5 Automotive Oddballs

Future classics or manufacturing mishaps? You be the judge!

There have been several cars released in recent memory that many have looked at and thought … why?

They in this case could refer to either the manufacturer (for making such a thing) or the owner (for willingly forking over the cash to buy such a thing).

Oddballs of the automotive world often end up unloved and offered for sale cheap on used car lots and automotive forums. Their current owners sing their praises using descriptors such as “unique” and “rare” but to most prospective buyers they are “strange” and “quirky.”

Here are 5 “unique” examples of “quirky” autos that could turn out to be future classic cars.

Subaru XT (1985 – 1991)

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At its time of release in 1985, the wedge-shaped Subaru XT was the most aerodynamic production car available for sale in the United States. With flat door handles, an air suspension that lowered at speed and a single windshield wiper that tucked beneath the hood when not in use, the XT made slicing through the air its top priority.

The combination of a 2 door coupe body style, available four wheel drive and a boxer-style turbocharged engine made it even more unusual, as this configuration was extremely uncommon in any car not hailing from Stuttgart or Modena. It wasn’t until a few years later that Japanese competitors caught up with Subaru when the Toyota Celica All-Trac Turbo and Mitsubishi Eclipse GSX made similar four wheel drive / turbo configurations available to U.S. buyers.

Volkswagen EOS (2006 – Present)

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Photo credit: Erik Baeumlisberger.

As Volkswagen’s first production non-Golf 2 door coupe since the already classic Corrado, the EOS had very big shoes to fill.

Like the outgoing Cabrio, the EOS is considered both outside and inside the United States to be a hairdresser’s car, but the addition of the 2.0L turbocharged engine and dual-clutch DSG transmission (both borrowed from hot hatch sibling GTI) make the EOS a fun car to drive quickly. The turbo power combined with a “unique” power-retracting 5 piece glass top convertible roof has put smiles on the faces on more than a few skeptical drivers and unsuspecting passengers.

 

 

BMW M Coupe (1998 – 2002)

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The M division is well known throughout the enthusiast world as being the in-house tuning arm of Bayerische Motoren Werke (BMW). As such, its existence is dependent upon buyers’ continued willingness to shell out a premium for faster, lower and wider vehicles.

Occasionally, the M division diverts its attention away from performance and towards styling. The M Coupe’s shooting brake design takes cues from classic British and Italian cars, which sounds like a good thing. But in reality, this car has adopted the nickname clown shoe due to its resemblance of, well, a clown’s shoe.

Aside from the love-it-or-hate-it styling (which actually resulted from the engineering team’s attempt to make the car handle better) the BMW M Coupe is a competent sports car with massive rear tires and howling engine that draws crowds at local meets all over the world.

 

Merkur XR4Ti (1985-1989)

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The XR4Ti was assembled by hand in Germany and sold domestically by Ford dealerships who agreed to operate a Merkur franchise. Essentially a reworked European Ford Sierra XR4i, the XR4Ti received a Brazilian built 2.3L four cylinder turbocharged engine instead of the V6 found in the XR4i. U.S. safety laws accounted for several slight visual differences, including the distinctive bi-plane spoiler, which was unique to the U.S. market.

The XR4Ti was both expensive (about $40k in today’s money) and quick, but failed to sell in significant numbers. Last year, Top Gear referred to a group of cars that included the XR4Ti as misunderestimated. We couldn’t agree more.

 

Shelby GLHS (1986-1987)

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Ok, so you’ll probably be able to find an EOS without much trouble. An M Coupe or XR4Ti will take some doing, but far from impossible. Most XTs, though, have long since succumbed to rust. That brings us to the above–a Shelby GLHS. We doubt if you’ll ever find (much less ever see) one. Only 500 were ever made.

Fun was at the heart of this car. Based on the Dodge Omni GLH (GLH standing for Goes Like Hell) it’s easy to see why the Shelby GLHS (standing for Goes Like Hell S’more) made our list. Like the XR4Ti, even its name is “quirky.”

The GLHS was powered by a 2.2L turbocharged engine, which produced 175HP. This was a big number in those days, especially for a hatchback. By comparison, the turbocharged boxer in the XT managed only 112HP.

The Shelby tuned motor was enough to propel the car to 60mph in 6.5 seconds, which is roughly the equivalent of a modern day non-DSG Volkswagen GTI. For owners that wanted even more power, MOPAR offered a Performance Stage II computer upgrade that pushed engine output to 205HP. The Super 60 Kit was good for 300HP.

Editor’s note: What are some of your ideas for future classic cars? What used car lot rescues are parked in your driveway? Please share in the comments below.

 

Five automotive legends making a comeback

We know that our readers are nostalgic about cars. There’s probably not one among you that doesn’t remember the new car your dad or uncle brought home that one summer day. You remember how it smelled, how the engine and exhaust sounded and how cool it felt to get picked up or dropped off from school in it.

For many of us, that make and model is no longer being produced. And if it is, it’s probably nothing like it was in those days … but maybe that’s a good thing! Here are five automotive legends that we can’t wait to make it back onto showroom floors.

