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The Strangest Production Cars Ever Sold In The United States

Vukasin HerbezSeptember 16, 2022

For the better part of the last century, the United States has been the world’s biggest car market, producing and selling more vehicles than any other country. The car business was the most significant industry here. Not surprisingly, every car manufacturer in the world wanted a piece of the action. During that period, carmakers from Europe, Japan, and Korea, tried selling cars to American buyers. This resulted in some of the strangest vehicles sold on American soil.

There were thousands of mainstream models. But a small number of vehicles didn’t actually follow the conventional design, engineering, or marketing laws. These strange vehicles created exciting moments in the car industry. Some were flops while others were successes. But all were non-mainstream machines offered to the general public. Check out the 50 strangest production cars ever sold in the US below.

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Campagna T-Rex

The T-Rex is the brainchild of Daniel Campagna, a Canadian former race car driver. His company has been active in producing three-wheel vehicles and sidecars for motorcycles since the late 1980s. This car has a motorcycle engine from BMW, Suzuki, Kawasaki, or Harley Davidson. This engine sits behind behind the driver and powers the rear wheel (via Campagna Motors).

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Currently, the T-Rex has a 160 HP engine from the BMW K1600 motorcycle. The driver and passenger sit in the front and two front wheels do the steering. In contrast to vehicles with a single front wheel, the T-Rex is much more stable. It can also achieve high cornering speeds. The owners describe driving T-Rex as driving an overpowered go-cart with a crazy soundtrack. We can only imagine how it is to drive this ludicrous machine under full throttle.

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Toyota Previa

The first-generation Previa was a popular ’90s minivan that was common on American roads. From the outside, it looks pretty ordinary and outdated. So you might ask, what is it about this family car that puts it on the list of strangest cars ever sold in the USA?

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The answer would be its technical layout. It definitely looks forgettable from the outside. Yet from the inside, the Previa has the same technical layout as some of the world’s best supercars. The Previa has a mid-engined 2.4-liter four-cylinder tilted at 75 degrees, making it almost flat and low. This helps its center of gravity. The engine was below the driver’s seat. In some versions, it was also equipped with a supercharger. The power output wasn’t much at 158 HP. But its handling was way beyond what anybody expected from a ’90s production minivan (via Car Throttle).

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Citroen SM

This elegant coupe had some exciting features. It made the competition look and feel outdated and old when presented to the public. The aesthetics were clearly French, with hydropneumatic suspension and front-wheel drive. Still, instead of an underpowered four-cylinder engine, there was a 2.7-liter V6 developed by Maserati (via Top Gear).

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The Citroen SM sold more models in the USA than in Europe. In America, the SM competed against Mercedes SL or Cadillac Eldorado in the personal luxury segment. Buyers praised its ride quality, smooth engine, and style. Unfortunately, the oil crisis and economic recession killed the model. Production stopped in 1974 after more than 12,000 were made.

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Chevrolet SSR

In the midst of the mid-2000s retro craze, Chevrolet’s development team came up with a crazy idea to produce a nostalgic two-seat convertible pickup that boasted muscle car performance. The result was the SSR, a vehicle that looked unlike any other car on the market. But this was not necessarily in a good way. The ’50s-inspired design didn’t work and the SSR looked plain odd (via Car and Driver).

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Despite many efforts to make the SSR appealing to its intended audience, Chevy managed to sell just 24,000 of these oddballs. It resulted in a painful realization that they need much more than wild imagination to make that concept work. Simply put, the SSR wasn’t a Corvette and it wasn’t a truck. It was just plain pointless.

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Skoda Felicia

If you think that Yugo was the first communist car ever offered in the USA, think again. In 1959, Czechoslovakian carmaker Skoda offered its compact Felicia model to US buyers. In the late ’50s, it was nigh-impossible for a communist company to try to sell anything in America. But Skoda was brave enough to try (via Skoda).

