RAC Cars News


The world's weirdest cars?

By raccars Published


Innovation is always to be lauded but could some inventors think their plans through a bit more?

Most cars work on the principle of four (or sometimes three) wheels, a passenger compartment and some form of propulsion. This basic premise has been working well as a form of transport for over a hundred years now, but some creative types have tried to experiment with this formula, with mixed results...

In the world of the James Bond films, a submarining Lotus is utterly feasible - in the real world, less so. On the other hand, those same inventors and scientists are responsible for much of the safety equipment which is an essential part of modern motoring regulations. Their work saves lives. Here are some of the best, the worst and some of the most interesting and unusual motoring experiments.

The autosave

In 1932 A J Grafham was already working hard to look after pedestrians in the event of an accident, which in modern times is a high priority for manufacturers. His invention, nearly a century ago, involved attaching a rubber seat covered in soft sponge to the front bumper of a car, which would tip back upon impact to provide a kind of scooping mechanism to sweep the unfortunate road goer out of harm's way. Surprisingly, it never really caught on.

Rocket Fritz

Car manufacturer Opel was founded by Adam Opel, and it seems that automation was in the family's blood. His grandson, Fritz Adam Hermann von Opel earned the nickname 'Rocket Fritz' for his experiments with rocket propulsion after building rocket propelled cars - the RAK 2 model achieved 143mph in the late Twenties with the help of 24 solid fuel rockets on its tail. He expanded his endeavours to embrace rocket propelled planes and motorcycles, but the enterprise was fraught with risk and his projects frequently crashed and burned - quite literally. Fritz's son was Formula One racer Rikky von Opel.

The R-100 Streamline

Sir Charles Dennistoun Burney, often simply known as Dennis Burney, was a Baronet, a sailor, an MP, a businessman, an inventor and an aeronautical engineer during his varied career. He came up with the anti-mine device the 'paravane' during WWI before working on civil airships at Vickers, resulting in the R100 and R101 airships.

In the 1930s he used his knowledge of aerodynamics to set up Streamline Cars Ltd, building high tech (for the time), aerodynamically advanced rear-engined vehicles. The R-100 car looked rather similar to an airship and was one of 13 rather bulbous automotive efforts which were mostly designed to demonstrate various patent ideas upon which he was working, rather than enter commercial production. The Prince of Wales bought one of the long Streamlines in 1930 but only two of the cars are believed to survive today.

The cars of the future

Simca Fulgur

The Fulgur was Simca's vision of the car of the future. The concept was introduced at the Geneva Motor Show in 1959 and rode on two gyroscope balanced wheels. The car was to be voice controlled, atomic powered and guided by radar. As it turned out, the cars of the year 2000 were nothing like the Fulgur.


Another concept demonstrating how car makers envisioned the cars of the new millennium back in 1968. The bubbled shaped car perched on four spindly arms attached to wheels and looked like some kind of insect. Also known as the 'Pussycar', the Automodule was the brainchild of engineer J P Ponthieu, with a single cylinder 250cc engine driving the back wheel only, allowing it to perform wheelies. With three other steerable wheels, the 'Pussycar' could also pivot neatly but could only reach about 45km/h.

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