Most automobiles ever produced are relatively unoffensive and have a sense of normality behind them as this is what most people want. These days, it is difficult to tell the Mercedes-Benz C-Class from the E-Class as they are both designed to look ‘normal’.
That being said, the idea of controversial and innovative automotive designs are returning to the motoring world as automakers try to stand out from the mundane crowd. The current leader of the pack is Hyundai with their Ioniq and Genesis models. If we look to the past, we find multiple vehicles which tried something different – with varying results. Take the Chevrolet SSR or Subaru SVX. Both were completely new designs and while they weren’t all that well received, they pushed the boundaries of automotive design. The BMW Z1 featured retractable doors, the Alfa Romeo SZ was pretty ugly but awesome and the Lamborghini LM002 had a marine engine powering it.
The motoring world is full of instances where automakers pushed the boundaries of engineering and design – either to be interesting or to make a lot of money. Here are eight of the craziest production cars to come straight from the factory.
8/8 Chevrolet SSR
The Chevrolet SSR was a pickup truck marketed by the American automotive giant in the early 2000s. It was based on the same platform used for the TrailBlazer, Oldsmobile Bravada, and SAAB 9-7X. The SSR initially launched with a 300 hp 5.3-liter V8, before getting a 390 hp 6.0-liter V8 upgrade in 2005.
The SSR was a crazy vehicle – mostly thanks to the styling. It was inspired by the Chevrolet Advance Design pickups of the late 1940s, but with a modern touch. It was rear-drive only and had a power retractable hardtop roof. The name SSR stands for Super Sport Roadster. How that meant ‘pickup truck’ is beyond us.
7/8 BMW Z1
The BMW Z1 was the German company’s first solely roadster model and was the first of the Z-name vehicles produced by BMW. The Z1 was sold between 1989 and 1991 with over 8,000 units produced and was based on a modified version of the E30 3 Series platform, featuring the excellent M20B25 2.5-liter straight-6.
The Z1 had quite an interesting design, but the most eye-catching feature was the retractable doors. Yes, the Z1 didn’t have conventional doors, but rather ones that descended into the floor. The side sills were thicker than necessary, creating such strong crash protection that the Z1 could legally be driven with the doors down.
6/8 Alfa Romeo SZ
The Alfa Romeo SZ may be considered one of the ugliest cars out there, but it is praised for its driving dynamics and engine noise. The SZ – Sprint Zagato – was designed by Alfa Romeo and Lancia, with the styling being outsourced to Zagato. The car was sold between 1989 and 1991, before the convertible RZ – Roadster Zagato – took over until 1994.
The engine of choice was a 3.0-liter version of the famous Alfa Romeo Busso V6, producing around 207 hp. Power was sent to the rear wheels via a 5-speed manual and performance was quite good, due to the 2,700 lbs weight – 3,000 for the RZ. The SZ was a ridiculous vehicle but is now on almost every collector’s list.
5/8 Renault Alpine GTA
The Renault Alpine GTA is an extremely weird vehicle. It is a 2+2 coupe, but the engine is in the rear. An accolade that the GTA acquired was that it became the vehicle with the lowest drag coefficient of its time, sitting at just 0.28Cd – good even by today’s standards.
The GTA featured the awful PRV 2.85-liter V6 – the same engine used in the DMC DeLorean – but got a turbocharged 2.5-liter later in life. The Renault Alpine GTA was and still is, one of the most interesting French cars – even though French cars are among the most interesting anyway.
4/8 Subaru SVX
The Subaru SVX is an interesting car in every sense. From the obvious styling and window situation to the engine and even the driveline, the SVX is an experiment in automotive design and engineering. Due to the weird windows and overall styling, the SVX featured a drag coefficient of 0.285Cd.
The engine was a 3.3-liter boxer-6 which mostly powered all four wheels but only went to the front wheels in the lower trims – most of which had all-wheel-drive as an option. Unfortunately, the only transmission choice was a 4-speed automatic. The SVX had multiple advanced electronics such as a limp-home mode, an electric rev limiter, and a 1990s version of torque vectoring. It was quite an advanced machine for the time.
3/8 Lamborghini LM002
Before Lamborghini produced the ridiculous Urus super SUV, they made military-grade 4x4s for the Italian army. The first was the LM001 used as a prototype which morphed into the production version of the LM002. The LM002 was sold between 1986 and 1993, with only 326 units ever made.
Powering this behemoth was the 5.2-liter V12 from the Countach – fitted in the front rather than the middle. The 5.2-liter had adequate power but overheated often. As a result, Lamborghini offered their 7.2-liter marine V12 as an option for those wanting more power and reliability. As a result of the nature of the vehicle, many have come to call it the ‘Rambo Lambo’ for obvious reasons.
2/8 Bond Bug
The Bond Bug is one of the weirdest small cars ever made. Produced by Bond Cars Limited – a division of the Reliant Motor Company – the Bond Bug was a 900 lb microcar with a 0.7 or 0.75-liter inline-4 engine and a 4-speed manual transmission. The most striking part of the Bond Bug was the fact that it only had three wheels, just like the Reliant Robin.
The Bond Bug produced around 30 hp and could do an astonishing 76 mph flat out. It was the car of choice when Richard Hammond and James May built an amphibious vehicle for Jeremy Clarkson to beat the UK amphibious vehicle water speed record. It was also the vehicle used as the basis for Luke Skywalker’s Landspeeder in the first Star Wars film.
1/8 Mercedes-Benz G63 AMG 6x6
The Mercedes-Benz G-Wagon is already a ridiculous vehicle, but then the Germans from Stuttgart went one step further and added another axle and a bed to it. The result was the G63 AMG 6x6 – a mammoth vehicle with five locking differentials, an onboard air compressor, and enough ground clearance to wade through the fake river at a resort.
The G63 6x6 is an exercise in excess, taking something already silly and making it completely unnecessary in almost every way. Mercedes-Benz unveiled it to the world at an eye-watering $650,000. Brabus then upped the game further and reupholstered the interior and changed the carbon fiber and sold multiple units at over $2 million. The Mercedes-Benz G63 AMG 6x6 is one of the craziest production cars to ever come straight from the factory.