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The Felicia was a solid, competent car by European standards but tiny and underpowered to Americans. It was doomed right from the start with almost no dealer network, high prices due to export fees, and no marketing.

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Subaru BRAT

You might think this is a pickup and it looks like one. But if you look close enough, you’ll see two rear-facing seats mounted in the bed. These transform this compact truck into a passenger vehicle. The Subaru BRAT (“Bi-drive Recreational All-terrain Transporter”) was born in the late ’70s. It was designed to take advantage of the popularity of compact trucks in America. This wouldn’t be possible today due to safety concerns and standards. But it was perfectly legal in the late ’70s when the car was new (via Motor Trend).

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Thanks to its unusual features, affordable price, and dependable mechanics, Subaru BRAT was one of the most popular Subaru models during the ’80s and a cool classic today. Some owners decided to remove the seats for more usable space running the coolness and quirkiness of this unique car.

Chevrolet Corvair Monza Spyder
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Chevrolet Corvair

In the late ’50s, Chevrolet made the Corvair. It was a revolutionary compact car with a rear-mounted, air-cooled, flat-six engine. For a couple of years, sales were good. That was until a book called “Unsafe At Any Speed” hit the bookstores across the country and caused significant problems for GM.

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Soon, the book gained publicity, and the public demanded answers while more and more people reported crashes with the Corvair. The Corvair’s production was over by 1969 (via Motor Cities).

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Amphicar Model 770

For decades, engineers toyed with the idea of a floating car. However, most of them decided that it was not worth the trouble of investing in running (or floating) prototypes and abandoned the idea. That was, except for the Amphicar (via Amphicar).

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The Amphicar was a German-made half-car half-boat in production from 1961 to 1965. Immensely popular in the United States, it sold over 3,500 examples. Its power came from diminutive 1.2-liter four-cylinder engines that powered the wheels and a propeller mounted in the back. On land, the Amphicar could achieve up to 75 mph. In the water, it could do 7 knots. But to be honest, the Amphicar wasn’t much of a boat or a car.

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Jensen GT

The Jensen GT was a brave attempt to introduce a shooting brake for US buyers in the mid-’70s. The GT was a closed version of the Jensen Healey Roadster, which was the popular open-top model in the ’70s (via Car and Driver).

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To widen its appeal, Jensen decided to create a coupe, and the GT was born. Under the hood was a 2.0-liter Lotus-derived engine with around 100 HP and modest performance. The GT was introduced in 1975 and discontinued in 1976, a very short production run.

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Muntz Jet

The growing interest in European sports cars from wealthy American buyers in the early ’50s inspired a few local entrepreneurs to try to produce cars of similar appeal and performance. One of those attempts was the Muntz Jet built by Earl “Madman” Muntz, a well-known Californian used car dealer and electronics retailer. With the help of Frank Curtis, he produced 400 Muntz Jets, one of the first American sports cars (via Supercars).

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All cars were convertibles and featured numerous unique features like the choice of Cadillac or Lincoln V8 engines. Unfortunately, the market just wasn’t ready for an expensive, limited-production American sports car. The Muntz Jet was discontinued after only a couple of years. Of around the 400 produced, only about 45 are left today.

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Morgan 3-Wheeler

The original Morgan 3-Wheeler debuted in 1932 in England and became very popular. The secret to its success was the fact that three-wheel vehicles paid less for road taxes, making them cheaper and more appealing to customers. Powered by a motorcycle engine mounted above the front wheels, the Morgan 3-Wheeler was a pretty agile machine with sports car performance (via Morgan Motor).

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In 2011, Morgan Cars announced plans to revive the classic 3-Wheeler in the same design but with modern power. Introduced in 2012, the new generation of Morgan 3-Wheeler featured a Harley Davidson V2 engine with 115 HP. It powered a single rear wheel over Mazda’s five-speed manual gearbox. Since the vehicle’s weight is just over 500 kg, its performance is excellent. The little Roadster needs just 4.5 seconds to sprint from 0 to 60 mph as a result. Henceforth, the company is working on an electric version to reach a broader, more environmentally friendly audience.

