Look, with all the cars that have hit the road over the last 150 years, it’s easy to miss a few. Whether you’re into cars or just casually interested, there’s always something new to learn. Here are 23 cool cars you probably don’t know about.

Audi Front

Image Credit: Charles01CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Back in the ’30s, Audi shook things up with the Audi Front, a sleek ride that had everyone talking. This wasn’t your average car; it was the first of its kind from Audi to rock front-wheel drive, thanks to some clever engineering and a merger that brought together the best of several worlds. Under the hood, it packed a 2.0 to 2.3-liter straight-six engine, making it a solid choice for the executive crowd. From 1933 to 1938, this car was the talk of the town, proving that Audi was onto something big.

Leyat Helica

Image Credit: MrWalkrCC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The 1921 Leyat Helica was a wild ride, dreamed up by Marcel Leyat. This French innovation ditched the usual car setup for a propeller and a lightweight plywood body, powered by an 18-horsepower Harley engine. Fast for its day, it could hit 106 mph but didn’t catch on. With only 30 made, it was more of a weird footnote in car history than a game changer.

BMW 700

Image Credit: Arnaud 25CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Imagine BMW, the luxury car giant, almost hitting rock bottom before bouncing back with the BMW 700. Yeah, it’s hard to picture. This little dynamo, with its rear-mounted 0.7-liter engine, was a game-changer in the late ’50s and early ’60s. It wasn’t just any car; it was a beacon of hope for BMW, pulling the company back from the brink with its success on the racetrack and with the masses. Over 190,000 units later, the BMW 700 is a big reason why BMW’s still a household name today.

Buick Series 50 Super

Image Credit: Berthold WernerCC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Buick Series 50 Super is one of those cars you wish stuck around a bit longer. Riding on GM’s C-body platform with a robust 4.1-liter Fireball straight-eight engine, this ride was all about luxury and power. It hit the scene hard in 1940 and 1941, but like some of the best things in life, it was here for a good time, not a long time. Despite its brief production run, it left a lasting impression, proving sometimes the best things are the ones we don’t get to keep.

Popemobile

Image Credit: White House photo by Chris Greenberg, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Popemobiles stand out as the ultimate VIP rides, especially tailored for the Pope’s public outings. These cars, often beefed-up Mercedes-Benz SUVs, come with bulletproof glass and special features for visibility and accessibility. In a green shift, 2021 saw Fisker stepping in to create an all-electric Popemobile for Pope Francis, making it the first zero-emissions vehicle for papal use, complete with a sleek, all-glass design for better engagement with the public.

Citroen GS

The Citroen GS was a car from the ’70s and ’80s that was way ahead of its time but never got the spotlight it deserved. Slotted between the iconic 2CV and DS, the GS broke the mold with its flat-four engine and self-leveling suspension, not to mention it looked like it was slicing through air when it moved. Despite being a standout for its tech and design, the GS kinda faded away, which feels like a missed opportunity for car fans.

DKW F2

Image Credit: Matěj BaťhaCC BY-SA 2.5, via Wikimedia Commons

Back in the early ’30s, DKW wasn’t playing games when they rolled out the F2. This ride was a big deal for being one of the first to rock front-wheel drive and a two-stroke engine that was super efficient thanks to some smart engineering called loop scavenging. Basically, it was the car that put DKW on the map, proving that sometimes it’s the underdog that leads the pack in innovation.

L’Oeuf Electrique

Image Credit: Rob Oo from NLCC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Back in 1942, the electric vehicle scene had a weird addition: L’Oeuf Electrique, or “the electric egg.” Dreamt up by Paul Arzens, a designer known for his work on trains and cars, this unique ride was his answer to the WWII gas crunch. Sporting three wheels, an electric motor, and a battery good for 63 miles per charge, it could hit speeds up to 44 mph. Its lightweight frame, made from aluminum and plexiglass, tipped the scales at just 771 pounds, offering drivers a panoramic 270-degree view.

