There are few things in the world more freeing than a car that you love. Even if the ride itself is less than stellar, there’s a connection between us and our favorite vehicle that is unlike what we feel for other machines. It can be the ultimate extension of our personality — no matter how offbeat that personality may be.
In the 100-plus years that cars have been a part of everyday life, there have been some truly weird ones seen prowling the streets. Whether they were bizarre concept cars, wacky models that actually hit the market or custom builds that are truly one of a kind, these are some of the weirdest cars ever made.
The idea of a car that can be driven into the water and used as a boat is pretty fantastic, but the Amphicar was perhaps too bold for many auto buyers. This silly German car was only sold from 1961 to 1968. It wasn’t the first or last amphibious automobile to hit the market, but it might have been the most stylish. The one you see here is a 1967 model, and there may be no better car for a day of fishing, followed by a night at the drive-in.
Mercedes-Benz Vision AVTR
Concept cars are often a chance for automakers to show off their wildest dreams of what a vehicle could be, as you’ll see in this list. That’s exactly how Mercedes-Benz treated its 2020 concept, the Vision AVTR. Inspired by the blockbuster sci-fi movie “Avatar,” the Vision AVTR definitely looks like something out of a far-fetched film. It’s completely autonomous, so you won’t find any pedals or gearboxes inside, and its butterfly doors are completely clear from top to bottom, giving the passengers a great view as they ride along and wonder what to do with themselves.
Smart Vision EQ Fortwo
If you’ve ever seen a Smart car, you’ve probably thought they look pretty strange, especially if someone of above-average height is in the driver’s seat. But the automaker’s Vision EQ Fortwo concept car, which debuted in 2019, might be its oddest design yet. Like many of today’s concepts, this one is fully autonomous, but what makes it unique is that it’s meant to be used by car sharing services and “hired” by passengers on a per-ride basis, not bought and used daily. If you ask us, it looks like the golf cart of the future.
No, the woman in this picture was not a champion weightlifter when this snapshot was taken. She was simply showing off that the Peel P50 weighed just 130 pounds. This comically small automobile was produced in the early 1960s and emanated from the Isle of Man. The P50 was designed for city dwellers, marketed as being able to haul a single person and a shopping bag. It featured a single headlight, three wheels and no reverse gear, instead offering drivers the ability to physically drag it backward when necessary. We’d hate to even imagine what would happen to it in a crash!
The line between weird and brilliant is razor thin, and the designers at Rinspeed are always straddling it. That Swiss outfit makes far-out concept vehicles every year that never actually enter mass production but show a future for transportation that’s sometimes thrilling and other times simply bizarre. Rinspeed’s 2018 concept, the Snap, almost feels like a life-size Lego car. As you see in this picture, this autonomous ride can be used for public transportation in this iteration — but the pods on top can be replaced with ones that turn it into a cargo mover, a mobile doctor’s office, a rolling sauna or a mix of any two types of vehicle you need.
It could be a game-changer in the near future, but there’s no question it looks pretty weird now.
General Motors Sunraycer
Even the most traditional American automakers are capable of making some pretty wacky cars when they have the notion. Take the Sunraycer, which was made by General Motors in the late 1980s. Looking like something out of a 1950s Martian movie, the Sunraycer was completely powered by the sun, loaded down with nearly 9,000 solar panels and weighing only 350 pounds. All those solar panels helped the Sunraycer reach a top speed of 48 miles per hour in 1988, setting a new world record for sun-powered vehicles at the time.
When you think of an Audi, you probably think of a speedy, minimalist design with precise handling for racing around tight roads. What you probably don’t think of is this off-road monstrosity. The AI:Trail was introduced by the German automaker in 2019 and was marketed as the ultimate ride for lovers of the outdoors. The idea is that you would take the car into the wilderness and let it take you for an autonomously guided, nearly silent ride while you are free to take in the views from its helicopter cabin.