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Isuzu VehiCROSS

Not too long ago, Isuzu SUVs were quite ordinary and respected in America. During the ’80s and ’90s, thanks to cooperation with General Motors, Isuzu sold numerous models on the American market. They gained a reputation for being durable and dependable vehicles because of Isuzu’s standing (via Car and Driver).

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However, Isuzu realized that the future was in SUVs due to developing trends. So in the early ’90s, they decided to produce a totally new lifestyle model called the VehiCross. Behind this strange name was an even stranger vehicle made in the three-door specification. It had a 3.5-liter V6 engine and automatic transmission. The car was strange-looking and as a result, some said it was very ugly. It came in a crossover form but was a competent and quality off-road vehicle.

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Nissan Murano CrossCabriolet

You’re mistaken if you think that the industry has invented all car classes it possibly could. There is always room for more, although perhaps useless concepts. One of those was Nissan Murano CrossCabriolet (via Nissan USA).

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Nissan realized SUVs were getting more and more luxurious and people were seeking more personalized products. Why not go a step further and present a convertible with all the advantages of an SUV and the open-air feel of a convertible? Despite the almost bespoke nature of this car and dependable Nissan technology, the CrossCabriolet flopped.

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DAF 600

DAF is a Dutch truck manufacturer who also produced cars at some point. The 600 was a small, economy model with the Vatiomatic transmission, which started a revolution (via Concept Carz).

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In Europe, small and economical DAF 600 models equipped with automatic proved to be perfect city cars because they were easy to drive and park and really cheap to maintain. In the early ’60s, DAF entered the US market and established a network of 69 dealers. However, it only sold a handful of cars before the decade ended.

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Honda CRZ

Released in 2010, the CRZ was an innovative compact hybrid-powered coupe which looked like the spiritual successor of the legendary CRX. Unfortunately, it wasn’t even close because of multiple factors. With its 1.5-liter engine, barely 130 HP, and heavy hybrid add-ons, the CRZ was slow. It also didn’t handle as well as it should as a result. Needless to say, Honda drivers were quite disappointed.

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Honda just didn’t have any luck with electric or hybrid cars and the CRZ didn’t help. After all the money invested in engineering and marketing, Honda wishes the CRZ never happened (via Auto Express).

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Cadillac Fleetwood Castilian Estate

The 1970s were all about excess and which company is better to present the automotive opulence and excess than Cadillac? Back in the day, Cadillac was on the top. It had the most significant engine on offer – the 500 CID (8.2-litre V8). Their cars were almost 20 feet long and the luxury inside was second to none. But despite offering sedans, coupes, and convertibles, Cadillac needed something more – a station wagon (via Hemmings).

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Cadillac marketing thought it would be a good idea to offer a super-luxury long roof based on their Fleetwood. So Cadillac turned to an outside contractor named Coach Works LTD out of Chatsworth, California. Unfortunately, the cost of this conversion was almost $10,000, which brought the price of the Castilian close to $20,000, a lot of money for 1976. That’s why production was minimal and today Castilians are a rare occurrence.

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Mazda Rotary Pickup Truck

Among all Japanese car companies, Mazda is known for being the most innovative. It kept perfecting and investing in the Wankel engine concept since the late ’60s. This is why it was so strange when Mazda decided to install a small Wankel engine in its B-Series pickup truck in 1973. The version with the Wankel engine had 110 HP from a tiny 1.3-liter engine, which was enough since the whole truck was a little over a ton (via Rotary Wiki).

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The exciting thing was that the red line on this little engine was 7000 rpm, making driving a B-Series truck like a sports car. Unfortunately, a truck equipped with this kind of engine wasn’t capable of towing or carrying a lot of weight, but it looked cool and sounded fantastic.

