Hooniverse Asks- What's Your Favorite Boutique American Ride?

The cavalcade of car makers that has called the U.S. home is long and rich in history. Some have survived to this day, while many more have fallen beneath the wheels of questionable planning or a fickle buying public. The ‘Auto Industry’ here in the States is composed of a small number – the questionably anointed Big Three – and a fair number of beachhead import makers. Over the years, there have also been the odd one-off makers that have attempted to join the ranks of the survivors, and not the trash heap of the failed.

Sadly, few have succeeded.
Most of the boutique car makers have started with someone else’s car – letting them do all the development heavy lifting – and then personalizing it with their own, well, personal stamp of individuality. Zimmer, Clenet, Excalibur, Panoz, Muntz, the list is nearly endless.  And many of these can still be bought today, even though most of their makers have gone the way of Elvis.
Some of the American boutique makers are neo-classics, typically bought by people who have  columns in front of their houses, and statuary with visible genitalia. Others are cars the are one thing but look like another- such as the 308-aping Mera, which turns out to be a Fiero under its fiberglass skin. With so many from which to choose, it may be hard to settle on a favorite, but I know each of you has  one that is held close to your heart. My personal one is North American, but not U.S. – and that’s the 289 Cobra emulating Aurora. That uber-limited production car even tried to bring the AC-based roadster into the modern era by trying to meet full-on safety standards. A noble, but ultimately bankrupting goal. That’s mine, but what’s yours? What’s your favorite boutique American car?
Image source: [ Cartype.com]
Thanks to Longroofian for the question idea.

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56 responses to “Hooniverse Asks- What's Your Favorite Boutique American Ride?”

  1. dukeisduke Avatar

    Why, the Clenet!
    <img src="IMAGE URL" width="600">
    <img src="http://www.clenetcorner.com/jpegs/s1-99-2.jpg"&gt;

    1. dmilligan Avatar

      That is such a mish-mash of different styles…. words fail me. And my eyes sting.

    2. ptschett Avatar

      I never did find myself wondering what turning a Spridget body into a neo-classic would lead to, but now I know.

    1. Syrax Avatar

      I don't know if it's physically possible but I always thought the S7 would look better as a non-longtail.

  2. tonyola Avatar

    Cumberford Martinique – two were built on a BMW 7-series platform in the early '80s. By the way, that's real marine-grade wood on the fenders and trim.
    <img src="http://www.gatsbyonline.net/Users/8/Images/GatsbyAutomobilesDivers/1982_CumberfordMartinique01.jpg&quot; width=500>
    TLC Talbo – built on Mustang mechanicals. Just look at it.
    <img src="http://www.metalmeet.com/photopost/data/3794/medium/Talbo8side6.jpg&quot; width=500>

    1. M44Power Avatar

      Every time I see that car, two things happen. First, I throw up a little in my mouth. Then it occurs to me that every one of his pompous “design analyses” in Automobile should have a small picture of that monstrosity printed beside his name as a disclaimer.

      1. mdharrell Avatar

        In person he struck me as a nice guy. His sense of humor may not entirely align with my own, but overall I'm satisfied with at least his one design analysis which I can readily verify for myself:
        (This also fulfills my obligation to relate everything back to my own stable, in case JeepyJayhawk thinks I'm slacking.)

        1. citroen67 Avatar

          I had no idea that a KV could go as fast in reverse, as in forward, until I read that article. Also, I had no idea that you were a doctor. Mad props to you for all the work involved with that!

          1. ZomBee Racer Avatar

            Oh crap! Wait, WHAT?!?!?

          2. mdharrell Avatar

            Oh yeah, top speed in the forward direction is exciting, but in reverse it's quite unnerving. I did it exactly once; I felt I pretty much had to, really. Not twice, though.
            My dissertation's title is "Anisotropic Lattice Thermal Diffusivity in Olivines and Pyroxenes to High Temperatures." It's a fun read. Also not twice, though.

          3. ZomBee Racer Avatar

            I do like olives. Not sure what the rest of the recipe tastes like.

          4. mdharrell Avatar

            You want the recipe? For best results, place each cut in a slow rotisserie oven at 1000°C, then baste with infrared laser pulses. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat….

