and agile. However, finding one might be a challenge since most owners have held on to them.
The 2000s brought several great supercars, but just a few managed to survive the economic recession. However, one of the cars that didn’t was the Spyker with its fantastic C8. The C8 was a good-looking model with a unique design and 4.2-liter V8 in the back that provided respectable performance.
Spyker was a Dutch company that only made around 250 cars, and only 77 of them went to the U.S. Although they are rare, eventually they will come up for sale, and if you want one, be prepared.
This crazy creation debuted in the mid-’80s as Lamborghini’s attempt to enter the world of luxury SUVs and widen their appeal. The LM002 had a special chassis and suspension they combined with Lamborghini’s famous V12 engine.
In fact, the 5.2-liter unit with 400 HP was the same one as you would find in the legendary Countach. And for those buyers who thought that 400 HP was not enough, the factory could supply the LM002 with a 7.3-liter monster V12 engine from a racing boat.
Before roadsters like the Z3, Z4, and limited production Z8, BMW introduced the strange-looking Z1. The Z1 was a sleek roadster with uncharacteristic styling. The biggest feature was the plastic body panels and unusual sliding doors that disappeared in the rocker panels when drivers opened them.
Technically, you could drive the BMW Z1 with the doors down. The other interesting feature was the plastic body panels they bolted onto the chassis. Better yet, Z1 owners could buy different color panels and attach them to the car at their will. And that means you could change the paint of your car just by adding different colored doors and fenders, as well as the trunk and hood.
The late â90s brought the Qvale as a new player on the international sports car scene. The project started as a De Tomaso concept, but they continued it with Qvale when De Tomaso went out of business. Under the sleek and modern design, there were quite a few Ford Mustang parts, including the 4.6-liter V8 engine and dashboard.
The most interesting feature of this car was the roof. Each Mangusta was also a coupe with a Targa top, thanks to a retractable hardtop system that allowed several positions. Unfortunately, the car wasn’t well-received, so they discontinued it in 2002 after building just 284 of them.
The legendary Vector W8 is a wedge-shaped, V8 powered monster they presented in 1990. It was an ambitious project initiated by the Vector Aeromotive Corporation. Under the engine cover was a typical American powerhouse in the form of a Chevrolet small-block V8.
They paired it up with twin turbochargers to produce 625 HP, which was a mind-blowing figure. They only produced approximately 20 of these, so if you own one of these gems, you definitely have one of the most obscure American cars they ever built.
Even if it looks like an ordinary, four-cylinder Porsche 914, the 916 is a totally different animal. This special model was a rolling experiment on how to put an engine from a fantastic 911 2.7 RS into a smaller, lighter body.
The results were amazing, but Porsche feared that nobody could tame this beast or buy it since it was so expensive. In the end, the company built just 11 examples, which most people consider the Holy Grail of the Porsche collector community.
There were fast SUVs before Jeep introduced the Trackhawk, and there will be long after the Trackhawk is discontinued. However, this glorious machine deserves a place on our list for two reasons. The first is the 707 Hellcat Hemi engine under the hood.
Second, with a 3.4-second 0 to 60 mph time, this SUV is faster than some supercars. The Trackhawk is a brutal machine that is highly unusual and influential. It is a true muscle car SUV. It just shows that a high horsepower Hemi engine can make anything an adequate muscle car, even a full-size SUV.
Derived from an ordinary Ford F-150 truck, the Raptor has almost supercar performance and unmatched ability to go practically anywhere. It has a 3.5-liter turbocharged V6 with 450 hp and 510 lb-ft, 10-speed automatic transmission, and sub-five-second acceleration times.
Again, we have to remind you that this is a full-size pickup truck with room for five people and a regular truck bed as well. Despite being designed to jump dunes and run through the desert, this truck and its immense capabilities make it a stop light terror as well.
You need an SUV with 475 HP and a 4.4-seconds 0 to 60 time and the ability to carry seven passengers. Basically, you need a small school bus in case your kids are terribly late for school, and you need to get them there in a hurry. You need a Dodge Durango SRT.
With 6.4-liter Hemi and 475 HP, this is a pure Dodge muscle car in a large SUV package. Unlike other vehicles on this list, which are mostly useless as real SUVs, the Durango is capable. Not only it is amongst the biggest and has three-row seating, but it can also carry and tow the biggest loads, which make it pretty practical and usable in real life. Best of all is the price, as it starts at $64,000.