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Range Rover Evoque Convertible

The Evoque Convertible is a unique car in today’s market because it is the only convertible SUV currently on sale. It’s the answer to the question no one asked, but it looks like fun If you want an SUV but crave an open-top car, this is the one. For a $42,000 base price, you get a 240 HP turbocharged engine and luxury features in a very unique vehicle (via Evo).

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But the real question is should you buy it since Evoque Convertible is nothing more than a full-size Barbie car that is no good as an SUV and no good as a roadster? Probably not, as it is simply pointless because of those harsh realities.

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Volvo 1800 ES

When the 1970s arrived, Volvo needed something new to revive the P1800’s appeal The car still performed well, but the design was getting a bit outdated. Therefore, the company decided to introduce a new body style to keep customers interested. The decision was made to present the shooting brake in the form of a Volvo 1800 ES (via Volvo Cars).

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The 1800 ES was introduced in 1972 and featured a 125 HP engine with electronic fuel injection and a station wagon rear end. Due to the car’s dimensions, the 1800 ES proved to be very practical since the luggage space was immense. And since the third door could be opened wide, access was not a problem. Customers accepted this car, but after just two years on the market, Volvo discontinued production after 8,077 examples. Most of these were American spec cars.

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Tucker Torpedo

The Tucker Torpedo featured numerous innovations because of its unique design. These included safety glass, a central headlight that followed the movement of the steering wheel, and a roomy interior Finally, it boasted an engine in the back with lots of power and torque. The 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 was ready to set him up with a lawsuit that would stop production and sink the company (via Tucker Club).

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Unfortunately, they managed to do that and Preston only built between 48 and 51 of his fantastic Tucker Torpedos. Today, almost all new cars feature some of the innovations that Tucker first premiered in the late ’40s. Despite the fact that Tucker didn’t have any effect on the market, this model remained one of the most advanced cars in the world. Its story was a true witness to the dark side of the car industry.

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Honda Insight

Honda entered the hybrid car segment by introducing the Insight, a direct copy and competitor to the Toyota Prius. The Prius managed to win hundreds of thousands of owners and become the dominant model in its segment. The Insight failed miserably and sold just a few thousand examples (via Auto Evolution).

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The reason? The Insight was even less powerful, slower, and uglier than Prius, a tough feat to achieve. Drivers didn’t want anything to do with it as a result. Unfortunately for Honda, the Insight was a significant disappointment.

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BMW 700

Produced for just six years (1959-1965), the 700 is an obscure BMW economy model with an exciting design and technical layout.

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As a two-door sedan, coupe, and convertible, the BMW 700 had rear-wheel drive, and good handling, making it popular amongst amateur racers. The BMW 700 was produced in over 180,000 examples and some of them ended up in the US (via BMW Group Classic).

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Cadillac Seville Gucci

The idea of combining fashion and cars isn’t new. Cadillac’s arch-rival Lincoln was amongst the first companies to introduce limited fashion editions. When Cadillac presented the Seville in 1977, they thought it would be a good idea to spice things up with some European style. So for 1978 and 1979, they released the new Seville Gucci (via Classic Driver).

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This particular version could be considered the original bling mobile. It was shiny, opulent, and extravagant. Buyers could choose three colors (white, black, and brown), and the interior was full of Gucci monogram patterns and logos. Even the vinyl top had a Gucci pattern if you chose the full optional package. Also, buyers got a set of Gucci luggage to fit the trunk of your Seville perfectly.

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Callaway Aerowagen

During the ’80s, Callaway becomes known for its series of super fast and obscenely powerful Corvettes. And today, almost 30 years later, Callaway is back with the Aerowagon conversion model. Based on the C7 Corvette and available on all trim levels, the Aerowagon is a conversion kit that can be bought directly from Callaway or authorized dealers. The kit includes a special rear hatch assembly that transforms the C7 Corvette into a fully functional shooting brake without affecting its design or aerodynamics.

