Looking for something other than the norm? Tired of seeing mass-produced Toyota Camry’s or Subaru Forester’s everywhere you go? Then check out my picks of the unique, the quirky, and the cars you may have never even seen on the road. Some were produced for a short time, and you may have to search further afield than your hometown to find what you’re looking for, but it would be worth it to own a rare piece of transport history.
1. Chevrolet SSR (2003-2006)
This retro 50’s styled pickup not only turns heads, but is also a growing cult classic of automotive history. It has an impressive list of unique features such as the power-retractable hardtop convertible roof, carpeted flooring for not only the interior of the cab, but also for the rear cargo compartment area, rear on-board storage saddle bags and teak decking. Not a vehicle for all your mates, there’s only two seats in the cabin, but include some great exterior colors including purple, yellow and bright red with various decals being added as after-market treats. The 2003-2004 model featured a 5.3 V8 engine while the 2005-2006 model featured the updated 6.0 liter V8. I spotted a 2004 red LS rear-wheel drive online with a Bose Premium Stereo unit, traction control, a Towing/Camper Package, Premium wheels and NO previous damage or salvage title. It has an unbelievably low 46,350 miles on the speedometer for just under $20,000. However, if you have your heart set on an uber-cool yellow example with dark-tinted windows, special alloy wheels and 71,915 miles, then $20,950 will get you all that. By the way, SSR stands for Super Sport Roadster!
2. Subaru SVX (1991-1997)
In a class of its own, the SVX was Subaru’s first foray into the luxury/performance market, and what a beauty it is. The smooth, controlled drive instantly put other brands to shame. The 3.3 liter flat-six engine was the largest to come out by Subaru until 2008, and the car has an All-Wheel Drive system (although a front-wheel version was offered during the 1994-1995 year). It was ahead of its time with dual-airbags, cruise control, ABS (Anti-Lock Brake System), power steering, and the unique ‘window-within-a-window’ feature brilliant for its reduced wind noise, fantastic outward visibility, as well as the ability to open the small window in the rain without getting wet. These cars are collectible at a great price now. Looking online, there are very few examples available, but of those there are some good ones. If you’re willing to spend $21,950, then you could get a two-tone metallic pearl white/black 1992 AWD in excellent condition garaged all its life and with only 23,379 miles on the speedometer. However if your budget doesn’t stretch to that, you could buy a red 1996 model with beige leather seats, 52,587 miles, and AWD for $13,000. The paintwork is fading in spots (although there is no rust), and the Subaru rims have some gutter rash, but other than that, it’s good to go. You could look around for some replacement rims and get either a car wrap or an updated paint job to really bring back the cars appeal.
3. Plymouth Prowler (1997-2002)
Looking more like the Predator from the films of the same name, this retro-flavored classic lends itself to being noticed for its aggressive ‘hot rod’ style front grille and divided, modernized bumpers. It housed a 3.5 liter V6 engine and 4-speed automatic transmission, and was well equipped with features such as keyless entry (to save fingernail scratches round the door handles), power windows, dual airbags, a color-keyed instrument panel, digital odometer and full instrumentation as well as a speed-sensitive volume control activated via a switch mounted on the Prowler’s instrument panel on later models. There were no less than twelve colors across the two production runs including purple, yellow, orange-pearl, blue-pearl, deep candy red and high-voltage blue, two-tone black-red, and two-tone black-silver. You will have to reach deep for a starting price of $26,000 upwards for a good example. I found an almost new-condition 1999 purple Prowler with an astonishingly low 3,103 miles for a very reasonable $34,500. I also happened upon a very elegant two-tone black-silver 2000 Prowler without the frontal-jutting bumpers, garage-stored and a great 42,387 miles for $29,000 (private owner so willing to negotiate slightly).
4. Isuzu VehiCROSS (1999-2001)
For originality in the compact SUV range, the VehiCROSS wins hands down. It may share the 3.2 liter or 3.5 liter V6 engines with its Isuzu stable-mate ‘Trooper’, but its styling is completely different. Available for only three years in North America, the sporty yet versatile two-door crossover combined practicality and head-turning features such as the enhanced black plastic cladding covering the entire lower half of the vehicle and the titanium teeth on the front grille. This small powerhouse combined a computer-controlled all-wheel drive system for on-road driving alongside a low-gear four-wheel drive system for off-road adventures. I came across a burgundy 3.5 V6 2000 model with an extended blurb detailing all the good points and the mention of NO previous damage or salvage title. I couldn’t believe that with a mere 86,300 miles, it was only $1,400! I would definitely chase up this one to find out more. A bit more realistic however was the 1999 3.5 V6 model I found on another site in light silver with 105,638 miles for $11,995. Still a great bargain as most I found had much more mileage for even more money.
