The most eccentric cars ever

25 May
Toyota Will Vi

Ever felt that the roads are full of boring lookalike tin cans? Ever wanted to break free and drive something that’s, well, just different to everything else? You could be an automotive eccentric. Here are 10 of the strangest cars ever offered to the public.
Normally sensible Toyota went totally doolally in 2000 when it began selling the Will Vi in Japan. Looking like a cross between a wheely bin and a Dalek, its wilfully weird styling included ‘pod’ style front and rear wings, styling ‘ribs’ that look liked corrugated iron and a Ford Anglia-inspired reverse-angle rear screen. But underneath all the weirdness lay nothing more exotic than Yaris 1.3 automatic mechanicals.
Citroen 2CV

Beloved of French farmers in the 1950s and deified by eco-warriors in the 1980s, Citroen’s 2CV was eccentricity personified. The ‘tin snail’ was slow and ultra-basic but still rather brilliant. Every opening panel could be slid off its flanges, including the doors, boot and bonnet. All the seats could be taken out and turned into picnic furniture. And there were only two springs in the whole suspension system, one on each side of the car.

Volkswagen 181 ‘The Thing’

The Americans officially called VW’s WW2-inspired 181 jeep ‘The Thing’. That was less of a mouthful than the official label (‘Mehrzweck-Fahrzeug/Kurierwagen’, or multi-purpose/delivery vehicle). The Beetle-chassised four-door soft-top was basic in the extreme. Despite the German army being the main client, ‘Things’ had a brief spell of popularity with 1970s hippies.

Mohs Ostentatienne Opera Sedan

Bruce Baldwin Mohs was a true American eccentric. A seaplane builder, he diversified into making monstrous safety cars with the outlandish Ostentatienne Opera Sedan in 1968. This larger-than-life car had an 8.7-litre V12 fire appliance engine, massive 20-inch wheels (four decades before they became fashionable), bumpers the size of girders, a single rear door and seats designed to pivot to the horizontal in the event of a collision.

Jehle Saphier

This is what happens if the air is too thin when you try and design a car. Hailing from the tiny Alpine principality of Liechtenstein, the 1982 Jehle Saphier looked like a wedge of Emmenthal cheese. A large canopy swung upwards for entry for three passengers sitting abreast, and the pivoting side windows could be used for emergency exits. Originally designed for a VW Beetle chassis, Jehle even offered a mid-engined model with a 500bhp Ford V8. Scary stuff.

Nissan Cube

Proving that it’s not always hip to be square, Nissan’s Cube may have lived up to squared-off name in Japan, but didn’t cut it with European audiences and it was axed within 10 months of going on sale. Its funky, edgy shape was asymmetrical, but it looked too much like a fridge on wheels for British buyers. The Cube also has one of the strangest optional extras of all time: a piece of astroturf stuck on top of the dashboard.

Covini C6W

Why would anyone need six wheels? According to this car’s creator, Italian Ferruccio Covini, having four front wheels improves braking, comfort and stability. You can now find out for yourself if this is true — as long as you’ve got £700,000 to spend, that is: this is how much the 440bhp, 185mph Covini C6W costs in the UK.

Mini Moke

A car you sit on, rather than in, the Mini Moke was an attempt to make a budget British military vehicle in the 1960s. Its tiny 10-inch wheels offered almost no ground clearance, so the army had no use for it. So BLMC decided to sell it to the public instead, who were equally baffled. The windscreen could be folded flat or removed completely because it was designed for cars to be stacked one on top of each other for air drops by the military!

Aurora

Looking like someone’s nightmare has materialised before your very eyes, the extraordinary Aurora was, without question, the ugliest car ever made. Reverse-shaped wings gave the impression that the car was going backwards, and the bizarre forward-jutting bulbous Perspex windscreen supposedly did away with the need for wipers. It was built by a Catholic priest called Father Alfred Juliano in Connecticut, USA in 1958, who was clearly closer to hell than heaven – he was declared bankrupt after using parishioners’ donations to fund the project.

Flipper

French laws encourage tiny moped-powered cars that seem hardly bigger than fleas. The 1978 Flipper was one the oddest of the lot. Shopping trolley styling combined with a 47cc engine that was attached to a pair of very narrow-set front wheels. These could turn, engine and all, through 360 degrees. An indicator on the dashboard told you which direction the wheels were pointing – otherwise you could end up anywhere. And if the engine ran out of puff, which it often did, bicycle pedals were provided for the driver to add his own energy.

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