Illustration for article titled A Series Of Strange Cars And Why I Would Drive Them

The strangely alluring not-quite-Honda-NSX-shaped early-90s-tastic red quirk above this paragraph is something those of you with extensive kei-car knowledge may know about. A 63-horsepower, 1600 pound little faerie of a car. 46 inches tall, with barely enough space for a man of my stature (that is, 5'5") to sit comfortably inside. Most people would steer clear of something this unusual, but I would allow this car to be my daily driver. Sure, it's midengined, rear wheel drive. Sure, it's so small that no car thief would ever be able to fit in it unless they were a hyper-intelligent infant on the run from the time police. Sure, it has pop-up headlights... In a way. Those don't matter to me alone, however. This freak of nature, this little PowerWheels of a car is attractive to me because it sits there, unnoticed in the back of the room playing with it's fingers trying to recreate the drumbeat to Van Halen's "Hot For Teacher." It doesn't outright say it's a freak, but it does say in every way and from every angle it's a fun car. And that's what I've come here to talk about. Cars I've never driven and may never be able to drive, but that I would enjoy either way. Now, let's see what's up next.

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Illustration for article titled A Series Of Strange Cars And Why I Would Drive Them

The second car on this list is a French car. We go from Japan to France, yes. Don't go grabbing the pitchforks and a priest. The car of mention here is a tiny little French hatchback known as the Citroen C4 Coupe. While coupe may be a misnomer on account of what I just said in the same sentence as that word, neither the model designation or it's completely wrong body name are what to focus on. Instead there is a special model and trim level called the 2.0 VTS. While most of the parts may come from Citroen's sister company Peugeot, the 2.0 VTS is a completely different car than the 307 in terms of personality. Their hearts may be the same, but the C4 is peppy, fleet on it's feet, and always ready to rev right up unlike the slow and steady 307. Put that with the venerable and always loved five speed, and you've got a recipe for fun in this front wheel drive baguette muncher. Which is completely at odds with the next choice...

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Illustration for article titled A Series Of Strange Cars And Why I Would Drive Them

Next up, the Commie to the room. Everyone's favourite plastic-bodied car, the Trabant 601. More specifically, the 601 Kombi or 601 Stationwagon. It's more like a shooting brake because most examples produced only had two doors like the one above, but that's just another quirk that the Soviets had with their cars I guess. Then again, looking at the C4 "Coupe" I don't think a lot of automakers follow the rules of designation anyways. The main point of interest to me for this car is the fact that it's probably the most rugged car ever built with fully mechanical engineering. There's no redundancy with electronics when it comes to the 601. There's not even disc brakes or power steering. The ride is rough, it's bouncy, it's primal. The engine that has less than 70 horsepower growls and grunts as it pushes the less-than-a-ton Red forward. That unapologetic sternness is what the main draw of the 601 is. It was a no-nonsense working man's car created in what some would say would be the most simplistic and unadulterated template possible. Throw four wheels onto a unibody front wheel drive car just big enough for four people, and leave it at that. The USSR modified the cabin and the rear end for what people needed, sure. But they left the lowered brow and those unsmiling lips alone. They left the bones alone. You don't see that happen for very often let alone for over twenty years. It's a marvel of both stagnation and dedication to a goal. Something most automakers refuse to adhere to.

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Illustration for article titled A Series Of Strange Cars And Why I Would Drive Them

Noticing a trend here with the French hatchbacks? No? Are you even paying attention? Anyways, this bright red box with blister-pak fender flares is the legendary Renault Cinque "5" Turbo. The original Renault Cinque came out in the mid 1970s, staring straight at father time himself and screaming "You're a decade slow gramps!" By 1978 Renault had created more versions of it than Lamborghini has of the Gallardo. And then in the fall of that year came the version to make everyone pay attention to France when it came to rally racing. Sporting one-hundred and sixty horsepower of goodness in top form, that engine sitting right on top of the rear axle shot this car right up to speed. And while they have a propensity and reputation to have the rear overtake the front while braking, isn't that just another excuse to pull the handbrake on a rainy day?

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Well, I hope you've enjoyed looking at some of the strange and whacky cars I've wanted to drive over the years. Who knows, maybe some day I may be able to if the robots don't get their way and start taking over the roads. Anyways, thanks for reading, and I hope by doing so you'll start looking up and appreciating these vehicles as well.

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