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There were several shooting brake/wagon conversions based on various Corvette models before, but Callaway’s design is the most advanced and well-designed of these by a wide margin (via Callaway).

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Suzuki X-90

The ’90s were strange times, and the Japanese car industry was known to produce some pretty odd vehicles as a result. Back in the day, Suzuki was one of the biggest Japanese economy car brands. It had millions of buyers in the US. However, the company wanted to explore the rising SUV market thanks to the success of the small Samurai SUV. Not with the common Vitara and Grand Vitara models, but something completely different (via Motor Punk).

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How about a two-seat, two-door SUV with compact dimensions and a removable T-Top? That’s precisely what the Suzuki X-90 was when it came out in 1995. Powered by a 95 HP 1.6-liter four-cylinder, the X-90 was rear-wheel drive as a standard. It also had an optional all-wheel drive model. The X-90 had very limited interior and trunk space. Still, neither the 7,000 buyers nor the motoring press understood what Suzuki wanted to say with this model.

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Mercedes G63 AMG 6×6

The Mercedes G-Class is one of the longest-running models in the car world. First introduced in 1979 as a primarily military off-road SUV and truck, it is still on the market with the same basic design thanks to its popularity. During the course of almost 40 years, it survived many modifications and redesigns. However, it never changed its distinct appearance and basic mechanical layout (via Auto Express).

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So, what was Mercedes to do when they couldn’t modify the model anymore? Simply attach a pickup truck bed, install one more axle, and make it the fastest, most expensive, and rarest 6X6 in the world. Mercedes did exactly that creating one monster of a truck. Monster by power and torque ratings and monster by sticker price too. Under the hood is the 5.5-liter twin-turbo engine with 540 HP, which delivers power to all six wheels through a specially built automatic transmission unit.

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Kellison J6

In the late ’50s and early ’60s, fiberglass body construction stopped being a high-tech process. It wasn’t exclusive to established manufacturers and became something drivers could do in their garages. This influenced numerous small companies to start offering plastic bodies to be mounted on regular car chassis to create a unique and exciting design (via Top Speed).

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Established in the early ’50s, Kellison produced several successful kits for installation on popular models. In the early ’60s, the company introduced the J6. The J6 could be bought as a kit or a fully built car, making Kellison a boutique car manufacturer. The J6 used a Corvette frame, but Kellison didn’t just re-body the ‘Vette. They moved the engine further back in the chassis, changed the suspension, and installed larger brakes and a different interior. It made the J6 better handling and faster since the J6 body was somewhat lighter than a stock Corvette.

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Bricklin SV-1

The SV-1 was the brainchild of automotive entrepreneur Malcolm Bricklin. It was, in fact, produced in Canada from 1974 to 1975 in less than 3000 examples. For a short while, the SV-1 had the marketing pitch as the best and most advanced sports car. However, as soon as the first cars started rolling from the assembly line, it was clear that the SV-1 was not as good as people expected it to be (via Silodrome).

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The idea was to produce a safe and fast sports car as the name SV-1 (Safety Vehicle One) suggested. Bricklin designed the car with large bumpers, warning sensors, power Gullwing doors, no cigarette lighters, and an integrated roll cage. All of these features made it heavy and not very agile. The power came from a 360 AMC V8 engine which wasn’t very powerful. But later, the company turned to a 351 Ford V8 and it still couldn’t deliver any actual performance.

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Cheetah

The global success of the Shelby Cobra inspired many American race car builders to build similar cars. From this perspective, nobody came close to beating the Cobra. But Bill Thomas, a famous Chevrolet tuner and race car builder, was a serious candidate. Unfortunately, the Cheetah was never given a fair shake due to various circumstances (via Car and Driver).

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It was built on special lightweight chassis with a small block V8 moved as far back as possible and covered in a light fiberglass body. The Cheetah looked and performed like a race car. Despite some overheating problems, the Cheetah was a remarkable performer. It won some lower-rank races and even the 1968 SCCA championship. Unfortunately, a lack of support, mechanical issues, and even a fire at the shop in California stopped production. Only around 20 cars were built.

