For most of us, as far as our vehicles go, putting a GPS in is all the pioneering technology we need. Maybe we’d consider getting a supposedly more environmentally friendly vehicle, but that would be pushing it. When it comes to personalizing our rides, a toy on the dashboard or a bumper sticker usually suffices. So this list goes to those visionaries who insist on pushing both the technological envelope and cutting the edge of vehicular design, however practical (or, way more often, impractical) it may be.
10. Rinspeed sQuba
A lot of kids who watch the exploits in Bond movies fantasize about emulating them in real life. Fantasies weren’t enough for Frank Rinderknecht, and as CEO of the Swiss automotive think tank and development lab Rinspeed, he was in a perfect position to bring this one to life. Even if it cost 1.5 million dollars to develop like this one did and it’s based on something from the Roger Moore film The Spy Who Loved Me, which is generally regarded as one of the sillier Bond movies.
All-electric, the sQuba is an exclusively open-top vehicle for safety reasons. On the surface it reaches a top speed of seventy-seven miles per hour, but on the surface of a body of water it tops out at about three miles per hour and underwater it drops down to about 1.8 MPH. It’s resistant to salt water but might not be safe for the open seas since it doesn’t function well beneath a depth of thirty feet. There are actually three motors inside the trunk area, and water screws under the hood for water propulsion. After it was unveiled to the world in 2008 during the Geneva Motor Show, there was discussion of making a small line of them on special order, but so far no word of it has surfaced.
9. The Largest Trucks in the World
You might think the largest truck would be some kind of novelty, long haul vehicle. Maybe it would be a double decker eighteen-wheeler. It turns out that it’s open pit mining where the scale of vehicles used in hauling ore can quickly sound like they were designed by kids. How else would you describe tires easily as tall as two people? But these vehicles not only exist, there are numerous models worldwide vying for the top spot. Turns out the winner is located in the former Soviet satellite Belarus, and it’s called the BelAZ 75710.
This monstrosity is about two and a half stories in height, thirty-one feet wide, and at about sixty-seven and half feet in length – or about as long as two double deckers buses parked end to end. At a maximum carrying capacity of 450 tons (900,000 pounds) it’s got the nearest competition beat by more than fifty tons. You might expect a truck like that to be a lumbering hulk, but it’s actually capable of speeds of forty MPH under road conditions and up to twenty-five MPH while going up a tricky gradient, and it also has a pretty tight turning radius. There aren’t many of them in the world currently because it costs six million dollars to build each one, but you just know there are companies out there that won’t be happy until they’ve got trucks that can manage five hundred ton loads, so maybe this will seem tiny by the time a large line of them could be built.
8. The Green Lego Car
No one here at TopTenz ever needed anything more elaborate than a rubberband for our Lego vehicles, but that would never do for Australians Steve Sammartino and Raul Oadia. In one of probably the top hundred things ever crowdfunded, forty of their fellow citizens helped fund this novelty vehicle modelled after the hot rod. Just the cost of all the Lego parts alone was put at over $60,000. Sammartino and Oadia didn’t construct it themselves, having sent that bit of labor to Romania in a job probably no one ever expected to be outsourced. This ended up being a significant problem for them because in the process of shipping it to Australia, the vehicle was badly warped by heat and cold. But by December of 2013 it was functional again.
The vehicle has more than five hundred thousand Legos snapped into it, and runs completely on a system of air pistons, with more than 256 of those in its four engines. It’s been clocked at going as fast as twenty miles per hour, and Oadia and Sammartino didn’t want to try speeds any higher than that. If going from hot weather to cool weather can severely damage a vehicle, it’s probably not wise to push it to the limit. Imagine just how many legos you’d need to make a full-sized tow truck for it!
7. Wolfen Dragon
On pretty much the opposite end of the spectrum of a rather cute idea like the Lego car is this beast made of metal. It isn’t just how good the body work is on the front of this vehicle that was first shared online from Russia in 2015. Even the back of the vehicle, with those two covers for its engine vents, look like they should be jet engines on a particularly powerful missile instead of a mere land vehicle.
That we don’t know too much about the vehicle online seems appropriate, as this seems like a piece that should have a bit of mystique to it. The original posts of photos of it claimed that the vehicle had a front and a rear-mounted flame thrower in it. That seems a bit unlikely: surely if it did, there would have been photos of them being fired up (pun absolutely intended) if the creator of this vehicle went to the trouble of installing them.
6. The Transition
The flying car basically became shorthand in American society for “the future.” Despite all the work that’s gone into developing them, even the most optimistic developers concede that a functional model of vehicles such as Toyota’s patented road friction-reducing vehicle are years off, let alone cars that can hover high in the air. However, the Massachusetts-based company Terrafugia already laid a pretty good claim to the title, going a relatively low tech route in 2013 with the Transition.
