This is a Saab Sonett III. On the face of it, you may think it’s pretty wacky; it has a V4 engine, was made by a little Swedish manufacturer, and weighs under two tons.
However, it is surprisingly normal when you realize that the engine is from a Ford family sedan, it is FWD, and has a practical hatchback. Thus, we can conclude that the Sonett is more quaint than quirky, especially compared to what we have next.
Here is the Vauxhall Guildsman. It was the product of the ‘Vauxhall Craftsman’s Guild’ design competition run by GM in the ‘60s and ‘70s. Young designers were told to create a car which would be converted into concept form by Vauxhall.
Eventually, the project gained enough traction that Lesney approached GM and expressed interest in miniaturizing one of the thousands of entries.
This was the one that made the cut, and thus we still remember it today!
Despite this interesting backstory though, the Guildsman still wears the Vauxhall name which has long been associated with dowdy family transportation, reducing its status as a truly wacky car.
This is the Alfa Romeo Carabo. Similar to the Vauxhall, this Alfa was the result of a design exercise in the late ‘60s except instead of up-and-coming designers, it was done by the legendary Bertone.
However, this Alfa was a far cry from the plebeian roots of the Guildsman as it was crafted on the magnificent Alfa 33 Stradale platform. It was part of a five car series in which Bertone, Giugiaro, and Pininfarina would create their own variants of the 33 Stradale.
While none of the coachbuilt designs would ever see production, the Carabo would go on to largely influence the Countach in the ‘70s and ‘80s. Though tt may have been the winner of the proverbial ‘Wedge War’ of the late ‘60s, it’s not the wackiest concept car from Lesney by my reckoning.
Welcome to the Datsun 126X. This outlandish looking car was Datsun’s belated response to bonkers concepts such as the Toyota EX-III. Released at the 1971 Tokyo Motor Show, one of the trademarks of the 126X were the slats along the hood which contained lights to indicate if the car was braking, accelerating, or cruising.
The concept itself had an L series I6 similar to the 260Z, and thus represented the attainable sports car wrapped up in an awesomely wacky package.
In addition, this Datsun practically broke the mold for Matchbox as it opened the gates for many more Japanese models in the future, and that is why it wins my nomination for LaLD Car Week’s Wacky Wednesday. Thanks for reading, and see you around LaLD!
(Note: All images of concept cars were taken on Hot Wheels’ Turbo Jet City, which you might recognize if you were either a parent or kid from the late ‘90s)