          5. OA5599 Avatar

            I saw a grapple truck doing heavy trash pickup duty this morning. Normally the driver sits in the truck cab and drives in the normal direction to go to neighborhood jobsites, then moves to the back of the truck for scoop duty, and follows the dump truck from house to house while going in reverse. What made this morning's run unusual was that I saw it driving "backwards" on a four-lane divided road.
            <img src="http://www.heiloftexas.com/photo/RS3.gif&quot; width=500>

        2. JeepyJayhawk Avatar

          My day, you has made it. Thank you for thinking of us little people.

    2. dukeisduke Avatar

      The Cumberford was quite a car. I remember it being on the cover of Car and Driver.

  3. Peter Tanshanomi Avatar
    Peter Tanshanomi

    My first thought was dp1, but since that's not a street-legal car, my vote goes to SUB for their awesome G1 three-wheeler.
    <img src="http://www.sub3wheeler.com/images/img_complete/complete03.jpg"&gt;

  4. Alff Avatar

    When it comes to boutique manufacturers, I'm a fan of the low production sports/racers of the 50s and 60s.
    The short-lived Cheetah was probably the wildest looking…
    <DIV style="OVERFLOW: auto" sizcache="0" sizset="45"><img src="http://www.cheetahcars.com/images/DixonWS64_small.jpg&quot; width=500>
    But Kellison is probably my favorite
    <DIV style="OVERFLOW: auto" sizcache="0" sizset="46"><img src="http://bringatrailer.com/wp-content/uploads/2007/11/1959_Kellison_J5_Coupe_Rear_1.jpg&quot; width=500>

    1. dmilligan Avatar

      Yeah, the Cheetah was a great looking car.

    2. FuzzyPlushroom Avatar

      The incredible thing is, especially fromthe rear, the only giveaways as to the Kellison's era of styling are the lights, fuel filler cap, and perhaps the doors. The basic shape would be fresh, relevant, and stunning as a brand new car, although it'd require a bit of reshaping up front and some variety of bumpers.
      It's certainly not often that I get to say that about a kit car. I'm seriously awed.

    1. Peter Tanshanomi Avatar
      Peter Tanshanomi

      Um, that's kinda hot.

    2. dmilligan Avatar

      Hmmm, it looks like a Rambler.

      1. mr. mzs zsm msz esq Avatar
        mr. mzs zsm msz esq

        It looks like a P1800 from an alternative universe where it is a logical design successor to the Amazon, which looks a lot like a Rambler.

    3. FuzzyPlushroom Avatar

      I came here for the Cunningham. Cheers, Mr. Scroggs.

  5. OA5599 Avatar

    I came here to post the Bill Thomas Cheetah,
    <img src="http://assets.hemmings.com/story_image/151131-500-0.jpg?rev=2&quot; width=500>
    but since Alff got here first with that, I'll list a manufacturer that produced more than three times as many cars.
    <img src="http://www.uniquecarsandparts.com.au/images/car_spotters_guide/1947/tucker.jpg"&gt;

  6. muthalovin Avatar

    AMC surely doesn't qualify, so I will not comment.

    1. CptSevere Avatar

      Good Lord, you really rang the bell with this monstrosity. I didn't think you could actually make a Monte Carlo uglier. Thanks, I think.

    2. LTDScott Avatar

      Add some rally lights, a CB antenna, Hawaiian Tropic paint job, and wear a Kufiya to create the ultimate Cannonball Run mashup tribute.

    3. topdeadcentre Avatar

      If you walk up close to the grille, and lean in close, you can hear the Spirit of Ecstasy hood ornament whispering, begging, "Help… me… Take me away…"

      1. mdharrell Avatar

        "…and, while you're at it, please leave one of these instead:"
        <img src="http://farm1.static.flickr.com/174/420329877_dba8c6c595.jpg&quot; width="300">

    4. junkman Avatar

      I know where there's still one on MSO……

      1. Alff Avatar

        Not surprised 1) that there's still one they couldn't sell and 2) you know where it is.

  7. joshuman Avatar

    I have wanted a Tango for quite a while now. It could never be my primary vehicle but it would be fine as a third or fourth.
    <img src="http://www.seriouswheels.com/pics-2006/2006-Commuter-Cars-Tango-Drag-Strip-1280×960.jpg&quot; width=350>

    1. dmilligan Avatar

      It looks tricky to drive on a windy day.