If you’re someone who is terrified of driving in reverse, the Nissan Pivo was made for you. This concept, which was introduced in 2005, was perhaps the ultimate bubble car. Its cabin, which looks like a giant egg, rotates a full 360 degrees, meaning there’s no such thing as reverse. The secret to the Pivo’s unique design was wireless connections between the controls in the cabin and the mechanical parts in the body. The latest updated version of the Pivo was unveiled in 2011, but, unfortunately for millions of 16-year-old kids on the verge of their maneuverability test, it has yet to hit the market.
If you were on the road a lot in the mid-2000s, you might remember seeing a Chevy SSR and wondering exactly what you were looking at. This truly bizarre car — which looked like a mix between a Volkswagen Beetle, a sporty convertible and a pickup truck — debuted in 2003. The SSR (aka the Super Sport Roadster) was known to be pretty speedy but potential buyers apparently just couldn’t get over its goofy look. After weak sales, the car was parked in Chevy’s garage for good after the 2006 model year.
There have been many iterations of the Popemobile since the 1960s, and they’ve all been pretty weird. The Popemobile is usually a pristine, white ride fitted with an open-air seat that’s protected by bulletproof glass. Here, you see a Dodge pickup truck that Pope Francis used as the Popemobile during a 2016 trip to Mexico.
Oscar Mayer Wienermobile
We were going to dub the Popemobile the most beloved weird car on this list, but the Wienermobile has passed it in the standings. How can you top a 27-foot-long hot dog that can actually be driven? Oscar Mayer has been using some variation of the Wienermobile since 1936; the version below is the 1952 model. Several different automakers have contributed the body of this fantastic ride over the years, including Dodge, Chevrolet, GMC and even Mini.
While the Peel P50 was patently ridiculous, the Volkswagen Nils brought the concept of a single-person pod car to the modern era. VW introduced the Nils as a concept car in 2011 and touted it as a perfect car for urban life. It had a motor that weighed just 42 pounds and a total weight of around 1,000 pounds, which is about 500 pounds less than a classic Mini weighed. The fully mechanical steering and its size earned it comparisons to a go-kart from Car And Driver.
When Tesla announced it was unveiling a pickup truck, everyone expected something unique, but they probably weren’t imagining a retro-futuristic paperweight on wheels. The Tesla Cybertruck is the definition of weird design, at least on the outside, as you can see from its 2019 debut. This all-electric pickup is touted as being virtually indestructible, with a stainless-steel structure and armored glass in the windows. It also has a ton of acceleration, reaching 60 miles per hour from zero in 2.9 seconds, according to Tesla. The Cybertruck is expected to roll out in 2022 and pre-orders start at about $40,000.
It took Joe Harmon five years to build his custom Splinter, and the results are nothing short of remarkable — and extremely weird. This high-performance supercar is made entirely of wood, with obvious exceptions like the tires, windows and what’s under the hood. Harmon built the car at his garage in North Carolina on top of a Corvette drivetrain and has shown it off around the world, including at a 2015 auto show in Germany, where you see it here. The Splinter can go more than 200 miles per hour and weighs in at only 2,000 pounds, which is about half the weight of some Lamborghinis.
Super 8 RoadM8
In 2018, the hotel chain Super 8 debuted a vehicle that was made to celebrate its newly redesigned rooms. The Super 8 RoadM8 may look like a typical off-road vehicle, but when you get inside, the weirdness becomes apparent. For starters, the seat upholstery is made of hotel bedding. Its cabin is also loaded with features you’d find in a Super 8 hotel room, including a built-in mini-fridge, coffeemaker and tablet entertainment system.
Trabant Party Car
For more than 30 years, the Trabant was a symbol of communist East Germany. After the reunification of Germany in 1990, Trabants were no longer produced, but a brilliant mind decided to turn one into perhaps the ultimate party car. This 36-foot long car was built in 1997 and features a built-in swimming pool and beer garden. It was made of multiple cars that were connected and had the tops cut off. The Trabant has been called “the worst car ever,” but this version is the definition of weird and wonderful.