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Audi Quattro

Original production run: 1980 – 1991
Estimated re-release: 2015

The original Audi Quattro was a road going rally car designed for trips to the shoppes rather than backwoods hooning.

As a Group B rally racer, the Quattro was a formidable foe. The name Quattro was derived from the Italian word for four, which indicated the presence of all wheel drive. The advantage of all four wheels driven (vs. two wheels on competing racers) meant more power could be put down to the ground. During the final year of Group B, the inline five cylinder turbocharged engine was making nearly 600 horsepower.

The production Quattro may have shared its rally cousin’s engine configuration and styling, but not it’s insanely high engine output. Power hovered around the 200 horsepower mark during its entire production run.

In the last few years, Audi has teased us (twice!) with concept versions of a new Quattro. The latest Audio Quattro teaser came in 2013 with a spectacular hybrid powertrain promising 700 horsepower delivered to all four wheels.

We’re sure we could make room for either version of this Group B legend in our garage.

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Lotus Esprit

Original production run: 1976 – 2004
Estimated re-release: Uncertain

Vivian: Man, this baby must corner like it’s on rails!
Edward: Beg your pardon?
Vivian: Well, doesn’t it blow your mind? This is only four cylinders!

Maybe Julia Roberts (Vivian) didn’t actually drive the Esprit in Pretty Woman (driving scenes with dialouge are often shot through the front glass of a car towed behind a camera truck) but her delivery of the lines above accurately describe two of the Esprit’s many charms.

The first charm – handling. The Esprit was low, wide and light. Weighing just under 2,700 lbs., the Esprit shed weight via exotic material use, including hand (and later vacuum formed) fiberglass and Kevlar (used to strengthen the roof and sides).

The second charm – power. Contributing to the Esprit’s lightness was its diminutive 4 cylinder engine, displacing 2.0 to 2.2L for much of its production run. In turbocharged engine form, the 2.2L engine produced enough power for sub-five second sprints to 60 mph. An all aluminum V8 was offered in 1996.

At the 2010 Paris Auto show, Lotus showed a concept Esprit and rumors of a 2014 production release swirled. Sadly, the Esprit project has been placed on hold for financial reasons.

Our favorite of the run? The Giugiaro designed S3. What’s yours?

Acura_NSX

 

 

 

 

 

 

Acura NSX

Original production run: 1990 – 2005
Estimated re-release: 2015

With the Ferrari 328 set squarely in its sights, Japanese automaker Acura (who was best known for their luxury cars at the time) set out to do the unthinkable – to beat Ferrari at their own game.

With a mid engine layout and an all aluminum monocoque body, Acura created a well balanced car with neutral handling and just enough power (270 to 320 horsepower depending on model and year) to force Ferrari into a response: the more powerful 348.

Unlike Ferrari whose quest to create more and more powerful cars continues to this day, Acura’s NSX changed little throughout production. Any why should it? Formula 1 legend Aryton Senna helped develop it.

The NSX concept debuted in 2012 with production scheduled to start in Marysville, OH during 2014.

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Volkswagen Scirocco

Original production run: 1974 – 1988 (United States)
Estimated re-release: Uncertain (United States)

Like the Esprit, the Scirocco was designed by Guigiaro in the 1970s. Volkswagen needed a sporty coupe to round out their product line. As a replacement for the Karmann Ghia, the Scriocco ditched convertible fun in favor of (what Volkswagen would later refer to as) Fahrvergnügen

Unlike the other cars described here, the Scirocco was no speed demon. The most powerful U.S. version (MkII) produced only 123 horsepower from a normally aspirated 1.8L 4 cylinder engine.

Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on which side of the pond you live on) there is a MkIII version of the Scirocco. Sold only in Europe, this version was named Top Gear’s Car of the Year upon its release.

Will the MkIII Scirocco be brought to the United States? It’s not looking good. U.S. safety requirements prevent its registration here. But there are a few track-only cars we’ve seen stateside that makes us want one even more.

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Toyota Supra

Original production run: 1978 – 2002
Estimated re-release: Uncertain

As the longest running production model here (24 years) the Supra has a long and revered history, albeit not one that is based on a factory-backed racing pedigree.

For its entire run, the Supra was powered by an inline 6 cylinder engine. Power output ranged from a modest 110 horsepower in 1978 to a tire shredding 300 horsepower produced by the twin sequential turbocharged engine (2JZ) found in the mid-90s (and beyond) models.

Unlike other twin-turbo competitors of the time, such as the Mitsubishi 3000GT VR-4, the Supra drove only the rear wheels. It was also lighter than rear wheel drive competitors such as the Nissan 300ZX.

Today, finding an unmodified twin-turbo 2JZ-powered Supra might be more difficult than finding a leprechaun riding a unicorn chasing a chupacabra. But thankfully, a 2015 Supra concept is rumored to debut in Detroit.

 

Editor’s note: Remember those old cars your dad and uncles brought home when you were a kid? Which automotive legends do you wish could be re-imagined using today’s technology? Let us know in the comments below!