Some cars are works of art. Some aren’t. Some are just so atrociously awful, so blindingly bad, or so pathetically peculiar that it’s hard to believe they ever existed. But here they are, six automotive oddities — the cars you don’t remember yet can’t forget.
#1 – The Bricklin SV-1. Before Marty McFly drove a DeLorean back to the future there was the Bricklin SV-1. The SV stands for Safety Vehicle. Bricklin references its developer: Malcom Bricklin. And the first five letters of Bricklin equate to brick which is what it drove like. It has been noted that the Bricklin had all the acceleration of a float in the Rose Bowl Parade.
The DeLorean similarities are so many (gull-wing doors, futuristic design, sleazy developer) that most people, if they’ve heard of the Bricklin at all, assume it was a cheap rip-off of the DeLorean. They are only half wrong. It wasn’t a ripoff of the DeLorean (the Bricklin was manufactured years before the DeLorean). However, The Bricklin was notorious for its unreliability. It probably didn’t help that many of its major components came from the AMC parts bin.
Launched in 1953 at the Turin Motor Show, the Isetta was produced by various manufacturers until roughly 1962. The Isetta’s most unique feature was its one door, located on the front of the car, not unlike a refrigerator. Which isn’t all that surprising when you consider the Isetta’s original manufacturer used to make refrigerators. You don’t want to think about what could happen to the driver or passenger in a crash, but the car was so small it probably made a good casket.
As time progressed the license to make Isettas was sold to other manufacturers. Using a 1-cylinder engine creating up to 13hp – about the same as a riding lawn mower – the Isetta could get over 50 miles per gallon. Considering its diminutive engine an Isetta might reach 70 miles per hour … if it was dropped from a plane.
Amazingly enough BMW sold 136,767 Isetta’s which simply proves P.T. Barnum was right once again.
#3 – The Dale. In 1973 thirty-seven year old entrepreneur Geraldine Elizabeth Carmichael, engineer (wife of a deceased NASA structural engineer), and mother of five, had a great idea. Build a car that was inexpensive, safe and got great gas mileage. Also make it look really cool, like something the Jetson’s would drive. In her heyday Ms. Carmichael once stated she “would rule the auto industry like a queen.” Which was at least half true.
Sadly almost every word that left Ms. Carmichael’s mouth was a lie – up to and including her womanhood. It was in early 1975 when the company and her life collapsed. Ms. Carmichael was arrested and it was discovered that her given name was Jerry Dean Michael. Mr. Michael had been previously arrested for alleged involvement in a counterfeiting operation but disappeared while out on bail. The five children did actually exist, he fathered them while married to Vivian Barrett. Ironically, he was finally caught and arrested in 1989 in Dale, Texas.
Only three Dales were ever built, two were mockups, the other was a working prototype. And what of the Dale’s designer, Dale Clift? He was left with $1,001 for his prototype and a bounced check for $2,000.
The car company failed, but Gary didn’t give up. Once out of prison he returned to the auto business (sort of); he helped develop bumper cars for amusement parks … which given the Divan’s appearance seems quite logical.
Manufactured by the Davis Motorcar Company from 1947 until 1948 fifteen (some say seventeen) Divans were actually built.
#5 – The Stout Scarab. One look at the Stout Scarab and you know how it got its name — it really sort of looks like a scarab beetle. Built in the 1930s these cars were anything but cheap. Each one was handmade and sold for around $5,000 (about $80,000 in today’s dollars).
At the time of its release the Scarab was considered quite ugly but tastes change and it is now considered an Art Deco classic. Although only a few were made, it is considered by many the inspiration for the minivan. The Scarab featured a removable table and second row seats that swiveled to face the rear.
Only 9 Scarabs were completed but five still exist.
#6 – The Brutsch Mopetta. The Mopetta looks like a sidecar that lost its motorcycle. One of smallest, if not the smallest, cars ever built. It had one seat and was powered by a 49 cc, 2.3 horsepower motor. No mention of the top speed, but it can assumed that the only way you could lose your license would be for it to fall out of your pocket.
In theory Mopetta could float and it was even marketed as a boat. Only 14 were ever made from 1956-58. And could it really float? Apparently not, it wasn’t watertight.