Unique and Unusual Cars From The Quail
The various car shows that make up Monterey Car Week are a cornucopia of dream cars. Exotic cars of every type abound, so much so that seeing a Ferrari parked on the street becomes as interesting as seeing an Audi A4. Nice, but nothing special. It’s overwhelming at first, then you just become jaded out of mental preservation. You only have so much drool.
The shows themselves may as well be photo galleries of all your favorite cars of the past 100 years. At this year’s Quail event, there were eight Bugatti Veyrons and just about every Lamborghini Miura ever made. Incredible stuff for sure, but cars you’ve seen a thousand times online and in games. This is not a gallery of those cars.
Rather, these are the cars that generate a unique reaction. Specifically, these cars make you say things like “wow, I haven’t see one of those in forever,” or “I forgot all about these,” or “that’s the cleanest (insert car here) I’ve ever seen.”
1976 Chevrolet Cosworth Vega
Not just the name, but a racing pedigree of sorts. The 2.0-liter four-cylinder under the hood was a detuned Chevy racing engine developed by Cosworth and made 110 hp and 107 lb-ft of torque. It was the first Chevy production car to use electronic fuel injection. Less than 2,100 were made for the 1975 model year and 1,400 for 1976. All ’75s got this paint job, though more colors were added for ’76.
Shelby Series 1
Hoping to capture that Cobra lightning in a bottle again, Carroll Shelby rolled out the Series 1 in 1998. It used an Oldsmobile 4.0-liter “Aurora” V-8 with 320 hp and 290 lb-ft. Production technically lasted until 2005, though cars sold after 2004 came without engines or transmissions to get around federal law. Despite the long run, only 249 were built.
BMW Alpina Z8
What started out as the ZO7 Concept paying homage to the 507 Roadster was so popular that BMW put it into limited production in 1999. Originally, it featured the M5’s 400-hp V-8 and a manual, but when Alpina took over production for 2003, it got watered down to 375 hp, an automatic, and a softer suspension. Production ended in 2003 with 550 Alpinas and about 5,700 BMWs built. The Alpina V8 Roadster, as it was called, was the first Alpina sold in the U.S. by BMW dealers.
Ferrari 400i GTC
Have you ever seen a Ferrari 400 that looked cool? Now you have. The 400 is one of the least-respected Ferraris, right up there with the Mondial T, thanks to it being the first Ferrari ever to be sold with an automatic transmission. Still, it had a 340-hp V-12 up front, so it wasn’t all bad. 400i models got mechanical fuel injection by Bosch, which dropped power to 310 hp but greatly improved emissions. Collector Jim Busby transformed a tired ’82 400i into this one-off “GTC,” a vision of what Ferrari could have done back in the 80s if it had wanted to make the 400 actually cool.
Bill Thomas made his name modifying Corvettes and other Chevys in Southern California in the 1950s and 60s. Eventually, he caught the eye of GM, which provided some back-door support to build his own Shelby Cobra competitor. The Cheetah featured a number of Chevy parts, including its Corvette engine and transmission, which was connected directly to the differential with no driveshaft in between. Originally conceived as a concept car, it wasn’t rigid enough for serious competition and became more of a cruiser instead. Production lasted just three years, from 1963 to 1966.
Yanmar Y-Concept YT01
Why is there a crazy tractor at a car show? Because former Pininfarina boss Ken Okuyama designed it for Yanmar, a Japanese heavy equipment company. The 34-hp diesel tractor concept first appeared in 2013 promising an advanced GPS system which would theoretically allow it to operate autonomously once the technology was fully developed.