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SAAB Sonett

Even though SAAB was always known for their sedans or convertibles, SAAB did produce sports coupes during the 1960s and early ’70s. As expected, they were strange and quirky just like the rest of their line. In fact, there were three generations of SAAB Sonett sports cars. The first one was a racing prototype from the 1950s, but the second and third were regular production models (via Driving Line).

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Sonett had a tiny SAAB three-cylinder two-stroke engine with just 60 HP. As you can expect, customers were disappointed with its poor performance. However, soon the company fitted a 1.7-liter V4 borrowed from Ford’s European division. The power grew only slightly, but the V4 had much more torque. However, the small Sonett still wasn’t a record breaker. Production was over in 1974 after less than 15,000 models were made.

Nissan Pulsar NX
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Nissan Pulsar NX Sportbak

One of the unique 1980s cars was Nissan’s Pulsar in the NX Sportbak package. The idea behind this car is to combine a regular two-door coupe with a wagon body style. However, not in a Shooting Brake kind of way. Nissan decided to make an average coupe but add body extensions. It transformed the Pulsar into a wagon.

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Introduced in 1986, the Pulsar Sportbak received decent attention from car enthusiasts. But eventually, people turned to more conventional coupe styling. Overall, its wagon canopy addition was less desirable. Production was over in 1990 yet it still remains one of the strongest production cars ever made (via Car Throttle).

 

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Ford EXP

This small two-seater debuted in 1982 and was Ford’s attempt to fight affordable foreign sports coupes. The EXP was the first Ford two-seater model since the 1957 Thunderbird (via Driving Line).

Ford EXP | Ford escort, Ford, Ford motor company
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It had a small four-cylinder engine and front-wheel drive. This kind of killed Ford’s ambition of making EXP Mustang’s little brother. However, it was an exciting car and a cool attempt by Ford in the mid-’80s.

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Subaru XT

The Subaru XT is one of the ’80s legends destined to be a classic but forgotten about by most car enthusiasts. With a coupe body, pop-up headlights, a digital dashboard, and optional all-wheel drive, the XT was a capable and modern car for its time (via Parkers).

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Production started in 1985 and stopped in 1991. Buyers loved its angular wedge design and features and received general praise. The best versions are the ones with a 2.7-liter flat-six engine and Subaru’s signature all-wheel drive system.

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Pontiac Grand Prix 2+2

Domestic car buyers were surprised when Pontiac introduced an attractive 2+2 package for its popular luxury coupe in 1986. It was a muscle car the company had lacked since the late ’60s. Also, the Grand Prix 2+2 is an exciting version of a rather dull car (via Motor Trend).

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Very similar to Monte Carlo SS Aerocoupe, the Grand Prix 2+2 used the same platform. Unfortunately, Pontiac didn’t provide 2+2 with exciting performance for street use since all cars got 305 V8 with 165 HP. On the other hand, the Grand Prix 2+2 handled much better than the Aerocoupe. It had gas-filled shocks, stiffer springs, sway bars, and high-performance tires were a part of the standard package. Pontiac produced this model for two years, during which it made 1225 cars.

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Buick Reatta

It seems like everybody forgot about the sleek Buick Reatta. Introduced in the late ’80s, the Reatta was Buick’s halo car. It was a cool-looking two-seater coupe or convertible built on shortened GM’s E platform (via Motor Trend).

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Under the hood was a 3.8-liter V6 with independent suspension and disc brakes all around. Despite dating from the late ’80s, they featured board computers and modern electronic systems. It was in production for four years, and over 21,000 were made.

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Ford Mustang McLaren M81

This interesting car was built with the help of the well-known McLaren racing team, their American operation office from Michigan. The idea behind the project was to take the 2.3-liter turbo engine from the regular Mustang and transform it into a street racing beast. Using a race-tuned suspension, a lightweight body, and many other modifications (via Car Throttle).

