They’re iconic and owners adore them.
We take a look at unusual cars that broke the mould, creating startling new choices for car buyers.
1. Goggomobil DART
About 700 curvaceous Goggomobil DART sport cars were made by Bill Buckle of Buckle Motors in Sydney between 1957 and 1961. Buckle owned the Australian production licence for Bavaria’s Goggomobil line-up of the van, salon and coupé but had the sporty DART designed himself. To minimise Australian import taxes, only the chassis were imported from West Germany and the bodies of the sports car versions were made of dent-proof Australian-produced fibreglass, instead of steel bodies of the German versions. Notably, they didn’t have any doors or roofs, and were difficult to squeeze in and out of. They sold at about half the price of the basic Holden (A£622 compared with A£1110) and were much cheaper than other new cars here. A total of 5000 of all Goggomobil versions were made in Australia but few survived.
2. Mini 1961
It was the Mini-Minor that spelled the death of Goggomobil in Australia as it came in at a similar price point but had twice the engine cylinder count. The British Motor Corporation’s 1960s icon was developed in response to the 1956 Suez Canal Crisis, which caused a fuel shortage and petrol rationing, and spiked demand for small, low-fuel consumption cars. Called the Morris 850, it had an 850cc engine and was made here in 1961. Later local versions had wind-up windows, which were an improvement on its contemporary UK version with sliding windows. About 200,000 Minis were made in Sydney between 1961 and 1978.
3. Volkswagen Beetle 1938
The Love Bug was designed in response to Adolf Hitler’s requirement for a mass-produced, affordable car to transport families speedily around the new autobahn road networks in Germany. The engineering was finished by Ferdinand Porsche in 1938. There were a lot of similarities with another car, the Czech Tatra, which successfully sued in 1969 for patent infringements. It is claimed to be the most-manufactured model of a single platform ever made, with more than 21.5 million Beetles rolling off the production line. The last was made in Mexico in 2003. It was imported into Australia in 1953, with Volkswagen Australia making body panels here by 1960. The company withdrew local production in 1976.
4. Nissan Cube 1998
Looking like a mini-Hummer, this petite multi-purpose car is sold primarily as a used-car import in Australia. The boxy design means you can throw in your golf clubs, buggy and all, without needing to collapse the cart. The doors open to nearly 90 degrees. It’s built on the platform of the Nissan Micra, which is sold here, and both have the same CR14DE motor and auto transmission, so you can easily get repair parts. Since 2014, the Cube is only being sold in Japan.
5. smart Fortwo 1998
The smart Fortwo, made by Daimler AG, is a two-seater microcar and is the brainchild of Mercedes-Benz and Swiss watchmaker, Swatch. It is so compact, it can be parked perpendicular to the footpath. More than 1.7million have been sold worldwide up to early last year. They’ve been available in Australia since 2003 through Mercedes-Benz dealers, but importation was stopped in March 2015. The main problem here was it was the same price as a Toyota Corolla which was twice its size.