Izay Ayesha takes a look as some idiosyncratic designs
Some More Strange Cars – Human innovation leaves no area of activities unexplored and its intentions usually are to experiment with products they design and build. There are some weird cars manufactured by auto makers that have aroused widespread curiosity.
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.
When the Germans conquered France in 1940 they promptly stole most of the country’s cars. 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 did not catch on and just the single examples made, used by Arzens until his death in 1990.
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.
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.
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 maneuverability 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. The Weekender