The natural assumption is that all rare cars are exotic European models, with original sales prices which far surpass what most people paid for their house.
In reality, while some are European exotics, some of the rarest cars in the world are rather unassuming in their appearance. You might walk right past them at an auto show and not even realize what they are.
Many of the rarest cars from around the world are so obscure, you likely haven’t even heard of them before.
When most people think of exceptionally rare cars, their minds automatically turn to exotic supercars. That’s natural, but the reality is some more unassuming car models are even more scarce. Not all of the following cars are well-known among the general public, but collectors absolutely would jump at the chance to get their hands on any of them.
Maserati Tipo 61
Lovingly called the “Birdcage,” this Italian classic is something you’re lucky to see in person during your lifetime. Maserati only made six of these cars, which did exceptionally well in motorsports for the 1960s. The Birdcage nickname came from the tubular space frame construction, which was not only quite lightweight but also incredibly rigid. That, combined with aluminum body panels, helped the Tipo 61 achieve a curb weight of just 1,323 pounds.
The twin-cam, four-cylinder engine was quite potent, churning out 250 horsepower. With that kind of power on tap in such a lightweight car, drivers had quite the advantage on the track. In fact, Stirling Moss himself was the first to pilot the Maserati Tipo 61 during a competition, taking first place at the 1959 Delamare-Deboutteville Cup for the Rouen GP. Curiously, the car saw more success in races in North America than in Europe, where reliability problems were a constant obstacle.
A five-speed manual transmission worked with a ZF limited-slip differential to send power the rear wheels. To keep a more aerodynamic design, Maserati placed the engine at a 45-degree angle under the hood. That reduced the frontal area dramatically, allowing the car to cut through the air instead of pushing through it. Maserati stuck with a pretty standard suspension for the Tipo 61, using coil springs, dampers, and wishbones in the front, while a De Dion rear axle combined with transverse leaf springs and telescopic dampers for the car’s rear. However, unique were the Girling disc brakes for all four wheels, providing more precision stopping performance. This setup allowed drivers to maintain dominant control, posting hard-to-beat lap times at tracks all over. Today, collectors will pay a hefty price to own such a rare vehicle.
1963 Shelby Daytona Coupe
Not all that is rare in the automotive world comes from Europe. A symbol of powerful yet sophisticated American performance cars in the 1960s, the Shelby Daytona Coupe was a force to be reckoned with in its day. If you’ve seen one in person, consider yourself lucky, since only six were ever made.
Shelby used the British AC Ace chassis in a loose manner as the basis for the Daytona Coupe, just like with the super-famous AC Cobra. What the Daytona Coupe had versus its roadster cousin was better aerodynamics, allowing the car to successfully compete in events like the FIA GT World Championship, where racers achieved higher speeds. After some storied success, Ford offered to finance a run at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, where the Shelby Daytona Coupe took first in the GT Class and fourth overall. This was a moral victory for Ford, which had just been shut down in an attempt to buy Ferrari.
Originally, there were only two Dayton Coupes in production. Because of their many victories, four more were created. Each time one is auctioned off, it fetches millions of dollars more than the previous one, showing this rare car is genuinely highly sought-after by collectors around the globe.
1956 Aston Martin DBR1
Aston Martin limited production of this racer to a mere five cars, making it perhaps the most sought-after British vehicle ever made. One sold at auction for $22.6 million, setting the record for the most a British car has fetched at auction.
While it’s a nice car to look at, the DBR1 is more than just a pretty face. In motorsports it racked up a number of victories, including at the legendary 24 Hours of Le Mans. The success of this ultra-rare model helped cement Aston Martin’s reputation, elevating it to the likes of Bentley and Jaguar in post-war Europe.
The success of the Aston Martin DBR1 helped ensure its lasting influence on the design of future endurance racers, both from Britain and elsewhere. That, combined with the car’s overall rarity, have fueled the insane prices collectors are willing to pay for a chance to own one.
Pagani Zonda Revolucion
Also capped at just five made, the Pagani Zonda Revolucion is yet another highly collectible car. Any Pagani is the kind of vehicle you’ll find in a museum, thanks to the painstaking craftsmanship poured into them. The Zonda is extremely well-regarded, even among supercars, but the Revolucion edition pushes the envelope to an all-new level.
First off, no other version of the Pagani Zonda is so rare. Sitting behind the driver and passenger is an absolutely monstrous 6.0L Mercedes-AMG V-12 engine, which pushes out 700 horsepower. That’s impressive, especially when you figure this supercar weighs just over 2,300 pounds.
Buying the Zonda Revolucion brand new wasn’t easy, nor was it cheap. It retailed for $2.8 million, but the value of the supercar today is surely far greater than that. One day, when one of the five owners decides to take one of these to an auction, we’ll find out just how much it’s appreciated in value.
Bugatti Royale Kellner Coupe
Offered for the model years 1927-1933, Bugatti’s Royal Kellner Coupe was intended for royalty across Europe. The French automaker’s plan was thwarted by the fact royalty on the continent were being displaced rapidly. For example, Spain’s King Alfonso was supposed to take delivery of a Royal Kellner Coupe, but he was deposed before that could happen.
Ultimately, political unrest in Europe lead to only six of these cars being made. Three of those cars were sold, with the other three hidden until after the close of World War II. Not a single one of the coupes ended up in the possession of royalty. Today, they are some of the most sought-after cars and rarely do they change hands.
