The automotive industry is constantly churning out new models to entice buyers. Some of those become instant classics, renewing themselves each year with an updated design. But some are just a flash in the pan, produced in limited numbers and destined to become highly sought-after rarities—even if they weren’t that popular in their time. Here are the short-lived concept cars that you’ll occasionally see driving around today.
40. Toyota RAV4 EV
The Toyota RAV4 EV was only available in California, made to meet the state’s zero-emissions regulatory structure. Part of the reason it never caught on past state lines is because it came out the same year as Toyota’s other electric vehicle, the Prius. The Prius became the brand’s mainstay, and the electric RAV4 was never a household name. We estimate there only about 500 of them still driving around today.
39. Alfa Romeo 4C
The gorgeous 2015 Alfa Romeo 4C should have been an instant hit. Built around a carbon fiber tub and boasting a mid-engine setup that squeezes 237 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque out of 1.75 liters of displacement, the 4C has classic sports car appeal. However, Alfa Romeo only sells a limited run of its automobiles in the United States. In fact, this is the first model to swing stateside in a number of years, making it instantly rare.
38. Ford Mustang Boss 302 Laguna Seca
The two-seater Ford Mustang Boss 302 boasts a 444 horsepower version of the Mustang’s 5.0-liter V-8 engine, a Torsen limited-slip rear differential, unique suspension tuning, and Recaro sport seats up front. It’s a limited-production road racing version of Ford’s popular pony which was only made in 2012-2013. Only 1,500 of these Mustangs were sold, making them a trophy for the sports car enthusiasts that managed to get one.
37. Acura NSX
Auto reviewers were amazed by the performance of the Acura NSX sports car when it was initially released back in 1991. With 270 horsepower and 210 lb-ft of torque available from a 3.0-liter V-6 (later upgraded to 290 horses from a slightly larger six-cylinder motor), it might seem slow by modern standards. But the Acura NSX’s reliability, supernatural handling capabilities, and outstanding looks means the 1991 racer has only gone up in value since then.
36. Pontiac Solstice GXP Coupe
GM always seems to be in some sort of financial trouble. The company’s looming bankruptcy may have been the reason the Solstice GXP’s advertising campaign was negligent. Too bad, because the Solstice GXP Coupe delivers with solid performance thanks to its 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine, 260 horsepower, and 260 lb-ft of torque, not to mention its arresting looks.
35. Tucker ’48
The Tucker ’48 has the distinction of being both rare and having a notorious backstory. Known as the “Tucker Torpedo,” new carmaker Preston Tucker only managed to produce 51 of these cars in Chicago in 1948 before his company folded the following year. Thanks to a stock fraud scandal that required a drawn-out investigation and attracted negative media coverage his company never recovered. Here’s the good part—there’s a theory that the big, established carmaker tried to put Preston Tucker out of business as they saw his fledgling car company as a threat to their business. If true, their meddling made sure that there were only ever 51 Tucker 48s, each with an estimated value today of $1.2 million.
34. Talbot Lago Grand Sport
As a car manufacturer, Talbot stumbled many times between its advent in 1903 and its close in 1994. In that time, Talbot manufactured a number of race cars that competed in Formula One competitions, and managed to win the 1981 World Rally Championship. The winning car was the rare Lago Grand Sport, a model introduced in 1948 that came in both a racing and luxury version. Because only 12 of the luxury models were ever produced, the Grand Sport is extremely rare and highly sought after by collectors willing to pay as much as $2.5 million for a Lago of their very own.
33. 1954 Oldsmobile F-88
Introduced in 1954, the F-88’s signature design made it an instant classic. With a 250 horsepower V8 rocket engine and an innovative fiberglass body, car historians credit it with influencing the style of every car that came after it. The fact that only four of these stunning cars ever rolled off the assembly line makes it an extremely hot commodity for car collectors. One is currently on display at the Gateway Colorado Automobile Museum, and another recently sold at auction for $3.5 million.