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McLaren and Ford did exactly that by installing the tuned turbo engine with 190 HP, a significant number for the day, especially coming from 2.3-liters. This model totally changed the looks of the Fox Mustang.

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Renault Fuego

One of the last Renaults to be sold on the American market was Fuego, a coupe sold until 1985. The Fuego was the most advanced car of its day. It had a front-wheel-drive layout, a turbocharged engine, a plastic body, and numerous interesting features.

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However, the quality wasn’t the best, and the performance wasn’t up to the day’s standards. Also, Renaults were sold by AMC dealers. Those guys were more into moving Jeeps and leftover Eagles than promoting sporty coupes from Europe. That is why the number of Fuegos sold here is very small, and this French car is a strange and rare sight on US roads (via Auto Express).

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Volkswagen Type 181 “The Thing”

The version of the ultra-popular and influential VW Beatle, Type 181, had the nickname “The Thing.” It was a utilitarian version aimed at buyers who would use it as a beach vehicle. Interestingly, the actual roots of this model can be traced to Word War II Germany and the military version called Kubelwagen. The Kubelwagen was a German rival to the Jeep Willys. It used a VW Beetle floor pan, engine, and open-top body similar to the Type 181 (via Hemmings).

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However, its boxy design and strange look gave it the nickname “The Thing.” Some say it was so ugly to give it a proper name, so everybody just called it “The Thing.”

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Citroen 2CV

Even though the 2CV was one of the best-selling cars in Europe, many still considered it a terribly ugly machine. The idea behind the Citroen 2CV was to present the cheapest family car possible. It was minimalistic and utilitarian. But it still had a certain level of comfort and enough space for four occupants and their luggage. The construction was straightforward and durable and all 2CVs had canvas tops (via Auto Zine).

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Because it was an economy car, Citroen obviously forgot to invest in design and development. However, despite its shortcomings in the looks department, Citroen 2CV still remained on the market for decades. In the US market, it sold briefly and without much success.

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AMC Pacer

The Pacer is a car that is equally loved and hated but is no doubt legendary and recognizable. It was AMC’s effort to produce a compact car. Yet it turned out to be less compact than its competitors and with numerous flaws. We’ll only cover the design aspect of this infamous model (via Indie Auto).

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After the Gremlin’s success, Pacer was conceived to be bigger and more advanced, but its design was repelling. The large glass areas were practical but also looked like a bubble. The front end was far from beautiful, and the silhouette was egg-shaped, which was strange for most drivers.

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Acura ZDX

Honda’s luxury division Acura is known for its elegant cars, powerful engines, and quality products. But it’s also known for a strange and pretty ugly model called the ZDX. On sale for just three years, the Acura ZDX was an attempt to present something between a sedan and a crossover and ended up being neither (via Acura Fandom).

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Despite a good technical layout, decent power, and interior features, buyers simply didn’t like ZDX. Acura managed to sell just 7,200 examples before production ended.

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Citroen DS

There were many cars on display at the 1955 Paris Auto Show, but most of them were warmed-up pre-war designs with common engine and drivetrain choices. There was nothing really interesting. But all of a sudden, there was Citroen’s booth with the brand-new DS. It was a car with front-wheel drive, a futuristic interior, an aluminum hood, and a plastic roof. For the visitors at the 1955 Paris Auto Show, Citroen DS wasn’t just a car, but a vision of the future that landed in France (via Top Gear).

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The DS arrived in America, where it was considered a technical marvel and had modest success on the market. Despite its basic design advantages, Citroen always had problems with underpowered four-cylinder engines and complicated mechanics. It sold over 1.5 million examples before production stopped in 1975.

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Panoz Roadster

Younger enthusiasts don’t remember the name Panoz. But back in the ’90s, this company was one of the best-known limited production American brands. Finding success in racing, Panoz was one of those brands which offered a lot of racing technologies in street-legal vehicles. It made them favorites with fans of performance driving (via Motor Biscuit).

