Super niche cars that you’ll be glad to know about
This year’s been a great one for new cars. We’ve got the new BMW M3 and its polarising new look, the SSC Tuatara got caught cheating the world’s fastest car record and the new Porsche 911 GT3 finally came out to say hello. The problem is, it’s all rather mundane.
These are cars that we knew were coming and eventually, the constant release of the same old stuff can feel pretty monotonous. So, it’s time to dig deep and journey off the beaten track into niche territory. These cars you may not have heard of which means, although they’re not new cars, they’re new to us.
These are the kinds of cars that will outshine all the supercars at a car meet, and do so with half the horsepower. They’re odd, rare, sometimes ugly and often very interesting. They’re cars you never knew existed.
If you think a TVR is a good example of a niche British sports car, boy are you in for a surprise. Marcos Engineering, a British company, made the Mantis which was released in 1970 as a luxury sports coupe. It was one of the lowest coupes available, sitting at just 1.17 m and was powered by a fairly ‘normal’ engine and transmission from the Triumph 2000.
It certainly was an odd little sports car, with the 1997 Mantis GT being just as odd-looking. The Mantis GT was a much more powerful car thanks to a supercharged 4.6-litre V8 producing around 500 hp! The styling was so obviously 90s, looking back, and for a car released in the late 90s, it was a serious machine. 0-62mph in just 3.7 seconds, vented brakes and a top speed of 179mph means this is one oddball that’s certainly still worth talking about.
Zenos E10 R
Now, for a more modern vehicle, the Zenos E10 R. Kind of like a Mazda MX-5 without a roof, oh…and with the performance of a supercar. It’s a nippy little open-cockpit two-seat sports car with 350 hp and a 0-60mph time of around 3 seconds. Definitely fast enough to have you grinning from ear to ear, although that may prove more difficult with the wind in your face. As you would expect with an open-top sports car, it’s very well-tuned with specialist suspension, brakes, gear shift (which is manual, by the way), tyres and structure.
Just when you think you know your Porsche and then you learn about the 914. A mid-engine sports car from 1969 that looks like no other Porsche. It’s boxy and beautiful design certainly help it stand out from other Porsche cars and although its mid-engine setup may make it sound sporty, it was in fact a rather sluggish car.
Generating just 101 horsepower from a 2.0-litre flat-four engine and around 80hp from the more popular 1.7-litre engine, it would take around 13 seconds to reach 60mph!
Lotus Europa S
You may have heard of the Lotus Europa but have you heard of the Europa S? Unlike other Lotus cars, the Europa S was built on compromises. Meant to be made as a more comfortable, practical alternative to cars such as the Elise, the Europa S waters down many of Lotus’ defining features such as ultra-lightweight and tight performance.
Still, it sure is fun to look at. Like a stretched out Elise that looks a little more luxurious, it’s bound to get endless amounts of double-takes with people thinking they just saw a slightly out of proportion Lotus.
Let us know about any cars you think more people should know about, in the comments!
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