Add some weirdness to your garage with these 9 auction oddballs
Arizona Auction Week always has more Corvettes, Camaros, Mopars, and Mustangs up for grabs than you would ever know what to do with. From the other side of the pond, there are also high-dollar Ferraris and pre-war Mercedes-Benzes to keep you dreaming. With thousands of cars on offer, there are also bound to be some weird ones crossing the block, as well—and consignments for 2020 do not disappoint.
Here are the nine strangest rides we could find that will be auctioned next week.
1971 Lawil S3 Varzina
Presale estimate: N/A
Not everything with an Italian name and four wheels is a majestic sight. Take the utilitarian microcars built by Lawil, for example, which look like they were styled with a ruler, a pencil, and a little too much Aperol. Lawil was founded by designer Carlo Lavezzari, who obtained engines through his relationship with Henri Willame, who ran Lambretta at the time. Lawil (LAvezzari + WILlame) built several models from the late 1960s to the ’80s like the Farmer, the William City, and the William Farmer. Most looked like baby Jeeps, and the Lawil S3 Varzina features a 246cc two-cylinder engine mated to a four-speed with reverse. With 12 horsepower and the aerodynamics of a brick, top speed is 40 mph.
1956 Chrysler Ghia Plainsman
Presale estimate: N/A
Chrysler and Ghia had a serious fling in the 1950s, and it produced some of the most memorable concept cars of the decade. One of the more memorable Chrysler Ghia show cars was the Plainsman station wagon, which debuted at the 1956 Chicago Auto Show and is up for grabs at Worldwide’s Scottsdale auction. Styled by Chrysler and built by Ghia, the Plainsman looks outrageous but also has impressive features (for 1956) like a power tailgate with retractable rear window and a power-adjustable, rear-facing third-row seat.
All great cars should come with a good story, and this Plainsman has led an interesting life. After pleasing the crowds on the show circuit, the car went to Chrysler’s export manager in Cuba. He left ahead of the Cuban Revolution and took the car to Australia, where he converted it to right-hand drive. It eventually made its way back to the U.S., where it was switched back to left-hand drive and given a 440-cubic-inch engine.
The Plainsman first hit the auction scene in 2010, where it was bid to $160,000 but didn’t sell at RM Phoenix, and then again at Mecum Monterey, where it received a high bid of $90,000. In 2014, it sold for $176,000 at the Auctions America California sale. It has since been restored and looks much better than it did then, but we’re still left wondering about the interior. When new, the Plainsman had either “unborn” or “newborn” (depending on the source) calfskin upholstery. Currently the seats definitely look to be from a cow, but let’s hope it was at least an adult.
2009 Bertone Mantide
Presale estimate: N/A
Styled by American Jason Catriota, who also penned the Maserati GranTusimo and Ferrari 599, the Bertone Mantide looks like something straight out of a sci-fi movie, but underneath it’s a Corvette C6 ZR-1, 638-hp supercharged LS9 and all. The Mantide (“Mantis” in Italian) debuted as a concept car at the Shanghai Auto Show, and although a run of 10 cars was originally planned, this is the only one ever built. Even a decade later, it still looks futuristic. Read the Mantide’s full story here.
1986 Zimmer Quicksilver
Presale estimate: $40,000–$50,000
Back in the 1980s, odd and ostentatious “neoclassics” were a thing. Zimmer, along with companies like Excalibur and Clenet, is among the most famous builders. The Zimmer Golden Spirit is a typical example, with its 1930s-Mercedes-esque coachwork over a then-modern Ford platform, but the 1984–88 Zimmer Quicksilver is something entirely more futuristic. It looks like a personal luxury car with a fat, thirsty V-8 sitting under a long hood, but underneath it’s actually a Pontiac Fiero with a V-6 sitting behind the driver, not in front, along with a three-speed automatic. Despite its name, it is not a quick car, but it wasn’t really meant to be.
The body is fiberglass and the interior is sumptuous, complete with Italian leather upholstery, bucket seats, and genuine wood trim. The body is funky no matter which way you look at it, but it’s hard to call it ugly. The price was outrageous—over 50 grand at a time when a Fiero cost about 12—so Zimmer only built about 170 Quicksilvers. This may be the nicest one in the world; according to RM Sotheby’s, it’s a one-owner car with 464 miles on the clock.
1954 Taylor Aerocar
Presale estimate: N/A
There are plenty of reasons why the cliché “where’s my flying car?” question deserves a generous eye-roll. First, we’ve all heard that quip about our conceptions of the future a million times. There are also the logistical and regulatory nightmares that flying cars would unleash. Finally, there are already a few flying cars out there, including a few built when people dreamed about the airborne autos of tomorrow way back in the 1950s.
