If you take a look at the increasingly lengthy history of automobile design, you’ll see some of the weirdest cars ever made. The designers that worked on such projects had one goal in mind — to come up with something that would be so radically different that it would make everything else obsolete in an instant.
As with most such ideas, they didn’t pan out to be commercially successful like the ones you’ll find on KBB, or BCP; they are usually hindered by some sort of issue with practicality or pricing. The most interesting among the weird cars rarely went past the concept car stage. Still, we’re going to take a look at the most interesting examples out there. Without any ado, let’s dive right into it!
1936 Stout Scarab
Our first pick is our darling and the one that we’ll focus the most over the course of this article. Let’s just say that you won’t find the 1936 Stout Scarab among the best car deals at your local dealership. This came out of the mind of designer William Stout. He was the head of his own engineering lab in Michigan.
The Stout Scarab was supposed to be the car that brought a new range of vision to the driver, from absolutely every angle. Plus, the car’s purpose was to simultaneously be safer than the other cars on the market, but also more efficient and lighter. All in all, it promised an easy ride, with roominess that didn’t come at the expense of maneuverability.
Interestingly enough, Stout was not originally an automotive engineer. In fact, he was a pioneer in the field of aircraft design. One of his most famous works was the Ford Tri-Motor. This meant that Stout’s car work was infused with a profound sense of aerodynamics.
The Scarab model he ultimately came up with had almost no resemblance to the other cars found on the roads of the Great Depression. Even the Chrysler Airflow model that was intentionally futuristic seemed somewhat tame compared to the distinct teardrop profile of the unique Scarab.
While the car would seem quite long at first glance, it was not actually that startling compared to other cars of the era. The wheelbase of 135 inches was longer than standard, but its overall length was similar to that of a Pontiac from 1936. The engine was a rear-mounted Ford flathead V8.
The interior is where the Scarab’s uniqueness truly shines. The car had multiple seats — but only the driver’s seat was actually fixed in place. The other seats were free to be moved around the spacious flat floor. In fact, the car contained a foldable table that the chairs could be arranged around.
In the end, experts estimate that no more than nine cars were built according to this model. Though, records show that the early owners actually drove them regularly. A collector from Wisconsin has two models, and one of them has crossed more than 120,000 miles!
Still, the Scarab is a car that definitely makes a ruckus and attracts attention wherever it appears. For a car of its age, the existing models provide for an exceptionally stable and smooth drive. This is particularly stark when compared with Ford from 1936.
So, was the Scarab a car ahead of its time? Definitely! Although its more radical design solutions wouldn’t enter the mainstream ever again, it’s still an interesting weird car that people are excited to see.
1942 Oeuf électrique
Our next weird vehicle comes out of WWII Paris — the 1943 “electric egg”, as is its literal translation into English. This is definitely one of the most incredible cars here, at least for the fact that it ran on electric batteries in 1942! This three-wheeled egg monstrosity used batteries long after the mainstream adopted gasoline as the accepted car propellent.
The designer of this intriguing car was not an engineer by trade — he was a painter, though he would eventually move onto designing locomotives for the local railways during the war. At some point, he moved onto car design. The egg-like bubble was hand-crafted with curved Plexiglass and aluminum; the former of which was still novel at the time.
1947 Norman Timbs
One of the first post-war weird cars is the Norman Timbs from 1947; definitely unlike most things that you’ve seen before. It’s got a cockpit mounted at the front, with curves going back to form a raindrop-ish tail.
The eponymous Timbs is one of the more professional car designers on this list — he was an engineer in the Indy races. This odd ride comes in at just 47 inches in height, pushing a 117-inch wheelbase and a total length of 17 feet.
We’re also looking at an aluminum skin placed over a tube-frame chassis. All in all, the total weight comes in at mere 2,200 lbs. The Norbam Timbs is powered by a mid-engine Buick straight-eight utilizing dual carburetors. All in all, this puppy can reportedly speed it up to 120 miles per hour.
General Motors Firebird
There’s perhaps no more aptly named car than the Firebird from General Motors. Originally built back in 1953, this isn’t so much of a car as it is a jet fighter with wheels. No, we’re not kidding — it’s a bonafide jet with a bubble cockpit and four wheels. At the time when it was produced, its 360 horsepower was astounding.
In total, four Firebird concepts were introduced between 1953 and 1964; the latter three were a bit odd as well, but it’s the first one that lands this series a spot on our list. Essentially, the Firebird 1 was a jet airplane on wheels. It became the first-ever car powered via a gas turbine to be tested in the US. The jet-like design was anything but practical, featuring the bubble-topped canopy placed over a cockpit with a single seat.
Chrysler 1955 Gilda
The famous 1955 Chrysler Gilda got its half-official nickname from a movie with Rita Hayworth which came out a decade before. While it was originally intended to have a jet turbine engine, this plan was scrapped in favor of a touring 1.5-liter engine. It’s the precursor to Chrysler’s short-lived attempt at turbine cars.
We are once again looking at a vehicle inspired by the looks and vibe of a jet plane. It is known for inspiring some of the most famous designers of all time, such as Bruno Sacco of the Mercedes-Benz fame, as well as the late great Strother MacMinn. Widely considered among the top USS designers and teachers in the field, Strother himself called the Gilda “one of the ten most significant show cars ever built.” That, in addition to being one of the weirdest cars ever made.
We hope that this guide was useful to you and that you’ve learned something new today. Make sure you are staying safe and have a good one, guys!