If someone were to tell us the automotive world is boring, we wouldn’t agree, but we’d understand where they were coming from. Most of the cars we see on the road are Honda Civics, Toyota Camrys, and whatever similar vehicles other car manufacturers are offering. SUVs are obviously popular as well, but they’re not that much more interesting than a four door sedan. What’s worse, the most striking and impressive vehicles are so expensive they become pipe dreams for the average American.
But apparently we just weren’t thinking outlandishly enough. There are plenty of street-legal vehicles that’ll turn heads without you having to refinance your house. And you don’t have to do a whole lot of extra work to get them. Most you can drive as soon as you get it. These are the craziest street-legal cars you could buy today.
The Neutron from Parker Brothers Concepts
The best thing to come out of Tron: Legacy (though we still think it was seriously underrated) was the new light cycle. They’re beautiful updates to a classic piece of ’80s iconography and as soon as we saw them, we knew we wanted to ride one. Thankfully, we weren’t the only ones, and people much more mechanically inclined got to work on delivering working, legal light cycles to the masses.
The best option came from Parker Brothers Concepts in their custom built Neutron. It has all the major features of a light cycle, with glowing rims, a ridiculously low profile (you’re basically laying flat on the bike), and a smooth, solid black body. There are some differences, which were most likely dropped in so they weren’t sued for blatant copyright infringement. But it could also be because the light cycles in the movie weren’t real and didn’t have to follow any kind of mechanical considerations. The bike’s completely electric too, so the illusion’s not broken by having to stop by the gas station.
In a very limited run, the company promised 25 Neutrons for the whole of 2018. As of this writing (late September), there’s still one left for the year. If you can’t get it now, we wouldn’t worry too much. They’ve found a lot of success with this bike and not doing a 2019 release would be completely baffling. Buy
Military Surplus Vehicles
Military surplus has to be the most underutilized source of durable, cheap, cool stuff. People used to buy all kinds of things for cents on the dollar, mostly because the military was just trying to get rid of its extra stock. It’s why military style took off in the first place. Field jackets, a dozen different types of EDC, and some of the most versatile boots money can buy all have origins as military surplus products.
But why are we limiting our ambitions to jackets? Why not set our sights a little higher? For example, would you like to commute to work in an armored car? That can be arranged. MilWeb is basically an international classifieds page for military surplus vehicles. The one that stuck out to us was the 1974 Land Rover Shorland MK3 Armored Truck. It’s selling for $24,500, less than most commuter cars. It’s currently drivable and is definitely the coolest Land Rover we’ve seen, especially at this price point.
If an armored car isn’t big enough for you, what about a Cold War troop carrier? The Amphibious Tracked Carrier PTS-10 is exactly what it’s name says. This is a tracked vehicle with amphibious capabilities that was designed to get troops, the wounded, and/or heavy weapons all wherever the Soviets thought they were needed. There’s no price here, but we can’t imagine this one breaking the bank, though still expect it to be more than the previous $24,500.
What’s amazing is, as long as the weapons on the vehicle aren’t functional, all you need to operate them and anything like them is a license that allows you to drive overweight vehicles. You don’t need to jump through a ton of hoops to get yourself an armored car, troop carrier, or even a tank. You just need a slightly different drivers license.
The Volkswagen Beetle is a fun little car and is one of our guilty pleasures in the automotive world, but we’ve never been completely behind the name. The car just doesn’t look enough like a beetle for us to totally buy it. We can’t say the same for the BMW Isetta. If six legs suddenly sprouted from the sides and the car scuttled away, we wouldn’t be totally surprised.
The Isetta is the car that started the minor craze that is microcars and we get why. It’s an iconic little piece of machinery and isn’t wholly unattractive in appearance or practicality. You can see exactly where the Italian design shows in the car, with bright colors, small wheels, and how easy it is to picture an Isetta outside of every villa we’ve ever seen. We’re starting to love the car in spite of ourselves. The fact that you get in the car by opening the front, as in where the hood should be, is only strengthening that feeling.
They’re still surprisingly cheap too. We’ve found cars like this usually only have their prices climb after they’re built. But you can hop in one of these for a fairly reasonable price. The range seems to be between $15,000 and $30,000 (pricier versions climb above $50,000, but those are for avid collectors), which is about what you’d pay if you were looking for a new car anyway. There’s also a rerelease coming up for even less. Anyone living primarily in the city should definitely look into both. Buy
Yes, we just recommended you buy an amphibious troop carrier and including a regular amphibious car might seem redundant or like a reduction in coolness, but we prefer to think of it as a more personal option. The Amphicar can’t fit two squads of armed men and all their equipment, but it can put a fun twist on your family’s picnic at the lake, and we find that just as valuable.
Granted initial reception wasn’t great. When it first came out, the TIME review called the car the world’s most aerodynamic anchor. But the car’s aged better than expected, as long-term owners like the versatility and don’t seem to have the same leakage problems as the TIME reviewer. Or they know how to handle it better. Still, the success of the car is hard to argue with. There were 4,000 originally built, which is a much higher number than anyone should have guessed.
Most of the cars we saw for sale were in the Netherlands or Belgium, so it might be harder for US based drivers/captains to get their hands on one. Still, it’s worth giving it a shot. At worst, you’ll have to drive it across the Atlantic. Buy
The Terrafugia Transition
It seems like people’s favorite criticism of modern technology is how it’s 2018 but no one has a flying car. There are a thousand memes circulating that compare old predictions from 1900 about technology in the 2000s, each meme getting more tiresome than the last. Especially since we have a flying car and they’re not buying it.
The Terrafugia Transition is advertised as the first viable plane/car hybrid and looking at it, they might be right. It uses fuel you buy at your corner gas station, can fold up its wings to fit in the average garage, and has a 400-mile flight range at 100 miles per hour. It certainly sounds like the company has solved the major problems of personal airplanes. They’ve also designed the car to fully utilize small airports around the US, which is a far better solution than just letting everyone take off and land on local highways. Not to mention it’s a future that’s easier to imagine, and might even revitalize the American family road trip.
You’ll need a pilot’s license to use the Terrafugia, but that’s a small price to pay for this kind of personalized flying. We’d happily go through the classes in time to buy the first production Transitions in 2019. Buy
The Twike is what you get when someone sees a Flintstones cartoon, watches Fred power up his car, and takes the idea seriously. It’s a human-electric hybrid car, powered by something called direct drive pedal power. As we understand it, a person wouldn’t be able to pedal a Twike like they can a bicycle. It’s too heavy and there’s too much going on in the car. Instead, energy generated by the pedaling goes into the electric motor, which is also powered by lithium-ion batteries contained in the car. Treehugger did a great breakdown on the vehicle and we highly recommend anyone interested in the technology behind it check it out.
Our main takeaways here were that the Twike is designed for the city and it’s a ridiculously durable car. The range, power supply, and speed of the car can’t really stand up to long treks on the highway. It’s at its best when you’re traveling at bicycle speeds on city roads.
The durability comes in two places. The first is how long the Twike’s been around, operating under the radar. The oldest functional models out there are close to 25 years old and still kicking. They’re highly UV resistant by design and almost completely weatherproof. The other is how simple the mechanical components of the car are. They require almost no maintenance and when they do, they’re not complicated parts. Initial buy-in will run you almost $50,000, so that’s pretty steep, but after that, you’re done. Buy