The Taylor Aerocar, “the car with the built-in freeway,” is one of the better-known examples, and while this one won’t be the only car with wings in Scottsdale, it’s the only one with wings actually meant for flying. One of five built, the Taylor Aerocar features a 320-cu-in, 150-hp Lycoming horizontal-four mounted in the rear. Through a three-speed gearbox, it drives either the front wheels in car mode or a two-blade propeller when it’s time to take to the skies. The wings and fuselage are towed behind on the road and can reportedly attach in under half an hour for flight mode.
The Aerocar has a 300-mile range, which will get you roughly from Boston to Philly. Just five of Moulton Taylor’s Aerocars were completed, and this one came to market in 2012 with an asking price of $1.25M and again this year for $895,000. According to Barrett-Jackson, it has 15,254 miles on it and 781 flight hours in its 66 years. Read a more detailed history of the Taylor Aerocar here.
1986 Chrysler LeBaron Town & Country Convertible
Presale estimate: $20,000–$25,000
Bonhams’ catalogue calls this LeBaron “the ultimate K-car,” which is sort of like being “the ultimate microwaveable pizza.” The faux-woodgrain-clad ’80s Town & Country convertible is also a far cry from the majestic genuine wood-laden 1946–50 Town & Country, but there isn’t much else on the road quite like it. This one has the distinction of coming from the collection of the late Lee Iacocca, who kept Chrysler alive in the 1980s in large part thanks to the K-car.
Iacocca’s Town & Country is represented with 20,500 miles, so he presumably spent quite a bit of time in the car. It also has the optional 146-hp 2.2-liter turbo, and the all-digital dash reportedly works—which is something to be cherished.
1971 Dinalpin A110
Presale estimate: $60,000–$80,000
The Alpine A110 is a little obscure to anyone who doesn’t care about rallying, but the Dinalpin is even more unusual. As Alpine, of Dieppe, France, got more publicity and more demand thanks to the success of the rear-engine, Renault-powered A110, the company contracted out the A110 to several foreign manufacturers. A110s were built in Spain, Brazil and even Bulgaria (called the Bulgaralpine). The Mexican version was built by Diesel Nacional, which already produced cars for Renault. It still wore the Michelotti-styled fiberglass body and featured all the same bits as the French-built A110, but the Mexican version sold as the Dinalpin.
Less than 1000 Dinalpin A110s were built, and this one wears an older restoration. Dinalpins aren’t worth as much as their home-grown counterparts despite being both mechanically identical and rarer. For example, this one’s ambitious $80,000 high estimate would barely buy a halfway-decent French-built Alpine A110 in #3 (good) condition.
1939 Packard Super Eight Hearse
Presale estimate: $150,000–$190,000
If you like to arrive in style, then surely you’d like to depart in style as well. This one-off Super Eight Hearse certainly fits the bill. Commissioned by an upscale funeral home in Virginia, the car wears bodywork by Henney of Freeport, Illinois, which was a major supplier of limousine and hearse bodies at the time. According to Bonhams, it is the only known car with a chassis from a Packard Twelve powered by the straight-eight from the Super Eight.
The interior is chock-full of blue fabric and wood trim, and the rear suspension features a hydraulic self-leveling system to keep the ride height consistent whether there’s anything (a casket, for example) in the back or not. It cost about $10,000 when new; that’s roughly $186,000 today.
After being used as a tour vehicle by a rock band in the 1960s, the Super Eight Hearse found its way to the consignor in the late ’90s. He reportedly paid $900 for it, then restored it over the course of a decade.
1957 Fuldamobil S-7 Coupe
Presale estimate: N/A
When Elektromaschinenbau Fulda GmbH and Nordwestdeutscher Fahrzeugbau decided to make a car, they did themselves and all of us a favor by shortening the name to Fuldamobil. It was among the first postwar microcars; the first ones puttered out of the factory in 1950, and Fuldamobil improved its design throughout the decade.
The S-7 was Fuldamobil’s most popular model. It features a tubular steel frame underneath an all-fiberglass body, which makes it lighter than its predecessors despite being longer and taller. This one has a 198cc, two-stroke Sachs bike engine and a gearbox with four forward gears—or four reverse gears (the engine can be started in reverse), in case you feel like going flat out backwards. These cars hardly ever pop up for sale in this country, but RM sold two earlier Fuldamobil S-6s at the Bruce Weiner Microcar Museum auction in 2013, one for $34,500 and one for $51,750.
Which of these eccentric vehicles would you want in your garage (or hanger)? Let us know in the comments section below.