Strange Cars

ByKausar Fatima

Works in an international audit firm and writes for magazines


June 25, 2023

Strange Cars

Kausar Fatima takes a look as some idiosyncratic designs

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.

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.

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 factually 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. The coming to fore of this vehicle is waited with baited breath what the version people will actually be able to buy will look like.

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. Incredibly aerodynamic, it featured a uni-body 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.

In eccentric terms, this car remains unique. 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.

Carver designer Chris van den Brink wanted to marry the comfort and weather-tight abilities of a car to a motorcycle’s maneuverability. 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.

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. The Weekender


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