Cars have come a long way since 1886; the year the first car was introduced to the world. Despite a slight change in aesthetics over the years, all of the designs are quite similar.
However, there are those who broke the mold in favor of creativity and function. This is a list of 5 weirdest cars in history.
Dr. John Archibald Purves believed that a one-mega-wheel car is more efficient than a 4-small-wheel car. To illustrate his point, he invented — with the help of his engineering background — the Dynasphere. The Hamster-wheel-looking vehicle was inspired by a Leonardo Da Vinci sketch. It had a gasoline motor and attained a max speed of 30 mph.
Purves told Popular Science Magazine that his invention “reduced locomotion to the simplest possible form, with consequent economy of power.”
In theory, the Dynosphere looked like the future of high-speed cars. However, if you’ve ever rolled a tire down a slope, you’d know that the tire could never hold its balance and eventually fall sideways.
Purves built the car to balance on its own when immobile. Unfortunately, in order to make turns, the driver has to lean with the monowheel and cross their fingers that it doesn’t tip over. Another issue drivers encountered was a phenomenon called “gerbiling”, the equivalent of a teenager rolling inside a giant tire after being pushed around by his friends.
All these issues were the reasons why the Dynasphere never went into mass production.
The Amphicar 770
First Launched at the 1961 New York Auto Show, the Amphicar is a German automotive creation. Unlike the Dynasphere, the amphibious automobile was mass-produced. Unfortunately, its production was short-lived from (1961 – 1968), with a total of 3,878 manufactured units (3000 of which were shipped to the U.S).
Built by Hans Trippel, a self-taught automotive designer, this car was advertised as “the sports car that swims.” A stretch given that it only achieved 60 mph in 43 seconds.
The amphicar was intended mainly for U.S consumers. To prove its capabilities, Trippel hired a stunt driver to cross the English Channel in the vehicle, which proved to be a successful marketing effort.
One famous story about the car is that the 36th U.S president Lyndon B. Johnson owned one, which he used to scare visitors to his Johnson City, Texas ranch by driving them downhill straight into his property’s lake, while shouting he had malfunctioning brakes.
The Amphicar 770 was originally priced at $3,300 or $28,000 adjusted for inflation. Today, It is worth around $75,000,
One creative idea, a spare Learjet Fuselage, two years of research and development coupled with about 40,000 work hours, and a reported $1M, are the main ingredients for producing a limo-jet, called the Learmousine.
The Learmousine was built to be a party bus containing: a minibar, a lot of neon lights, a 42-inch flat-screen TV, and a 17,000-watt sound system with speakers inside and outside (placed in the jet’s turbines).
Despite its weight of 12000 lbs (6 tons), it can even hit 100mpg (courtesy of the 8.1-liter Chevrolet Vortec V8 truck engine with 400 hp).
It was auctioned back in June 2020 but wasn’t sold; the highest bid topping at $600,000.
The Surface Orbiter
The Surface Orbiter is an all-terrain, 17,000 lbs (approximately 8.5 tons) amphibious beast.
Car builder Rick Dobbertin created it using a stainless steel Heil milk tanker. The stainless steel container was the ideal solution with Dobbertin saying “I figured if it held 30,000 lbs of milk inside, it would damn well keep the water out”.
The car’s purpose was to be driven (and sailed) around the world.
Dobbertin spent over 14,000 hours getting everything right. The vehicle could max out at 70 mph on land and 10 knots (approximately 11.5 mph) on water.
During their travels, the Surface Orbiter…
- It was the first amphibious car to cross the Panama Canal
- It crossed 33,000 land miles and 3,000 ocean miles in 28 countries
- It was stopped by the Columbian Guerrillas just so they could take a picture with it.
The Orbiter was sold in 2004 to a Chicago car collector for an undisclosed price.
The Batman Tumbler
It all started from a play-doh design that Christpher Nolan said “looked more like a croissant than a car”. The model was refined, with the help of production designer Nathan Crowley. Nolan’s vision of the Batman’s Tumbler was a cross between a Lamborghini and a Humvee combining both speed and power.
A 20-auto-mechanic team from Britain made the first prototype from scratch and took about a year to finish it.
The entire body is made of fiberglass to keep it lightweight while being sturdy enough to jump around inside the vehicle and easy to repair in case something went wrong.
To further compensate for its heaviness, the Tumbler uses a 5.7-Liter V8 engine producing between 400-500 horsepower, the same engine found in some high-performance sports cars. With that much power, the batmobile has the potential of maxing out at 160 miles per hour; however, it only made around 90mph on the set.
7 Tumblers in total were made for the Batman trilogy (each one with a different purpose) and other copycats have been built by enthusiastic auto mechanics. One of the most famous replicas was made by two brothers — the Parker brothers — who specialize in making custom/unique vehicles.
Back in 2014, one street-legal replica was listed for sale for $1 million. If you have that kind of cash laying around in your bank account, this may be a great investment for your next Halloween costume accessory.
Fun Fact: During the filming of the Dark Knight trilogy, when changing locations, someone would drive the Tumbler to the next location instead of loading it into a truck. One time, an intoxicated driver thought it was a spaceship and rammed it from the side.