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15 Muscle Cars With The Weirdest Designs

The history of American automobiles is only complete if we mention the ’60s and ’70s when muscle cars were the most common vehicles on the roads. Manufacturers had to develop aggressive designs to complement the powerful engines of these beasts. But sometimes, these vehicles came up with strange designs to stand out in an overcrowded …
Greg Gjerdingen/Wikimedia

The history of American automobiles is only complete if we mention the ’60s and ’70s when muscle cars were the most common vehicles on the roads. Manufacturers had to develop aggressive designs to complement the powerful engines of these beasts. But sometimes, these vehicles came up with strange designs to stand out in an overcrowded market.

The Bugatti Coupe or the Type 57 Aérolithe

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French automaker Bugatti designed and built this concept car in 1935 to showcase their advanced engineering. It had a shortened Type 57S chassis with a magnesium alloy body, also known as Elektron. This feature made it significantly lighter than other cars of its time. Sadly, the Aérolithe only appeared at a few car shows.

Stout Scarab

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William Bushnell Stout conceived an idea way ahead of its time when aerodynamics wasn’t a thing. The aeronautical engineer built a car with a smooth, teardrop-shaped profile to minimize wind resistance. He also placed the engine at the rear to improve weight distribution and give the driver more visibility. Scarabs are incredibly rare and valuable collector’s items today.

Plymouth Prowler

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The design drew inspiration from classic hot rods and muscle cars of the 1930s, particularly roadsters like the Ford Thunderbird and Chevrolet Corvette. Although it was under the Plymouth brand, they borrowed most of its parts from a Chrysler vehicle. Surprisingly, the Prowler was relatively lightweight due to its aluminum chassis and body panels, contrasting its hefty look.

1934 Voisin C-25 Aerodyne

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French aviation pioneer and car manufacturer Gabriel Voisin designed the C-25 Aerodyne during the Art Deco. He kept the weight down with lightweight aluminum, contributing to its performance and efficiency. He added uncommon features like a pneumatic retractable roof and a radial engine, similar to those used in aircraft. The interior had luxurious amenities like adjustable shock absorbers and Lalique ashtrays.

Lotus Europa

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This distinct GT car was built by British automaker Lotus Cars. The engineers placed its engine behind the driver and passenger compartment before the rear axle. Based on the founder Colin Chapman’s philosophy of “simplify, then add lightness,” the Europa was built with a lightweight backbone chassis covered in fiberglass body panels. Also, it was one of the first cars with Renault engines, twin-cam technology, and a four-wheel-drive.

1932 Ford Speedster

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The 1932 Speedster is a custom creation commissioned by Edsel Ford, son of Henry Ford and the company’s president. He reportedly drew inspiration from European sports cars he had seen and wanted a sporty vehicle for personal use. After Edsel passed, Ford House bought the car for $770,000 after restoration at an auction.

1966 Rolls Royce FAB 1

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The FAB 1 isn’t an actual Rolls Royce model! This piece was a fictional car featured in the 1960s British television series “Thunderbirds” and its subsequent film adaptations. When Rolls-Royce brought the concept to life to promote the film and convey the author Gerry Anderson and his wife Sylvia to the premiere, the unique six-wheeled car broke down.

1963 Chevrolet Impala RPO Z11

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The “Lightweight” was a high-performance machine with a monstrous 427 cubic inch (7.0 liter) V8 engine. The Z11 also had a high-performance camshaft, dual four-barrel carburetors, and a high compression ratio to produce a whopping 430 HP. These features made it the most rugged and classy muscle car of the 60s. Estimates suggest Chevrolet built around 57 Z11s, making them highly collectible today.

1955 Chrysler Streamline X Gilda

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In 1955, Italian design house Ghia collaborated with Chrysler to build the Streamline X. Since they built it during the “Jet Age,” it had a sleek, low-slung profile with a pointed nose cone and angled lines to reduce wind resistance. However, the “Gilda,” named by Giovanni Savonuzzi after the Rita Hayworth film noir classic, wasn’t intended for production and remained a concept car.

Dodge Coronet Hemi Sedan

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The most surprising aspect of the Coronet Hemi Sedan was its engine. On the outside, it appeared to be a regular family car, lacking the aggressive looks and spoilers of the muscle cars; however, the mighty 426 cubic inch (7.0 liter) Hemi V8 rivaled machines like the Charger and Challenger. Despite its intriguing potential as the fastest four-door in that period, Dodge stopped its production in 1966.

Peel P50

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This fascinating microcar holds the title of the smallest production car ever made, according to the 2010 Guinness World Records. When you ignore safety, function, and practicality so you can squeeze into small parking spaces, you end up designing the Peel P50. This car is only 54 inches (134 centimeters) long and 39 inches (99 centimeters) wide, accommodating only the driver.

Ford Mustang McLaren M81

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The M81 was a fascinating and short-lived collaboration between Ford and McLaren Engines, a subsidiary of the renowned British Formula One team. Unlike most Mustangs that relied on V8 engines, the M81 had a turbocharged 2.3-liter inline-four cylinder engine. According to Ford, the lessons learned from the car’s development and performance testing laid the groundwork for their Special Vehicle Operations (SVO) division of the early 1980s.

Vanguard-Sebring CitiCar

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This unique electric car coincided with the 1973 oil crisis, a period of rising fuel costs and growing interest in alternative energy sources. Although it wasn’t the first of its kind, the CitiCar was relatively affordable and practical for consumers who wanted alternatives to gasoline-powered cars. However, sales were low because nobody wanted to ride in a vehicle with minimal safety features.

1953 General Motors Firebird 1 XP-21

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The Firebird 1 ran on a revolutionary gas turbine engine nicknamed “Whirlfire Turbo-Power.” However, fuel efficiency and reliability were major issues as this single-seater expelled exhaust fumes at 1,250 degrees. Today, a miniature version of the car graces the top of the Harley J. Earl Trophy, awarded to the prestigious Daytona 500 stock car race winner.

1970 Ferrari-Pininfarina Modulo

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Paolo Martin’s striking design for Pininfarina made the Modulo look more like a futuristic spaceship than a car. He kept it low to the ground (only 35 inches tall!) to reduce wind resistance and improve handling. Instead of conventional doors, the driver entered through a forward-tilting canopy, much like an aircraft. The Modulo has won 22 design awards since its first appearance at the 1970 Geneva Motor Show.