The last 100 years of automotive invention have been largely the meat of the industry. Although cars existed in limited capacities prior to the 1920s, their mass integration into society had not yet occurred. A century later, we have sleek, refined, economical, and quick vehicles that would make the Model T Ford's crank spin seem like ancient technology.
However, this massive departure from the humble roots of the industry came due to decades of countless inventions and paradigm-shifting car models. Compiled here are ten of the weirdest models that automotive manufacturers actually produced during the 20th century.
10 Suzuki X90
As America's obsession with sports utility vehicles grew at a rapid rate in the 1990s, manufacturers sought out new and intriguing ways to reinvent the SUV platform, often with not-so-fruitful results. One of the most unusual attempts was through the Suzuki X90: part SUV, part two-door coupe, and part convertible with a T-top roof.
The X90 had a trunk like a car, but it was way too small to really be usable. It also came in two- and four-wheel-drive versions. The confused automobile was powered by a 95-horsepower engine and was built on a truck-like chassis, meaning it was not fast or easy to handle at all.
9 Chrysler Turbine
In the early 1960s, Chrysler automotive had the crazy idea to combine a jet engine and a road-ready vehicle. The over-the-top child of that marriage is the Chrysler Turbine which is powered by... well, two jet turbines.
The company boasted at the time that the Turbine could be powered by anything from regular household perfume to JP-4 jet fuel, however, after a 200-car test run, the project was canceled. Less than a handful of driveable examples still exist today.
8 BMW Isetta
Originally produced by the Iso company, BMW bought the rights to the Isetta and its toolings in 1955, beginning production of what is undoubtedly the weirdest road-legal BMW model ever created. Its tiny engine produces 9.5 horsepower, and for a while, the vehicle was only offered in a three-wheel configuration.
The most interesting aspect of the Isetta, however, has to be how to enter it, which requires swinging open the entire front fascia of the car, as there are no doors on either side and sitting directly into it. When you do open the front fascia to enter, the entire dashboard, steering wheel, and windshield swing open to allow you to enter.
7 Ford Soybean Car
Henry Ford was so extremely enthusiastic about utilizing plants, notably soybeans, in motor vehicle creation that he created a lab devoted entirely to soybean study. At the beginning of his research, the maverick automaker used soybeans to make unique small parts for specific vehicles, but later he resolved to produce an entire model composed of soybeans.
The eventual product did still sport a full steel frame to maintain rigidity, but otherwise was covered entirely with a composite that was produced from a mixture of soybeans, wheat, hemp, and other flora. Henry Ford's impetus behind making a car out of soybeans was the fact that there was a ridiculous shortage of metals during World War II. The mogul insisted that his soybean automobile was more robust and more resolute than a normal steel vehicle, however, the plan was dropped while the second prototype was being constructed.
6 Honda Insight
Although released officially in 2000, development for the Insight was a product purely of 1990s thought. Looking like a coupe Accord of the time with body molding that covered the rear wheels and was fully exaggerated at the rear, the Insight was the Prius before the Prius: aside from its quirky looks, it boasted roughly 60 miles per gallon.
The Insight did not come at a great time in the industry, however, as lower gas prices at the time coupled with a very polarizing appearance made the Insight a niche product that Honda was unable to fully cash in on at the time.
5 Peel P50
The Peel P50 is the smallest production vehicle in the history of automotive design, even smaller than the BMW Isetta. At only 54 inches long and 41 inches wide, its tiny stature is amazing.
Developed in the 1960s, it was intended as a device for one person's transportation, with extra space for "one grocery bag." Not much information is readily available on the vehicle, aside from the fact that the last one sold at auction went for roughly $175,000.
Germany's answer to the wild and weird design language of the 1960s was to create a vehicle equally capable on road as it was on the water, and thus the amphicar was born. It had a traditional engine, and then two small propellers that could propel the car up to 7 knots, using the front tires to navigate.
Poor performance on road and on water eventually nixed the production of the amphicar, but to this day it holds the record for the largest-scale commercially produced semi-amphibious vehicle ever.
3 Nissan S-Cargo
The Nissan S-Cargo is inherently a joke, meaning that its name is literally a joke based on its appearance, which largely resembles that of a snail. The S-Cargo is a compact transportation vehicle that falls somewhere in the size range between a smart car and a Mini Cooper, but offers way more usability.
Meant for short-distance deliveries, a few thousand examples of the 75 horsepower front wheel drive S-Cargo were produced before Nissan eventually canceled the model.
2 Reliant Robin
The Reliant Robin was envisioned as sort of a "loophole" vehicle for residents of Great Britain: considering it only had three wheels, it was intended to offer the practicality of a regular vehicle while only requiring a motorcycle license to operate.
Originally produced from 1973 to 1981 and then reprising from 1989 to 2001, the Robin has been the butt of many jokes, including those of the hosts of Top Gear, who famously intentionally flipped the Robin testing its three-wheel design. However, despite the jokes, the Robin still holds the record today of being the second-highest-selling fiberglass vehicle on the road, coming second only to the Chevrolet Corvette.
1 Volkswagen Thing
The Volkswagen Type 181, marketed in the United States as the Volkswagen Thing, was a remarkably interesting to look at, four-door, two-wheel drive utility vehicle made and sold between 1968 and 1983.
It existed at a time when manufacturers were attempting to first capitalize on the larger utility vehicle wave, however, the Thing has been largely forgotten. Production ceased in the United States due to Volkswagen's failure to comply with newer, stricter safety standards.