Everything was opulent about the Royale Kellner Coupe, supposedly because Ettore Bugatti wanted to out-class Rolls-Royce. The car is long, thanks in part to the U-16 aircraft engine which was very much over-the-top, displacing 12.7 litres and producing 300 horsepower, a high number for the time. Each interior was completely bespoke, featuring only the finest materials and craftsmanship. Likely, such a car will never again be produced, making this Bugatti a true collector’s item.
1954 Oldsmobile F-88
With only four of these cars having every rolled off the assembly line, it’s hard to top this Oldsmobile when it comes to rarity. Just one glance tells you it’s something special, thanks to pleasing, flowing body lines and an overall sophisticated aesthetic.
A product of GM’s bygone Motorama shows which gave a glimpse of its vision of future cars, the Oldsmobile F-88 didn’t make the cut to production. The four examples which were made didn’t feature the cobbled-together quality of many concept cars. Someone took pity on these beautiful rides and saved them from the crusher, which was GM’s policy at the time.
Exactly how the four Oldsmobile F-88s survived is actually quite the mystery, fueling all kinds of interesting theories about political intrigue inside GM in the 1950s. That kind of fascinating and speculative backstory only adds to the appeal of this car.
1969 Corvette Stingray ZL-1
This is by far the rarest production Corvette ever, and one of the rarest cars in the world. Because only two people ordered the ZL-1 for the 1969 model year, that’s all Chevrolet made. That’s a surprising fact, considering the car had a cool, unique setup one would expect far more enthusiasts would’ve been clamouring to own.
Nestled under the Stingray ZL-1’s hood was the mighty L88 big-block V-8 engine, but with an aluminum block and cylinder heads, making it extra special. This same engine was used in a few dozen Camaros for drag racing, plus sold to race teams for competitions. That kind of pedigree is impressive.
Considering that straight off the assembly line, the Corvette Stingray ZL-1 pushes out a potent 500 horsepower, it’s no wonder this car is on the wish list of just about every Corvette enthusiast in the world. While 500 horsepower is respectable by today’s standards, in 1969 it was absolutely monstrous. Of course, if you owned one of the two in existence, you’d probably be taking things a little easy on any track runs.
Koenigsegg CCXR Trevita
The average person has never heard of Swedish hypercar brand Koenigsegg, making its products seem instantly exotic. Of course, they also look the part, while cutting-edge engineering and painstakingly crafted details add even more substance to the assumption.
Rare even among Koenigseggs is the CCXR Trevita, which was made in 2009. Production was limited to just two units, which is a surefire way to create a collector’s car. Originally, Koenigsegg planned to make three of these, but complications in the production process caused the company to rethink its strategy and reduce that number by one.
Normally, the CCXR is an impressive machine. This rare Trevita version looks extra shiny because Koenigsegg created a special coated carbon fiber, which was a sparkling silvery white. Before, black carbon fiber was the only option in the world, making this vehicle a true innovation. It’s an impressive aesthetic when you see the hypercar in person, leaving you feeling mesmerized, so naturally collectors go crazy over the chance to buy this set of wheels. The fact it can do 0-100 km/h in just 2.9 seconds and hit over 410 km/h for its top speed certainly doesn’t hurt, either.
1970 Dodge Coronet R/T 426 Hemi Convertible
While Dodges certainly aren’t exotic cars, the fact is this particular model is quite rare. Only two ever rolled off the production line, making this a collectible quite a few people are willing to give up a small fortune to own.
The Coronet itself is actually quite iconic, being credited as one of the first American muscle cars. After enjoying a fairly successful stint after World War II, Dodge retired the Coronet badge until 1965. The automaker then brought it back and made it a cheap performance model.
It wasn’t until 1967 that the R/T version was launched. Either a Magnum 440ci or 426 Hemi could be had with the car, which came as either a hardtop or convertible. Any Coronet R/T is actually fairly rare, but it was for the 1970 model year when Dodge only made two of the convertibles with the 426 Hemi under the hood. This is the kind of car that would start a feeding frenzy in a car auction.
Icona Vulcano Titanium
At just one ever made, you can’t get any rarer than the Icona Vulcano Titanium. This Italian-Chinese supercar was revealed at the 2013 Shanghai Auto Show, completely surprising the world. While it didn’t cause the paradigm shift the makers sought, and that in turn didn’t result in a production run beyond the one created, this ride is still pretty inspirational.
Made of titanium and carbon fiber, the body was handcrafted painstakingly for about a thousand hours, which alone is quite the feat. It looks unlike any other car before it. Housed under that unique paneling is a gasoline-electric hybrid powertrain. Icona was offering either a twin-turbo V-6 or a much larger V-12, with both teaming up with an electric motor for greater torque delivery. The larger of the two powertrains is actually pretty impressive, considering it produces 1,000 horsepower. Curiously, after revising the supercar, Icona actually yanked the hybrid powertrain in favor of a Chevrolet-sourced supercharged V-8 with no electric motor.
Interestingly, the interior of the Vulcano Titanium seems to have largely been an afterthought. It’s rather plain and generic in its layout, although the steering wheel hearkens to motorsports with an array of dials and large switches. There’s no touchscreen in the center stack, something which was highly featured in renderings before the car was actually made. Overall, the cabin is kind of disappointing after seeing the bodywork, but this supercar is still ultra-rare.