Ferrari 208 Turbo

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The Ferrari 208 Turbo might look like its famous sibling, the 308, but under the hood, it was playing a different game. Ferrari trimmed the V8 down to 1990cc to dodge some hefty taxes in Italy, making it a lighter hit on the wallet without sacrificing that Ferrari roar, especially after they turbocharged it in ’82. Despite its muscle, the 208 Turbo was a rare sight, sticking mainly to Italian streets.

Fiat 1100

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The Fiat 1100 was the backbone of Italian driving from the ’50s to the ’60s, not quite capturing hearts worldwide like the 500 or 600 but definitely holding its ground in Italy. Available in a few different styles, including a pretty cool roadster, it kept rolling until the late ’60s. The 1100 had such a solid rep that it even lived on in India for decades after as the Premier Padmini.

Hennessey’s VelociRaptoR 6×6

Image Credit: ©Hennessey

The VelociRaptoR 6×6 takes the Ford Raptor R’s beefy supercharged 5.2-liter V8 and cranks the toughness up to eleven. Created by Hennessey, this beast boasts six-wheel drive, an eight-foot bed for all your gear, dual locking rear axles, a beefed-up suspension, and custom wheels to tackle any terrain. It’s designed to enhance both on and off-road performance, not to mention its sheer utility. Plus, with Hennessey’s 3-year / 36,000-mile warranty, this intimidating supertruck is as reliable as it is rugged.

Ford Model 18

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The Ford Model 18 was a game-changer back in ’32, making the V8 engine accessible to more than just the well-to-do. This ride wasn’t just another car; it was a revolution on wheels, offering power and smoothness to a broader audience. The introduction of the Model 18’s V8 engine didn’t just shake things up; it pretty much set the standard for what American muscle would be all about.

GMC Syclone

Image Credit: dave_7 from Lethbridge, CanadaCC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Think of a pickup that thinks it’s a sports car. That’s the Syclone for ya. GMC, usually all about trucks and SUVs, decided to throw a curveball in ’91 with this beast. It’s got a turbocharged 4.3-liter V6 pumping out 280 horses, and it sends power to all four wheels. Don’t get too excited about hauling stuff, though. Load more than 500 lbs, and you might as well be asking for trouble. But here’s the kicker: this thing could dust a Ferrari 348ts in a drag race, at least for a quarter-mile. GMC made its point, dropped the mic with the Typhoon a year later, and exited the scene.

Fiat Multipla

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The 1999 Fiat Multipla turned heads, but not always for the right reasons. This Italian ride, known for its unique, some say odd, looks, featured a spacious interior with a six-seat layout perfect for families. Its boxy design and large windows aimed for practicality over beauty, making it stand out in a crowd—sometimes likened to a “muffin-top” or an insect because of its peculiar front lights. Despite its practical perks and extra storage with two glove boxes, it didn’t quite win over the masses, leading to its phase-out in 2003.

Lamborghini Islero S

Image Credit: Matti BlumeCC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Islero might as well be the wallflower of the Lamborghini family, hanging out from ’68 to ’70. It’s packing a 3.9-liter V12 with 340bhp, but dressed in a suit that’s a bit too reserved, especially when you stack it against its flashy sibling, the Espada. It was pricier than an Aston Martin DBS V8 and had some quality control issues. Lamborghini gave it a second shot with the Islero S, bumping the power to 350bhp and tidying up the interior and build quality. Despite the effort, only 225 of these rolled off the line before Lamborghini pulled the plug.

LaSalle Series 340

Image Credit: Lars-Göran Lindgren SwedenCC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

LaSalle is a bit of a blast from the past, rolling under the Cadillac umbrella from ’27 to ’40. The Series 340 is our pick, exclusive to 1930, blending luxury with a 5.6-liter V8. It was a Cadillac lite, customizable with any fancy Fleetwood body you fancied. But like many good things from back in the day, it’s not something most folks remember.

Lincoln Lido

Image Credit: Lars-Göran Lindgren SwedenCC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Ford was a bit late to the party with hardtop coupes in the early ’50s. When they finally showed up, they brought four to the brawl, including the Lincoln Lido. Despite its charm and “customized” appeal, it got lost in the shuffle against its siblings and rivals. After two years of lackluster sales, Ford called it quits on the Lido.

