Every year in January, hundreds upon hundreds of cars cross the auction block in and around Scottsdale, Arizona, for almost a full week. Typically, an endless stream of American muscle cars and vintage pickups, along with a handful of high-dollar European race cars, get most of the attention. But there are always a few unique, unusual, or downright funky cars on offer that can fly under the radar. Here are 10 of the strangest cars on offer this year:
French cars have never made much headway in the U.S., and anyone who owned a Renault Le Car or Alliance will tell you why. That’s a bit of a shame, though, because some of the sportier French cars have been undeniably cool in that quirky French kind of way, but they have either been incredibly rare or unattainable on our shores. Take the Renault Alpine A310, for instance. It looks great, has serious rally pedigree, and with its rear-mounted six-cylinder engine, it’s sort of like a French 911. Bonhams claims that this is one of only about 30 in the country.
During the 1950s and ’60s, while Ferrari, Jaguar, Aston Martin, and others were duking it out in France for the overall win at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, other carmakers like Panhard, Alpine, and Deutsch-Bonnet (DB) raced for the home team in the small-displacement classes. Founded in 1947 near Paris, Deutsch-Bonnet built lightweight racing cars until the early ’60s, and one of its most successful models was the HBR5, which had a sleek lightweight fiberglass body and flat-twin Panhard engine. A few hundred were built and they competed in long distance races all over the world, but you’d be hard-pressed find one for sale anywhere here in America. This one was owned when new by famous designer Brooks Stevens and raced at the 12 Hours of Sebring in 1957, although it failed to finish.
It looks vaguely Italian and has a flat-six like a Porsche, but this car was the brainchild of GM designer Bill Molzon, who built his dream car right here in the U.S. of A. Molzon wanted a car with superior acceleration and handling, and he built the tube-frame, fiberglass-body Corsa GT from the ground up. The engine is a race-spec Corvair motor built to 200 horsepower, and the gearbox actually is from a Porsche. Road & Track featured the car in 1970 and Molzon has kept it ever since, so this is the very first time it is being offered for sale.
We’ve all heard of a station wagon, but what about a station sedan? After World War II, that’s what Packard called its high-priced model, trimmed with white ash and featuring a semi-fastback roof. The incorporation of the wood into the body wasn’t seamless, like a Chrysler Town & Country or Buick Estate, and the wood on the doors looks almost tacked on. Even so, this is a rare car and one the most interesting postwar Packards.
The 541R was actually the fastest four-seater production car in the world when it was new, but few people have ever heard of it. Once you see it, though, it’s hard to forget, with styling that might best be described as “fussy.” This one has had a high-dollar restoration and is likely one of the best 541s in the world, not that you can afford to be picky when shopping for one. It failed to sell at Russo and Steele’s Monterey sale last year ($110,000 high bid), so this is the second go-round.
When we hear “sports car,” we think of Europe or Japan. When we hear “Sabra,” we think of hummus. Once upon a time, however, the Israelis made a sports car, and the company that built it was called Sabra, which came from the term for either a native-born Israeli or a cactus, the latter of which is featured on Sabra’s logo. The Sabra Sport, with its fish-like fiberglass body, was largely based on a British Reliant. Fewer than 400 were built, with less than half of them coming to America. Bonhams apparently has the market cornered on Sabras, having conducted the only other notable recent sale, at Amelia Island in 2016. The light blue coupe sold for $93,500, which is a lot of money for an obscure 61-hp automobile.
There’s definitely something reptilian about the Kaiser Dragon, but that may just be the pattern of the vinyl seats, roof, and dash. Despite its awesome name, good looks, and the fact that it came standard with just about every luxury feature you could want in 1953 (including 24-carat gold trim inside and out), it only lasted for one year and just 1,277 were built.
Like an Isetta, these 700s don’t look like the sort of thing that would have been built by BMW. But before BMW really found its financial footing, the little cars kept the company afloat. The 700, with its rear-mounted engine borrowed from the R67 motorcycle, was a successful racer in its day and sold very well in Europe, but few have survived and they were never imported to the U.S. This one has received a high-dollar restoration.
The late 1950s were not the best of times for Packard. They were, in fact, the worst. Having purchased Studebaker, Packard absorbed that company’s financial woes, and by the end of the decade Packard cars were little more than rebadged Studebakers. The Hawk, for instance, was based on the Studebaker Golden Hawk and had a shovel-like nose with a wide, narrow grille instead of the square, upright grille found on the Studebaker. It was a model that many Packard purists love to hate, but with a supercharged 289 V-8 engine, it was also the company’s fastest-ever model. Lasting just one year, fewer than 600 were sold, making it much rarer than the Studebaker version.
1937 Rolls-Royce Phantom III Sedanca De Ville by Freestone and Webb
This car is actually well-known in Rolls-Royce circles as the “Copper Kettle.” It only takes one look to see where its nickname comes from. It was sold new with a more conventional limousine body, but in 1946 a Rolls-Royce collector commissioned an entirely unique body by Freestone and Webb in North London. The coachbuilders laid copper over steel for the fenders, and copper is also found on the switchgear, radiator shell, horns, and bumpers. Even the Spirit of Ecstasy is made of copper.