The DeLorean company’s meteoric rise and subsequent crash is only outshone by it’s most famous release. Right away, the DeLorean established itself as one of the most distinctive cars on the market in the 1980s. Its defining feature was its unadorned stainless steel body panels, which gave it a striking look. Add to that the gullwing doors and its starring role in Back To The Future, and the DeLorean has cemented its place in automotive history.
31. Mazda 323 GTX
With all-wheel drive, a locking center differential, and a turbocharged engine, the Mazda 323 GTX was one of the first affordable turbocharged hatchbacks to hit the market. The boxy frame became characteristic of the 80s aesthetic, which is why these useful vehicles are still popular today. If you can find one in good condition—the GTX was well-known for its finicky repairs.
28. HHR SS Panel
The HHR was GM’s answer to the PT Cruiser (see below), but it never caught on. Tough on the outside but comfortable on the inside, the design drew double-takes back when it debuted. Less of a passenger vehicle, these days the HHR is still favored by trades—plumbers, for instance, love ‘em. This unique cargo vehicle was released in low volume, but thanks to its hardy durability, many of them are still on the road today.
27. PT Cruiser
Most car lovers remember the day the PT Cruiser hit the market. Released at the turn of the new millennium, the car was Chrysler’s answer to a retro-themed hatchback. They were hoping to cash in on what Volkswagen had done with their revamped Beetle a few years prior. The PT wasn’t the greatest in terms of performance, but the unique styling quickly earned it a cult following. This car is definitely one of those “you either love it or hate it” things, but if you love it, you can pick one up used for steal.
26. Dodge Shelby CSX
Another eccentric Chrysler release, the tiny Shelby CSX had a limited production run and is one of the rarest Dodges out there. The CSX was a new breed, with a hot hatch design before the aesthetic became popular. These are perhaps one of the rarest American cars from this period (80s/90s), but you can still find them for sale, if that’s what you’re into.
25. Dodge Dakota Sport Convertible
As the first midsize truck with a full-size V8 engine, the Dodge Dakota was a fairly revolutionary. For buyers who wanted a pickup but didn’t need a full size, it was a godsend. The Sport Convertible edition was released during the early ’90s. It featured a full convertible top, which at the time was unheard of for a pickup truck. It was a design snafu that the world just wasn’t ready for. These days, you’ll only find the rare Dakota Convertible at auctions or car shows.
24. Lincoln Blackwood
The Blackwood was short-lived, and that might not have been a bad thing. The Blackwood was intended to ride the trend of new luxury SUVs, but it was little more than a jazzed up F-150. It had some cool features, like authentic wood paneling and an integrated navigation system, plus one of the best engines that Ford has ever produced, the in-tech V8. But in order to keep it looking good, you couldn’t really use it like a pickup truck, so it just didn’t make sense for most drivers.
The Anteros is truly a unicorn. Built by a company in California, the Anteros is a custom-made sports car modeled on the frame of a Corvette. The idea behind it was to give consumers a car with the performance of a Corvette, but which looked like a European luxury vehicle similar to the Alfa Romeo. As you can imagine, the market for these is very limited, despite the appeal of the LS3 600 horsepower engine.
22. Drakan Spyder
This vehicle is unique looking, that’s for sure. Like the Corvette and the Anteros, aboce, it’s powered by an LS3 Motor, the Spyder is just about the most unique looking car on the street. The Spyder has stayed popular in recent years as more consumers look at different ways to modify their existing sports cars. If you want something fun to drive in the open road with Corvette power, this is about as good as you can get.
21. Equus Bass 770
Designed to resemble the original 1968 Mustang, the Equus Bass 770 has a look all its own. The design of the 770 added a few a modern twists to help connect a new generation of drivers. The Bass 770 is a very limited production vehicle because they are built to order, which makes them valuable. If you don’t mind losing the Ford badge to get something that’s both modern and powerful, the Bass 770 is it.