Coming in at a relatively inexpensive $280,000, this vehicle can reach a top speed in flight of one hundred miles per hour and has a range for about four hundred miles (with a little reserve, but you really shouldn’t push your luck when you’re flying.) In flight it can safely manage a load of about five hundred pounds. With the wings extended it’s about twenty-seven feet wide, and with them folded only about seven, making it both perfectly street legal and easily able to fit inside an average suburban garage since the folded wings are only about 6-foot-6 inches tall. Considering that it gets thirty-five miles to the gallon on the ground, it’s almost enough to make you want to stick to driving it.
5. The Largest Motorcycle
While there was some justification to making gigantic dump trucks hauling hundreds of tons of stone across quarries, this enormous vehicle can’t really claim much reason to exist beyond “why not”. Finished in 2012, Fabio Reggiani’s hog, the Regio Design XXL Chopper is sixteen feet high and thirty-two feet long. To put that in perspective, a slightly above average motorcycle like the Victory Cross Country cycle is about nine feet long.
As if that wasn’t overly ambitious enough, it’s also a fully functional vehicle. It has a 5.7 V Chevrolet engine with 280 horsepower, and Reggiani had it driven one hundred meters at Montecchio Emilia, Italy. It’s surprising that it only took him seven months to build it. It makes one wonder how much longer it would have taken if he had installed a sidecar.
4. The Most Expensive Car in the World
You might think that spending $1.5 on a submarine car would be the most anyone would want to pay for a vehicle. Turns out it’s not even halfway there. Indeed, at $3.9 million dollars, the 2013 Lamborghini Veneno Roadster makes the original Rinspeed sQuba seem like an absolute steal.
So, why is this vehicle named in honor of a particularly speedy bull from the early 20th century so expensive? For starters, there’s only one in the world because Lamborghini made it to commemorate their fifty year anniversary. For another, its engine has more than 750 horsepower, which allows you to reach sixty MPH in about three seconds and top out at 220 MPH. The construction style is carbon fiber monocoque, helping it grip the ground and aiding in steering. If all that doesn’t sound like enough reason to spend that much on this vehicle, consider that in March 2015 the vehicle was put up for sale at 11 million dollars after it had been driven more than five hundred miles. Apparently if you’re going to try and overcharge for a car, don’t go halfway on the markup.
3. Smallest Street Legal Car
Most of the vehicles on this list so far have tried to look cool in some way, but this one is basically a conscious rejection of the whole idea of being cool. It looks like something an eight year-old might feel a little self-conscious driving. And yet Austin Coulson’s two foot wide, four foot long, and two foot tall vehicle that he made in 2013 (which is modelled on a 1957 Chevy) meets the requirements of being street legal. It’s estimated to get about forty-five miles to the gallon, meaning with its tiny gas tank that he can get about twenty-two miles with it before he has to refuel.
There actually seemed to be some controversy online about whether this vehicle was legitimately street legal. Despite the fully functional headlights, seat belt, windshield with wiper, and horn, it wasn’t enough. See, the vehicle only goes a maximum of twenty-five miles per hour (which Coulson said feels really scary to ride it at because the vehicle doesn’t have a suspension system) and that’s allowed in villages and most suburban areas, but many highways have a minimum speed limit of about forty miles per hour. Both the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles and the Guinness Book of World Records are on board with it being street legal, however, with the former providing it license plates and the latter honoring it with a listing. Coulson said that he wasn’t protective about his record, looking forward to when he could see an even smaller version of his car.
2. Most Political Vehicle
It may just look like the person who made this just wanted to be silly, but actually Ben Cohen (of Ben & Jerry’s fame) had a real point to make when he had Flash Hopkins and Tom Kennedy create it in Oakland, California in 2007. It was one in a series of vehicles that Cohen rode in nationwide demonstrations against corruption and misspending in government. In particular, it’s a protest against runaway military spending, with Kennedy claiming at the time that the U.S. armed forces had enough firepower to destroy every major city in the world ten times over. As a result of that, educational funding in America had suffered, making the situation as topsy-turvy as this topsy-turvy bus.
This whole awareness campaign was no crankish act on Cohen’s part. The Priorities Campaign that these vehicles were part of promoting included hundreds of powerful members, including business executives, senior members of the military from admirals to generals, and even members of the Pentagon. But to borrow a phrase from TVTropes.org, your mileage may vary on how effective a way this was to make the point about military overspending.
1. Fastest Ground Vehicle
On October 15, 1997, Andy Green broke the sound barrier with the Thrust SSC in the Black Rock Desert in Nevada, the first time that happened under conditions that were officially sanctioned. He was travelling 763 MPH in a vehicle propelled by a pair of Rolls-Royce Spey engines, the same engines that were mounted on a Phantom F-4 jet. It took him about twenty-seconds to reach that ground speed. It broke a record that had stood for fifty years.
There was some dispute over this record, with a Budweiser Rocket Car in 1979 having supposedly gone over one thousand miles per hour. However, the equipment used to measure that speed didn’t seem to be used properly, such as the radar being used on a television recording instead of on the vehicle itself, so Guiness sides with the Thrust SSC on this one. Surely Austin Coulson can relate to all that drama.
Dustin Koski’s own amazing vehicle (amazing in that it still runs) can be followed on Facebook.