You would have to be insane to drive the Bluebird-Proteus CN7 — and that’s exactly how some people would describe Donald Campbell. The holder of multiple world records for speed on land and water during his lifetime, Campbell had the CN7 built in 1960 in order to conquer the record books. This gas turbine-powered behemoth weighed more than 8,000 pounds but was able to reach speeds of more than 400 miles per hour. This completely impractical car set the land-speed record in 1964 at Australia’s Lake Eyre.
When Toyota unveiled its concept Fun-Vii in 2011, it was described by the company as a smartphone on wheels. That’s an odd way to describe your car, but it was essentially true. As you can see, the exterior of the car can be used to display images of the driver’s choosing and the color of the interior can also be changed at the touch of a button. In addition to simply looking strange, the Fun-Vii also had room for just three passengers, only adding to its weirdness factor.
We could’ve filled this list with Rinspeed concepts but, at the very least, we had to include the legendary Squba. This 2008 model was inspired by the 1977 James Bond film “The Spy Who Loved Me,” which saw the secret agent use his car as a submarine. It took a couple decades but the team at Rinspeed built a gorgeous little ride that can dive to about 30 feet underwater and be controlled by the driver (or diver?), thanks to a rotating license plate that acts as the propeller. The Squba also produced zero emissions, since it ran on rechargeable batteries.
This custom build looks like something you’d see tearing across a desert road in “Mad Max.” The Monster Bike was built by a German man named Tilo Niebel and it set the Guinness World Record for heaviest motorcycle in 2009. This nearly 18-foot long and nearly 8-foot tall beast weighs in at more than 10,000 pounds with its sidecar attached. What’s powering all that weight to keep moving, you ask? The engine from an old Russian tank.
Wind-Up Mini Car
On the other end of the spectrum of record-breaking rides is British builder Perry Watkins’ Wind-Up Mini Car. This adult-size Hot Wheels car set the record for the world’s smallest car by measuring at 41 inches tall, 51 inches long and 26 inches wide. The Wind-Up Mini Car is actually street legal, packs seatbelts and can get up to 37 miles per hour — but, sadly, the wind-up key on the back doesn’t actually work. Watkins also set a new world record for fastest piece of furniture (??) by turning a dining room table into a dragster that could go 130 miles per hour.
If you look closely at this picture of the BMW GINA’s hood, you’ll see what makes this unique concept car one of the weirdest ever build. The exterior of this sports car, which was unveiled in 2008, consists of a durable, water-resistant fabric. The point of this wild innovation was to give the driver complete control over the shape of the car, which can be changed on a whim. The aluminum frame beneath that fabric is controlled by hydraulics, allowing it to morph.
General Motors EN-V
At the turn of the last decade, self-driving cars were considered the wave of the future, and that led us to some truly weird designs, like this one. The General Motors EN-V, which stood for Electric Networked-Vehicle, debuted in 2010. It sort of looks like you’re riding in a giant Power Ranger helmet, which probably sounds cooler on paper than in reality. This all-electric car could be driven manually or autonomously and it stood on just two wheels. The system that allowed it to stay balanced was designed with help from Segway, making for a couple of strange automotive bedfellows.
Ever wondered how many AA batteries it would take to run a car? Some Japanese engineers figured it out by building the Oxyride Racer, which was powered by 194 AA batteries. You might think it would be a glorified remote-controlled car with that kind of power system but the Oxyride Racer was able to hit 75 miles per hour in 2007, setting a Guinness World Record for speed among cars powered by dry cell batteries. As you can see from the driver’s position, it’s not exactly roomy and it weighs just 84 pounds.
When a car’s appearance is described as “futuristic” by its maker, it’s usually not a good sign. That’s how Fiat described the Multipla, when it debuted in 1996, and, to many, it simply looked weird. The Telegraph once compared its bubbly shape to “a psychotic cartoon duck” but the reviews of its interior and driving were mostly positive. The Multipla underwent major design changes in 2004 and was part of Fiat’s line until the 2010 model year, making it one of the more successful weird cars on this list.