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The Roadster model was introduced in the early ’90s and represented the modern-day version of the legendary Shelby Cobra. Panoz used a lot of Ford Mustang components including the engine, drivetrain, and suspension. It gave the Roadster 300 HP and brutal performance.

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BMW Isetta 600

The Isetta was a tiny, two-seat Kei car produced by BMW in the ’50s as the base model, which helped them survive harsh post-war years. But during the Isetta production run, BMW introduced a bigger and more spacious version called the Isetta 600 (via BMW Group Classic).

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It had three doors (two on the side and one in front), a bigger 600 cc engine, and more space. However, it was more expensive than the standard Isetta and not as successful as the smaller model. It stayed on the market for two-and-a-half years and is obscure today.

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Qvale Mangusta

The late ’90s brought Qvale as a new player on the international sports car scene. The project started as a De Tomaso concept but continued as a Qvale since De Tomaso went out of business. Under the sleek and modern design, there were quite a few Ford Mustang parts, including a 4.6-liter V8 engine and dashboard (via Top Gear).

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The most exciting feature of this car was the roof. Each Mangusta was also a coupe, Targa, and a convertible thanks to an interesting retractable hard top system that allowed several positions.

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Ford Durango

Close to all drivers know about the Dodge Durango, a popular SUV currently on sale. However, did you know that Ford offered a model with the same name over 40 years ago? It was a strange vehicle, similarly conceived like the Ranchero but smaller and based on the Fox-body chassis. It was kind of a Fox-body Mustang pickup (via MSC Motor City Garage).

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The actual fabrication was performed by a company called National Coach Works. They took Fairmont and chopped it into the pickup, retaining all design cues and 200 CID straight-six engine. Needless to say, the car didn’t do well and production was only around 250 examples from 1979 to 1981.

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Saab 9-4X

The Saab 9-4X was a compact luxury crossover SUV based on Cadillac SRX basis. It was intended as a competitor in the premium field. It was introduced in 2011 just before the company was closed by GM.

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Its very short production run means that only around 800 9-4X were sold. It makes this Saab one of the rarest models ever made by this company and an extremely rare sight on the roads. Most drivers don’t even know the car existed (via Car and Driver).

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GMC Envoy XUV

The GMC Envoy is a fairly popular model and has sold well even in some export markets over the years. However, the XUV version, introduced in 2004, was a different case. Somebody at GM thought combining the SUV with the pickup truck would be great. They made SUVs with removable back roof panels (via Edmunds).

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The XUV was more practical, obviously, but it was more expensive and heavier, and buyers simply didn’t get the idea. It was on the market for only a year.

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Jeep FC

All Jeeps so are capable off-road SUV models with distinctive design (at least on the front end) and signature appearance. However, in 1956, Jeep introduced a strange model called FC (Forward Control). It was a cab-forward, bulldog-style truck with an engine underneath passengers and all-wheel drive (via Silodrome).

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Even though FC was Jeep, it was a capable, rugged, and durable machine. However, the market just didn’t respond as well, and in 9 years of production, Jeep made just around 30,000 of them, primarily for export markets.

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Chrysler Turbine

During the early ’60s, Chrysler invested in turbine car testing. At the moment, this kind of engine (similar to jet aircraft engines) made sense as the future of the internal combustion engine. After the extensive testing in laboratories and test tracks, there came a time when Chrysler needed valuable real-life data. So it built 55 cars and sent them to Italy’s Ghia design house to get hand-made bodies (via Car and Driver).

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The extensive program lasted for two years, during which cars covered millions of miles and were tested in various conditions. Finally, Chrysler abandoned the project and scraped all 55 cars. It had to pay the import duties as they were Italian products. However, due to fortunate circumstances, nine cars survived today in museums and private collections throughout America.

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