20. Equus Throwback
Equus Throwback is an interesting piece of Americana, and another Corvette-inspired sports car. The throwback is a seamless package with a 1000-HP engine that can pull a 0-60 run in about 2.5 seconds. It was designed from the ground up to please even the most discerning Corvette owners and has a lot in common with the Bass 770, above. Drivers will be hard-pressed to find something as unique on the domestic market as the Throwback.
19. Falcon F7
The Falcon F7 looks like something out of a futuristic movie. A supercar that’s built from the ground up, you might mistake it for a McLaren. An aluminum composite body makes the car extremely lightweight so it can pick up incredible speeds. Pricing, however, is pretty steep for an American car. A fully-loaded model could set you back a good $395,000. For the price, you get Corvette power wrapped in a body that looks like an ’80s Lamborghini Countach.
18. Fisker SUV
Fisker is the American brand that was most well-known for bringing us the Karma, an electric sports sedan that predates Tesla. The electric Fisker SUV is designed along the same lines as the Karma Sedan, clean lines and an elegant interior. Electric vehicles are only getting better and more in-demand, but he Fisker will have competition from Rivian and the R1T. However, the new Fisker addition is a unique addition to the already crowded crossover market.
17. Hennessey Venom F5
Hennessey Performance has been notable for creating some of the most standout American muscle cars and performance parts. The Venom F5 stands out from other supercars by handing out blistering dyno numbers. This isn’t going to be your everyday performance car—he Venom F5 is one of the fastest cars in the world. With a 1,600-horsepower V8 engine, the Venom is touted as being able to reach a land speed record of 300 mph. That makes it the best exotic performance car to come out of an American manufacturer.
16. Lucra LC470
The roadster design of the LC470 is enough to persuade any hotrod lover into a purchase. The LC470 is designed to give Corvette performance, with 505 horsepower at the rear wheels. The Corvette-derived LS3 is the same engine that you’d get in a C6 Corvette. Built in San Marcos, California, this design is something that you don’t see too often anymore and is reminiscent of the Shelby Roadster, a magnet for collectors.
15. Panoz Avezzano
The Avezzano is more than just a pretty vehicle—there is some serious power under the hood. The 6.2-liter V8 delivering 430 horsepower will get you where you need to go in a hurry, but the Avezzano is going to set you back a pretty penny. $168,900 an expensive proposition by anyone’s standards, keeping the Avezzano rare and valuable.
14. Panoz Esperante GTR-1
When it comes to choosing a street-legal “racecar” there aren’t too many options to choose from—enter the Panos. It’s been making an impression in the supercar market for some time, though most of us are never going to have use for something as fast as the GTR-1. A car like the GTR-1 only feels at home on a long twisting road. The interior is about as barebones as you can get, which makes sense as the GTR-1 was designed for track driving.
13. Rezvani Beast Alpha
The Beast Alpha gives sports car lovers a way to enjoy something completely different. The Alpha has a 700-Horsepower motor to deliver a blistering 2.9 seconds 0-60 time. On top of that, you get a beautifully-designed exterior—some drivers swear it’s one of the best-looking sports cars on the road. Rezvani is not a brand you’ll see all too often, but if you’re in the high-income bracket and you want a fun toy, the Beast Alpha can’t be beat.
12. Rossion Q1
Made in Pompano Beach, Florida, the Q1 is an elegant mixture of sports car beauty and powerful performance. The 508-horsepower V8 engine takes to the track like a Maserati. Handcrafted on demand, these cars are built to the owner’s specifications and the Q1 will not disappoint in terms of handling. The Rossion Q1 is a pleasant surprise in an already-crowded performance car market, but is still rare enough to turn heads.
11. Saleen S1
The automotive company that makes the Saleen specializes in souping up Mustangs right out of the factory. But Saleen does more than just juice up pony cars. The brand also makes a collection of exotic sports cars, one of which is the S1. This hand-built exotic is one of the fastest cars in the world. The 450 horsepower engine is blisteringly fast, boasting a stellar 0-60 time—with a price tag of $100,000.