The mid-’70s were dark times for performance models all around the world. Muscle cars were almost gone, sports cars’ power output was reduced to ridiculously low levels, and performance sedans were virtually extinct. However, in 1974, Mercedes introduced the 450 SEL 6.9.
Continuing on the idea established by 300 SEL 6.3 several years prior, the 6.9 was a bigger, more massive, more advanced model with impressive performance hidden in the formal body. With 268 HP and 405 lb-ft of torque, it was one of the most powerful automobiles you could buy in the mid-’70s.
Lotec Sirius is one of the most obscure European supercars, and Lotec Company produced it in the early 2000s. The prototype caused much attention when it was first shown in 2001, but ever since the news about this crazy supercar was pretty scarce. Some say that only two examples were made, and some say that Sirius never progressed beyond the prototype stage.
However, Sirius is still one of the most powerful and exciting machines out there. The heart is a twin-turbo Mercedes derived V12 engine, which develops around 1300 HP. With a five-speed manual transmission and just 2800 pounds of curb weight, the Sirius is unbelievably fast. The 0 to 60 mph sprint takes less than 3.7 seconds, and the top speed is impressive 285 mph.
In the early 2000s, Steve Saleen decided to branch out and enter the supercar market with the S7 model, a superbly fast, good looking, and powerful exotic model which featured the latest technology and proven V8 power. Saleen invested a lot of time and money into constructing the S7 and even used companies that produced parts for Formula One cars to help him in the development of this car.
The result was a 550 HP Saleen S7 introduced in 2000 and immediately drawing attention from the supercar crowd. The S7’s superb performance, looks, and technology were up to par with the best European supercars at the time. In 2005, the even more powerful Twin Turbo version was released with 750 HP and a top speed of almost 250 mph. The car proved to be relatively successful, even on the race tracks, and Saleen produced a racing version too.
The Ultimate Aero was designed to be the fastest and the most powerful supercar on the market, with engineering representing the perfect blend between racing technology and streetcar design. The first Ultimate Aero models used a 6.2-liter Corvette racing engine with almost 800 HP, which propelled this beast to 238 mph.
But a real treat was introduced in 2009 when the Ultimate Aero TT was released. It featured a turbocharged Corvette mill with 1200 HP and improved suspension, chassis, and aerodynamics. Soon after, the Aero TT broke the production car speed record achieving 256 mph, making it the fastest car in the world. With the price of close to $300.000, only 24 Aeros were built between 2006 and 2009.
You are excused if you don’t know about Venturi, a small French car company which was active in the ’90s. Using components from other car companies and producing its own bodies and chassis, Venturi produced several beautiful and fast cars, raced a lot, and left its mark in the history of obscure supercars with its magnificent 400 GT model from the mid-’90s. Visually similar to Ferrari F40, the Venturi 400 GT also used a twin-turbocharged engine. But in Venturi’s case, it was a 3.0-liter Peugeot V6, which was pumped to produce 400 hp in street trim. In racing trim, it was capable of over 600 hp.
With all that firepower, the 400 GT was capable of accelerating to 60 mph in 4.6 seconds and speeds over 180 mph, which was faster than Porsches or Ferraris of the day. Unfortunately, cruel financial reality caught up with Venturi’s big ambitions, and the company was closed first in 1997 and then again in 2000. Venturi withdrew from racing before that and managed to produce less than 100 examples of the fantastic 400 GT, which has since been lost in corridors of time.
Built by the French AXIAM company in the mid-’90s. The Mega Track was the first and only off-road supercar ever built. You might ask yourself how it is possible to have a supercar that is capable of going off-road. Still, AXIAM managed to produce a vehicle with adjustable suspension, which could be turned from a regular sports car into an SUV in a matter of seconds. The complicated system allowed 8 to 13 inches of ride height, and in just one moment, the Mega Track could become a real offroad beast.
Behind the driver was a massive 6.0-liter V12 engine from Mercedes-Benz, which produced 400 hp and powered all four wheels. The concept had its drawbacks, and the Mega Track was a pretty bulky and big car. It weighed over 2 tons and had a length of over 5 meters, which is more than the Mercedes S-Class.
