Some cars instantly become household names. Usually, this is due to outstanding affordability, efficiency, or power. But throughout history, there have also been plenty of rare and unusual vehicles you may or may not have heard of. From concept cars to limited production runs, these in-demand collector's cars are some of the most inspired designs in history.
The world's smallest car is the Peel P50. The Peel P50 came on the scene in the 1960s and measured a tiny 54 inches long and 41 inches wide. Today, some 50 are estimated to still be on the road, but they won't be getting anywhere fast: This microcar is only capable of reaching speeds of 40 mph. Manufactured in the Isle of Man, UK, the car had a single door and one headlight.
Also known as the Tucker Torpedo, the Tucker 48 was supposed to be a revolutionary car. However, creator Preston Tucker went bankrupt after the company built just 51 of them. The car had all the latest features, including a third headlight for lighting up corners, a padded dashboard, and a pop-out windshield. Originally the Tucker 48 was set to go on sale at $1,000 but hit the market at $4,000 instead.
Despite being made for just four years in the 1960s, the Amphicar still feels like a car of the future. It can reach 70 mph on land, and 7 knots on water. Yes, this car has twin propellers and retractable wheels. Around 4,000 Amphicars were made, and they quickly became popular with celebrities like President Lyndon B. Johnson. While, at first, the Amphicar seemed like a fun ride, after being in the water, it needed greasing in 13 places, making it pretty difficult to maintain.
Between 1955 and 1975, Citroen manufactured the Citroen DS. Innovative for its time, the car had hydraulic suspension and powered steering—now standard on today's cars. It was also one of the first cars ever made with disc brakes. The DS was heralded for its futuristic design and became a popular choice for car rallying. In 1999, the Global Automotive Elections Foundation placed the car third in The Car of the Century awards, and it's recognized as one of the most influential auto designs in history.
Made from recycled materials, the Trabant could have been built today. VEB, an East German car manufacturer, designed four Trabant models, and over 3 million were produced. However, despite its eco-friendly beginnings, the car wasn't so sustainable after all. Its unique design did not lend itself to great performance. When the Berlin Wall came down, most people abandoned them for something a little more reliable. The Trabant only reached 60 mph and would billow smoke at higher speeds.
Another car created by Preston Tucker, the Tucker Carioca converted into a helicopter. Although it was only ever built as a concept car, the hope was that the vehicle would reach 150 mph at a height of 10,000 feet. To transform the car into a helicopter, the rotor would attach to the roof with detachable wings.
Made in the 1960s, the Peel Trident was slightly larger than the P50—just 72 inches by 42 inches. While the Peel P50 had just one seat, the Trident allowed for travel with a passenger. The car had three wheels and ran using a 49cc two-stroke engine. The Trident was another car with a small production run—only 45 were ever made—so it's a hot asset for collectors. Peel Engineering Ltd. actually reinstated the production of the P50 and the Trident in 2011. Both cars are now only made to order.
You've probably heard of the DeLorean from the classic movie "Back to the Future." But did you know it was a real car? The DMC-12 production line ran for just two years, between 1981 and 1983, so it's a real collectible. The iconic car has 130 horsepower and a V6 engine in the back, rather than the front. Perhaps the most notable feature is the doors that open up and the stainless steel body panels.
The Messerschmitt KR200 is a German car made between 1955 and 1964. The unique car had three wheels and a two-stroke engine. It could reach up to 56 mph with 10 horsepower. The KR200 had a playful bubble shape and was popular in post-war Europe due to its affordability. As the car only had three wheels, you could drive the KR200 without a driver's license.
The Duesenberg Model J has become a legend. Manufactured during the 1920s and 30s, the car is still hugely desirable for collectors. This luxury car featured an inline-eight engine that could reach top speeds of 91 mph. The car was originally designed to compete with the iconic Rolls Royce, both in luxury and in power.