Special Report

These Are History's Weirdest-Looking Cars

Michael B. Sauter
Source: i_am_jim / Wikimedia Commons

1. Stout Scarab
> Year introduced: 1935
> Manufacturer: Stout Motor Car Company

The beetle-shaped vehicle owed its form to aircraft designer William Bushnell Stout. American cars were getting bigger and sturdier by the 1930s, and for those who could afford to hit the road during the Great Depression, this early minivan with a long wheelbase might have seemed ideal. The car featured ambient lighting, heating controlled by a thermostat, and power door locks. Stout logged 250,000 miles in this egg-shaped vehicle, which had a price tag of $5,000. We’ll never know if it would have resonated with the public because it never went into mass production.

2. Thunderbolt
> Year introduced: 1940
> Manufacturer: Chrysler

The car’s shape owed much to supercharged locomotives crisscrossing the nation in the late 1930s. The Thunderbolt was one of the first cars to have power windows. There is no grill, with the air intake underneath the bumper. Other features included a retractable steel roof, among the first cars in America to have this, and headlights that popped open with the push of a button.

3. Norman Timbs Special
> Year introduced: 1948
> Manufacturer: Norman Timbs

The sleek vehicle with the forward-thrusting cockpit was the brainchild of Norman Timbs, a racing engineer. Timbs, who would eventually work for the visionary car maker Preston Tucker, created a vehicle with an undulating yet elegant shape. The chassis was constructed with aircraft tubing material and the body was made of aluminum.

4. Tasco
> Year introduced: 1948
> Manufacturer: The American Sportscar Company

Tasco derived its name from The American Sportscar Company and its design suggested a car looking to sprout its wings. That’s not surprising with the age of rockets just beginning and “right-stuff” pilot Chuck Yeager breaking the sound barrier in 1947. Noted automobile designer Gordon Buehrig, who worked at Packard, General Motors and Stutz, crafted the vehicle whose layout was inspired by airplane controls. There were other airplane nods as well, such as an enclosed cockpit. Driver and passengers could raise glass panels above them. All four wheels were entirely enclosed.

5. (Ghia) Streamline X “Gilda”
> Year introduced: 1955
> Manufacturer: Chrysler

With the space age about to dawn, Chrysler produced the spaceship-inspired concept car (Ghia) Streamline X “Gilda.” The turbine-powered car debuted at the Turin Auto Show in 1955. The vehicle’s creators were hoping to achieve greater aerodynamics with this futuristic passenger car. The styling of the car was by Italian designer Giovanni Savonuzzi. Virgil Exner, Chrysler’s design head man commissioned the project. The Gilda had a sleek aluminum body sitting atop a square-tube chassis.