The British sports car company TVR was known for producing a series of capable coupes and power roadsters but never a proper supercar. In the late ’90s, the company’s management decided to present the ultimate version of their popular Cerebra coupe called Speed 12.
The Speed 12 was a brutal and extremely powerful supercar, practically a race car for the street. It had a 7.7-liter V12 engine with around 1000 HP, but the exact number was never published. The car was designed primarily for racing, but its racing career was short and not very successful due to the changing of rules.
When it was first introduced in 1988, Cizeta-Moroder V16T had the potential to become the next big thing in the world of supercars. The car had it all, celebrity endorsement, Italian background, famous constructors, exotic name, and technology. This obscure beast’s main feature was a monstrous V16 engine made out of two flat-plane crank V8 units and mounted transversely behind the cabin.
The V16 engine had six liters of displacement and delivered 560 hp, which was an excellent number for the late ’80s. The performance was equally impressive, with a 0 to 60 mph time of just four seconds and a top speed of over 200 mph. Even today, those numbers will draw attention from the supercar crowd. The base list price was close to $300,000, and the production stopped after only 20 examples, which is why they are an obscure sight today.
Monteverdi was a Swiss luxury car brand active from 1967 until 1984. Over the years, Monteverdi produced many premium models that were marketed as cars with “German quality, Italian design, and American power.” This was a winning combination, and Monteverdi cars featured Chrysler’s engine to produce effortless performance, speed, and raw power many European manufacturers of the period lacked.
The most extreme Monteverdi model was Hai 450 from 1970, which featured an entirely new chassis and body as well as the famous Hemi 426 V8 engine in the back. Monteverdi wanted the most powerful engine Mopar had to offer, and in 1970, that was the mighty Hemi. The car was called “Hai,” which is a German word for a shark. The 0 to 60 mph time took only 4.5 seconds, making it the quickest car of the era.
Maybe not as known as Ferrari or Lamborghini, De Tomaso is another legend of the Italian sports car scene from the ’60s. Started by Argentinean Alejandro De Tomaso, the company first started as a racing car outfit. Still, it soon moved to sports car markets with a lineup of successful modes that featured Ford’s small block engines, 5-speed transaxle gearbox, and aggressive design.
The first car was De Tomaso Mangusta, which was introduced in 1967. Yet the Pantera introduced in 1969 proved to be far more successful and popular, even though it shared a lot with the Mangusta. The key to Pantera’s success was the fact that Alejandro DeTomaso got the deal with Ford Motor Company, which meant that De Tomaso products were to be sold officially in America through the Lincoln-Mercury dealership network. Ford provided the engines, and De Tomaso did the rest, and Pantera was a home run for this small company. When production ended in 1989, De Tomaso built over 7000 Panteras. Even Elvis Presley owned one.
Bristol Cars is one of the craziest companies in the world. Not for their models, which are quite strange, but for their business policy. The company was barely making money for decades, operated only one showroom, sold only 1 or 2 cars per year, and refused to modernize its lineup for decades. However, they somehow managed to survive. In 2004, Bristol decided to introduce a new model with uncompromised performance and fresh design, and that is how the Bristol Fighter was born.
The chassis was custom made with an impressive body that featured Gullwing doors and a long hood. The Fighter’s design has no resemblance to other Bristol cars, but it carries the tradition of using Chrysler engines, and this sports car has an 8.0-liter V10 from Dodge Viper rated at 525 HP.
If you are into domestic performance cars, you certainly know about Hennessey from Texas. In the last few decades, they have been one of the biggest names in aftermarket muscle and performance car parts, conversion kits, engines, etc. And since 2011, they are also supercar manufacturers with the Venom GT.
Venom GT is not 100% American car but kind of a British-American hybrid. It is based on the Lotus Elise but significantly modified, widened, and stretched with different suspension, brakes, design, and drivetrain. Practically everything is new and different from the original car. The power comes from a 7.0-liter LS2 V8 engine with three power levels – 800 HP, 1000 HP, and 1200 HP.
The Venom GT was available as a coupe or convertible, and it held the world record for the fastest production car from 0-186 mph (0-300 km/h) with an average time of 13.63 seconds. Its production ended in 2017 after 13 cars were made.