Porsche 912

Image Credit: David PerezCC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The 912 is like the 911’s less intense sibling. It shares the look but swaps out the six-cylinder for a four-cylinder that’ll remind you of a Beetle’s hum. From ’65 to ’69, and then a brief cameo in ’76 with the 912E, it offered a slice of the Porsche dream at a more attainable price point. It might not have the 911’s zip, but it’s got a balance and efficiency that have its own following.

Renault 16

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This bad boy kicked off the whole hatchback craze in ’65, meshing the best bits of a sedan and a wagon into one package. The Renault 16 didn’t just break the mold with its looks; it was the first ride to rock the all-aluminum Cléon-Alu engine. This power plant wasn’t just a one-hit wonder; it ended up in the rally-dominating Alpine A110 and the Lotus Europa, showing it had the guts to back up its groundbreaking start.

Rolls-Royce 20hp

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Rolls decided to switch things up with the 20hp, aka the Twenty, making a Rolls that was a bit more down to earth, hitting the streets in 1922. It was for the folks who didn’t need someone else to drive them around or wanted a lighter hit on the wallet without skimping on the luxury. Despite a bit of a rocky start with folks not sure what to make of it, the Twenty carved out its niche, leading to almost 3,000 of these getting snapped up before the curtain closed in ’29.

Simca 1100

Image Credit: FaceMePLS from The Hague, The NetherlandsCC BY 2.5, via Wikimedia Commons

Jumping into the scene in ’67, the Simca 1100 was all about that front-wheel drive life before it was cool, packing its engine sideways to save space. It wasn’t just about being practical, though; with versions ranging from your everyday hatch to wagons and even a van, the 1100 was a jack-of-all-trades. Then came the 1100Ti in ’74, cranking out 82bhp and pretty much laying down the groundwork for the hot hatches we know and love today.

Toyota Century

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The Century is Toyota’s answer to “What if we made a car so luxe, only the elite could touch it?” Since ’67, this beast has been the chariot of choice for Japan’s upper crust, sporting massive V8s and, later on, a bespoke V12. With just three generations over its lifetime, it’s clear Toyota wasn’t messing around when they aimed for timeless over trendy.

Triumph TR250

Image Credit: dave_7 from Lethbridge, CanadaCC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The TR250 is the American cousin of the UK’s TR5, sporting a 2.5-liter straight-six but with carbs instead of fuel injection, dialing the power back to 104bhp. Despite the drop in grunt, it was a hit stateside, proving that sometimes, less is more. While the TR5 is a bit of a niche name back home, the TR250 made enough of a splash across the pond to justify cranking out over 8,000 units.

De Tomaso Vallelunga

Image Credit: Andrew Bone from Weymouth, EnglandCC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Before De Tomaso hit us with the likes of the Mangusta, they started small with the Vallelunga in ’64. It was a nifty little car with a mid-engine setup, rocking a 1.5-liter Ford engine tweaked for a bit more fun. It wasn’t about blowing your hair back with speed but more about slicing corners with grace. However, this was a brief chapter for De Tomaso. They quickly shifted gears to beefier V8s and didn’t look back, making the nimble Vallelunga a rare footnote in their history.

Volkswagen Viloran

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Ever heard of the Viloran? Unless you’re in China, probably not. It’s VW’s take on a luxury minivan, loaded with a 2.0-liter turbo TSI engine and offering seating for seven across three rows. It’s built on VW’s trusty MQB platform, which is pretty much automotive gold for versatility. The Viloran is a looker too, arguably the best-dressed minivan since the first-gen Ford S-Max. But here’s the catch: it’s a China-exclusive, so for most of us, it’s like a cool car we’ll only hear about but never get to see in person.

Author: Abbie Clark

Title: Co-Founder

Expertise: Automotive Industry, Electric Vehicles, DIY Car Repairs

Bio:

Abbie Clark is a writer, blog, and founder of RideRambler, Hey She Thrives, and The Bearded Bunch.

From clever car cleaning tricks to the freshest car features and reviews, Abbie loves sharing her knowledge on everything automotive. Outside of her time writing for her websites, you’ll find her fishing with her husband, deciphering her toddler’s babbling, or baking up something sweet.

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