  8. skitter Avatar
    1. zaddikim Avatar

      Isn't that the beastie with the ridonkulous Hartley V8? If so, yum – Daddy likes.

  9. P161911 Avatar

    I think this would qualify. A Se7ev with a Ford V-8. The Panoz Roadster. There is a guy that used to work for them that has one with all the body panels polished bare aluminum.
    <img src="http://www.dupontregistry.com/autos/autoimages/largeimages/634370030362994080.jpg"width=500&gt;

    1. Seth_L Avatar

      I genuinely love Panoz cars. Chalk it up to some ALMS attendance at the appropriate time in life.

  10. mdharrell Avatar

    Why settle for less than the ultimate and the greatest?
    <img src="http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4148/4949530159_85c2289e4c.jpg&quot; width="500">

    1. dukeisduke Avatar

      I remember seeing that in Motor Trend at the time. Truly weird. It had one door, in the center of the rear, and that's how you got in and out.

    2. Paul_y Avatar

      This times a billion.

    3. FuzzyPlushroom Avatar

      The obvious question: "How hard can it be?"

  11. 2 sexxy cute Avatar
    2 sexxy cute

    <img src="http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3598/3500670703_22d0902b86.jpg"&gt;
    &lt;img srx="http://www.onehellofaneye.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/04/GeraldineElizabeth-Carmichael_Dale-815×1024.jpg"&gt;
    The Dale – Most fun! Car had three wheels, promoter had two sexes! Used a modified BMW motorcycle engine and got 70 mpg during the 1974 gas shortage. Only three made, all non working prototypes and in museums.
    Liz Carmichael was convicted of cheating investors but bailed out by a studio that wanted her story. She could lived her life out as a man, since no one had seen her as a man in decades, but she was spotted years later selling flowers in Florida. She was still Liz and had been featured on tv, being 6'1" made it hard for her to fade into the background.<img src="http://www.onehellofaneye.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/04/GeraldineElizabeth-Carmichael_Dale-815×1024.jpg"&gt;

    1. dukeisduke Avatar

      I remember at the time "Elizabeth Carmichael" (actually Jerry Dean Michael) being interviewed by legendary Dallas talk show host Ed Busch. I always thought the car was goofy looking (not to mention that Amazon that hawked them).
      Here's an article about Ed Busch's old show. He interviewed some real doozies, like Madalyn Murray O'Hair, Erick von Daniken, Tom Valentine, Charles Berlitz (of the Bermuda Triangle fame), and many others.

    2. Alff Avatar

      The Dale was technically innovative but ultimately most famous for its hidden shaft.

  12. Abe Avatar

    Stutz Blackhawk.

  13. Paul_y Avatar

    While the Mohs cars are the ultimate in absurd low-volume awesomeness built on somebody else's (in that case, IH's class 6/7 truck-) platform, I've always had a soft spot for the Excalibur that would normally only be explicable in the context of a major brain injury.

  14. ptschett Avatar

    Thanks to a book we had at home during my childhood, this car is permanently lodged in my brain.
    <img src="http://static.howstuffworks.com/gif/1960s-and-1970s-duesenberg-concept-cars-6.jpg"&gt;
    1980 "Duesenberg"… image from howstuffworks.com

    1. skitter Avatar

      Hold very still, and I'll try to fish it out with a crane.

      1. FuzzyPlushroom Avatar

        Usually takes a crane to get it out.

  15. Maymar Avatar

    I'll go North American, with the more car-like of the two Canadian 3-wheelers.
    <img src="http://www.campagnamotors.com/images/product/trex_14r/02.jpg&quot; width=500 /img>

  16. Marc Avatar

    I always liked the Guldstrand GS90.

  17. gooseboy78 Avatar

    the biggest kit car maker is still going his name is carroll shelby remember him? yes the shelby cobra. there are lots of kit car makers in new zealand not all of them good, cars we do well is cobra, lotus 7s, gt40s and the odd lamboghini contach replicas

  18. 2stroke4life Avatar

    Do the Virgil Exner "Revival Cars" count? If not, it's the late-60s/early-70s Stutz Blackhawk, the Exner Revival Car for the masses.