Whether you’re interested in the domestics, gassers, tuners, classics, muscle cars, exotics, rare oddities, or any of the literal dozens of automobile sub-genres, there’s one thing about every car geek that unites us all: We all love learning something new.
It’s why we are always looking for cars we didn’t know about, so we can learn about them, then share them with you. For example, sometimes cool cars just don’t take off. It could be for any number of reasons. Bad marketing, poor timing, they explode, whatever. Sometimes they just don’t get time in the public eye. That’s why we’ve been on the look out for the coolest cars that never got a fair shot. Well, we found some. Here are 7 of the coolest cars you’ve never heard of.
We all know about the 356s, 250 mms, Spitfires, and 300Sls of the roadster world, but what if we mentioned a little London-based manufacturer called Allard Motor Company?
Who? Well, Carroll Shelby and Zora Arkus-Duntov both owned Allards in the 1950s—before they swore off anything that wasn’t American—so maybe that’ll give you a small indication of Allard’s legitimacy in the racing world.
The J2 was a beautiful, fast, and dangerous car produced between 1950 and 1951 that featured 3.6-liter flathead and 4.4-liter Mercury V8 motors (depending on which one you ordered), and were built specifically for the American market, where the thought of such heavy, massive, and powerful V8’s crammed in a tiny British chassis left enthusiasts frothing at the mouth.
While it was honestly a bit of a death trap, due to its absurd power-to-weight ratio and super narrow wheel base, that didn’t stop it from placing third at Le Mans in 1950.
Unfortunately, because Allard shuttered its doors in 1958, only 90 of these magnificent cars were ever produced.
Shelby Cobra Daytona
Carroll Shelby was hands-down one of the most prolific and influential automobile designers of all time. Hell, he was in the first entry on this list. Everybody knows about his famous fire-breathing Cobras, but few know the incredible story of his Cobra Daytona.
The Daytona was invented for one reason and one reason only—taking out Ferrari. And in 1965 it did, winning the FIA World Sportscar championship without even trying. Unfortunately, its fame was short-lived, as Shelby introduced the famous GT40 (the car that would go on to beat Ferrari’s ass up and down Le Mans for four years straight) just a short while later.
Only six Cobra Daytonas were ever built, and today, they’re worth up to $4 million to the right collector. But unless you’re a classic sportscar nerd, you’ve likely never even heard its name, let alone the story about how Carroll Shelby and a few hotrod nerds built one of the world’s fastest and best performing cars out of a little garage in Venice Beach, California.
Dodge Omni GLH-S
Will we sit here and tell you that the Dodge Omni was a particularly attractive car? Nah. It’s a boxy five-door hatchback that looks more like what a college freshman would roll up to his new dorm in, all the while dusting Cheetos crumbs off his second-hand flannel and listening to Nirvana. Aesthetically, the car has “bought with birthday savings” written all over it.
But, that doesn’t make them any less legendary. The “GLH” stands for Goes Like Hell. The S was added after Carroll Shelby—yes, that Carroll Shelby—got his hands on a few (a mere 500, to be exact). After that, GLH-S stood for Goes Like Hell S’More. It was powered by a very stout 175hp/175ft.lb. intercooled 2.2-liter turbocharged motor which sent it—bone stock—down the quarter mile in the low 14’s. With a few light stock modifications, it was a low 13-second car.
It was light, zippy, and really did haul ass, and it makes our list not just because of Carroll Shelby’s magic touch, but because we honestly hadn’t even heard about this heap until about five minutes ago. What an unbelievable little firestarter.
1999 Mercedes-Benz SL73 AMG
AMG Benzes are nothing new, but there’s something special about the ’99 SL73. It featured Mercedes-Benz’s M120 6.0-liter motor, but like, on crack. AMG decided to toss these piston-popping 7.3-liter, 518hp monsters into the relatively unassuming SL73 chassis.
Only 90 SL73’s were ever built (and as rumor has it, 50 of them went directly to a Sultan of Brunei), and that was all she wrote. Which is unfortunate, because they were some of the best consumer Benzes ever produced.
Jaguar catches a lot of flack from every direction for producing cars that appear superficially impeccable, but are riddled with problems in their electronics and engineering. However, the XJ220 is perhaps one of the greatest cars ever produced—ever—even though its sales were terrible.
When the XJ220 concept first emerged, it was powered by a massive 6.2-liter Jaguar V12 that was poised to crank out over 500 horsepower to all four wheels. It was a positively glorious machine, and people fell in love with it. So much so that more than 1,500 people put down early deposits on the car when it was nothing more than a concept. However, when the XJ220 actually hit the market as a twin-turbo’d RWD V6 (and with a price tag that mysteriously jumped from £350,000 to £460,000 from concept to production) Jaguar’s buyers were totally pissed.
Some even threatened lawsuits.
Despite the car’s incredible performance and mind-boggling 200+ mph top speed (it was actually the fastest production car of its day), it never really got the traction it deserved, and so became lost to time.
Who-the-what-the-huh? The extremely short-lived Cizeta-Moroder company (in existence from 1991 to 1995) had but one car: The V16T. It was the DeLorean Motor Company of Italian cars.
The company itself was a joint venture between automotive engineer Claudio Zampolli and music composer Giorgio Moroder. The V16T was designed by famous Lamborghini designer Marcello Gandini, who actually just recycled a rejected design concept he had for a Lamborghini Diablo while he was a designer there. So, if you think it looks strikingly similar to a Diablo, that’s why.
Aside from its beautiful exterior, the car was a goddamn powerhouse under the hood. A V16—yes, seriously—comprising two mated V8s punched out nearly 550 horsepower, along with a five-speed manual transmission, the V16T was heavily rumored to be able to take its Diablo competition to the woodshed.
So why’d it fall flat? Well, aside from being literally double the price of a Diablo without offering consumers all that much more car, people just didn’t care about Cizeta. At the time, consumers considered it more of a Lambo ripoff than anything, which was sad, because it truly was a remarkable car.
Chevrolet Corvair Yenko Stinger
Attach the name “Yenko” to literally anything and its value to automobile collectors goes up exponentially. It skyrockets to widespread notoriety, people pay way too much money for it, and it’s revered by thousands of wrench heads all over the world.
…Unless that car is the Chevrolet Corvair Yenko Stinger.
Everybody hates the Corvairs because their styling was awkward and they were incredibly dangerous. Their rear-engine packaging made them extremely unstable, the steering column was said to be able to impale a driver in a collision, they leaked a metric shit-ton of oil, the heating system would often flood noxious fumes into the cabin… It was a real shit show of a car.
But the conversation regarding Don Yenko’s version of the classic auto-fuckup, from 1966 to 1969, is one at least respected—if not revered—by collectors and classic car enthusiasts. The Corvair Yenko Stingers, as they were named, came with beefy air-cooled V6’s that clocked in at anywhere from 160hp to a whopping 240hp depending on whether you wanted a Stage I, II, III, or IV upgrade (stock was a paltry 140hp); along with jacked up compression; a modified chassis with stiffer rear springs and some beefy Monroe double-action shocks; and some other upgraded odds and ends.
Not Yenko’s most desired car by a long shot, but between ’66 and ’69, only 115 of the Corvair Yenko Stingers were produced, and even brought home a national title that wasn’t, “Car That Crashed and Burned the Most.” Wild. If you’ve never heard of it before, now you have.