5. Nissan Juke (2011-2017)
I always find it hard to know which lights look like the ‘eyes’ of the car when looking at the front of the Nissan Juke. No strangers to unusual design (just look at the ‘Cube’ and ‘S-Cargo’), Nissan has produced a vehicle with three levels of lights that make the front end look alien-like, yet utterly unique – something Nissan does quite well. While North America didn’t get the second generation model which improved upon the front exterior look, Nissan still had six years to make their mark with this fun Crossover SUV. It does come in a variety of models including turbo, twin-turbo, and diesel versions with various trim levels including the ‘Chrome’ and ‘Navigation’ Packages. The ‘S’ is the base model. The ‘SV’ adds I-CON, optional 6-speed manual transmission and a moonroof. And the ‘SL’ model adds leather seats, USB connectivity and a rear-view camera. I found a variety of models on the used car market including a one-owner 2013 SL model in Gold with a ‘Chrome’ package that includes chrome side mirror covers, chrome door handle appliqués, chrome body side moldings, and chrome lower rear hatch appliqué. The mileage is 92,238 and the price is $10,500. If you’re after an SV model, then you might like the sound of a 2014 deep metallic grey Automatic with impressive ‘Navigation’ package that includes a Navigation 5″ Color Touchscreen Display, SiriusXM satellite radio capability and rearview monitor, Rockford Fosgate ecoPUNCH Premium Audio System, USB Interface, Secure Digital (SD) Card-Based (DISC), and XM NavTraffic capability. $13,993 will secure this example with only 58,485 miles. And for those of you wanting an AWD (All-Wheel drive) I happened across a 2011 ‘Cayenne Red’ 1.6 liter Turbo example with 74,000 miles traveled for $11,499. Plenty of Juke’s on the market, so you can afford to be picky.
6. Hyundai Veloster (2011-2017)
The first generation Veloster certainly turned heads with its quirky frog-like rear-end and three-door compact body shape. In the United States, two option packages were available: The ‘Style’ package and a ‘Technology’ package (although there are dealers pushing a third ‘Ultimate’ package which isn’t as good as the ‘Tech’). Purchase of the ‘Tech’ package however requires purchase of the ‘Style’ package as well but also includes and External Amp with Subwoofer and 8 Speakers, Proximity Key Entry w/Push Button Start, and Body-color Sensors w/specific exterior colors. Only available with a 1.6 liter engine, you could choose from either the I4 or the Turbo GDI I4 in manual or automatic transmission, but the Veloster is equipped with ‘Blue Link’ – a new telematics system comparable to ‘OnStar’ in GM vehicles, and provides customers with automatic crash notification, vehicle diagnostics, and remote control of vehicle features. I found a 2014 ‘Ironman Silver’ model with the full ‘Tech Package’, 6-speed automatic and 87,469 miles on the speedometer for $10,950. I also found a 2013 model in ‘Color-coded Yellow’ inspired by Hyundai’s RE:MIX Lab program. It features a unique body kit, gunmetal-finish alloy wheels, a premium audio system, and 69,590 miles for $10,990.
7. Chrysler PT Cruiser (2001-2010)
The ultimate in retro design, the popular 1930’s styled Cruiser sold 1.35 million models worldwide by the end of production in 2010. It was named ‘Car of the Year’ in 2001 in ‘Motor Trend’ magazine and received the ‘North American Car of the Year’ at the Detroit North American International Auto Show. ‘Consumer Guide’ listed it as the ‘Best Buy’ continuously from 2001 through to 2006 and ‘Car and Driver’ put it in their ‘Ten Best’ list. There are no less than eight ‘Special Editions’ including the Flame, Woodie, Street Cruiser Route 66, Street Cruiser Pacific Coast Highway, Street Cruiser Sunset Boulevard, Dream Cruiser 5, PT Cruiser Sport, and Couture edition with at least ten trim levels to choose from. There are also a range of aftermarket accessories from grilles to alloy wheels and chrome trim to add more personality. The variety continues with five engine options from the base 1.6 liter up to the 2.4 liter Turbo, and you can get a convertible or classic hatchback in manual or automatic. There are also plenty on the used car market and even better is the fact you can pick one up with low mileage with a budget of $4,000 to $10,000. A quick look online showed up a range of great bargains like a one-owner 2006 ‘GT’ model with a 2.4 liter Turbo engine, sunroof, rear spoiler, and 65,690 miles for just $4,900. Then we move onto a 2003 ‘Woodie’ Touring Edition in ‘Deep Blue’ with the retro ‘Woodgrain’ decals and an ultra light tan and white interior along with blue dashboard panels, roof racks, and only 59,265 miles for $6,500. And for $7,950 would get you into a one-owner 2010 ‘Stone White’ hatchback in as-new condition, always garaged and just 49,739 miles on the speedometer.
8. Pontiac Aztek (2001-2005)
Over a five-year period, General Motors produced a mid-sized Crossover SUV with a 3.4 liter V6 engine and 4-speed automatic transmission. Promoted as a ‘Sport Recreational Vehicle’, the Aztek featured a bi-parting rear tailgate, a front center console that doubled as a removable cooler, optional sliding cargo floor with grocery compartments, and an optional camping package with an attachable tent and air mattress. If you get your hands on one with all this, you’ll be a very happy camper indeed. Not easy to find one with low mileage, I did find a well-looked after ‘Gold’ 2004 model with sunroof, ‘1SB Equipment Package’ (including 12 cargo tie-downs, 2 cargo nets, remote keyless entry, and solar-ray deep tinted rear glass), ‘Enhanced Storage Group’ (including roof rack crossbows, front-door utility packs and cargo, and security cover), and 164,367 miles for $4,495. If it had the service history and everything was done on time, then it could be a good deal. My advice would be to keep an eye out for any coming up at auction, or put a wanted advert up on social media platforms or free local community newspapers.
These are just some of the unique vehicles I’ve found on the streets. If you really want to find something different, go through all the makes and models on car sites to find ‘the one’ for you. It’s an exciting challenge you could turn into a game with your friends – to find the most obscure or unique cars on the used car market.