10. USSV Rhino GX
The Rhino GX is a street-legal army tank for the whole family. Designed on the Ford F-Series heavy-duty platform, the powerful V8 motor provides more than adequate performance despite the heavy frame. The Rhino GX comes in two options, gas or diesel. You can expect to pay about $229,000 as the Rhino is built to order. You won’t have very much luck finding a used model, as they last driver’s a lifetime.
9. Vanderhall Venice
Venice is about as unique as you can get in terms of design. Three-wheelers have recently been gaining momentum and acceptance in the performance car community. The stellar look of the car is just what you’d expect out of a roadster. The top is easily accessible and there’s a good amount of cargo room for a long-term voyage. Creature comforts such as an upmarket stereo keep the Venice looking great and usable for daily driving. The 200 horsepower engine can reach 0-60 in about 4.5 seconds. It’s a pretty neat collector car.
7. 2003 Ford Thunderbird
The Thunderbird was a retro-inspired nostalgia make, complete with a Jaguar-derived V8 powerplant. The overall design of the car is impressive. Ford spared no expense to make the Thunderbird an American classic that would stand out on the road. That attention to detail has made the 2003 Thunderbird is one of the most coveted Fords to come out in the last few decades. The resale price of these cars has remained high, and collectors snap them up as fast as they come up for sale.
6. Dodge Viper
The original Dodge Viper is the first American vehicle to cram a powerful V12 engine into a lightweight design. The look of the Viper was something that hadn’t been seen in a sports car before, with a long, sloping body and almost toy-like alloy wheels. It was also the first serious competitor for the Chevy Corvette, and people loved it on sight, but it went out of production not long ago. You can still find these on the open market, but a Viper in good condition isn’t going to be cheap.
5. Chrysler Crossfire SRT-6
Built between 2005 and 2006 and available as both a coupe and roadster, the Chrysler Crossfire had an AMG-tuned 3.2-liter V-6 engine that was supercharged to produce 330 horsepower and 310 lb-ft of torque. Polarizing styling and the lack of consumer confidence in Chrysler at the time meant very few of these vehicles ever made it into private hands. If you’re looking for a used one today, they can be found at bargain prices.
4. The Buick Y-Job Concept
The Y-Job was more than just a car — it was a signal for the next era of the automobile. While the Buick might not look that different than any other car from the late 1940s or early 1950s, it was a signal for the next era of the automobile. No longer would cars be thought of as just transportation. Instead, they’d be works of art with thoughtful design and careful planning behind them. These cars are priceless today, the prize of any serious car lover’s collection.
3. BMW 1 Series M Coupe
Only built for a single year, in 2011, the BMW 1 Series M Coupe combined a 3.0-liter turbocharged straight-six engine, a six-speed manual transmission, and a relatively lightweight platform outfitted with big brakes and a track-ready suspension system. The BMW 1M’s low production numbers—less than a thousand made it to North America—means you’ll have to look long and hard to find one to take home.
2. Aston Martin Bulldog
The Aston Martin Bulldog is an unusual looking car. Even more unusual, only one Bulldog was actually ever built. The Bulldog is a left-hand drive car even though it was made in England. Under the hood, the Bulldog has a 5.3-liter twin turbo V8 engine that provides 600 horsepower and enables a top speed of 190 miles per hour. Aston Martin auctioned off the only Bulldog in 1980 for $130,000 to an American collector. It resurfaced for sale in 2011 and was purchased for $1.3 million by a buyer in England. Proof that if you’re Aston Martin, you can get away with anything.
1. Rolls Royce 15 HP
The Rolls-Royce 15 HP was the first model of car produced by Charles Rolls and Henry Royce in Manchester, England, in 1904. A total of six Rolls-Royce 15 hp were made and only one is known to still exist—making it one of the oldest and rarest cars on the planet. The name of the car simply refers to the engine’s horsepower (15), which was a lot for the period but quite weak by today’s standards. The last remaining Rolls-Royce 15 HP is still touring the world in car museums and at automotive shows, where it is insured for a measly $35 million.