The Woodward Cruise is a fine place to spot classic Detroit muscle, but it’s not limited to the Big Three (or Four, including AMC); there are plenty of unusual or exotic cars there, too.
Before we dive into the more exotic cars, let’s just admire this fine example of a Studebaker Avanti, later sold as just the Avanti. Launched in 1962, the Avanti was dubbed “America’s only four-passenger, high-peformance personal car,” a meaningless bit of marketing; but the swoopy sides and aerodynamic front were certainly ahead of their time (air entered under the bumper, in case you were wondering). The Avanti broke 29 records at the Bonneville salt flats, yet had many safety advances. The car didn’t die with Studebaker; it continued on, using the original tooling and factory, for years afterwards, in small numbers. Precious few were actually made by Studebaker, either, so these are fairly rare cars.
I will be honest and say I have no idea what this car is, but I’m pretty sure it’s not a Bentley, despite the hood ornament.
Another oddball American car, the Citicar, a 1974-77 electric vehicle made in Florida by Sebring-Vanguard; the basic design was used in the Comuta-Car and Comuta-Van from 1979 to 1982, too, and the body was used by Norway in the Kewet. Exactly 4,444 were made from 1974 to 1979, making it more rare than the Avanti. The car had just 2.5 to 6 horsepower, and it weighed 1,300 pounds or so; buyers only got 40 miles of range, with dead-slow acceleration (0-25 in 6.2 seconds, with a top speed of around 25-40 mph depending on the model). Given those specs, sales of 4,444 were pretty good.
You might think this car was a Corbeau, but that’s just the name of the seat supplier.
The Karmann Ghia isn’t really that unusual or exotic; it was a common sight in the 1970s, partly because they were made from 1955 to 1974. They were fun cars, despite questionable reliability, with a Beetle chassis and mechanicals hidden under a Ghia-designed body made by Karmann. The company made nearly half a million of these cars over the years. It was allegedly influenced by Virgil Exner, who worked with Ghia on Chrysler Corporation concept cars.
You’d think there would be a lot of information on the Labatt beer-can car on the Internet, but you’d be wrong, at least if my search is any indication. This car’s been running Woodward at least since 2009.
In the vein of the Karmann Ghia… no, not really. Volkswagen bought Lamborghini a while back, and it’s unlikely there are a lot of VW parts under the hood of this Lambo; though they likely share some things the customer can’t see or feel. VW was trying to get Alfa Romeo for a while, since Fiat wasn’t doing anything with it, but that’s changed now…
Are hand-lettered license plates a thing in Michigan? In any case, here’s a McLaren for your viewing pleasure.
Finally, we have another electric car — a Karma Revero. This started out as a Fisker Karma, the electric car from a company that probably would have beaten Elon Musk’s Tesla to the punch if the founder had been more of a photogenic braggart making rash promises. The Karma Revero, made in the US by a Chinese company, runs around $130,000, with 403 horsepower.
Woodward has a little something for everyone — it’s quite the show, and unlike a typical car show, you stay where you are and the cars move by.
The author of Dodge Viper, Jeep’s Go-Anywhere Vehicles, and The Rise and Reinvention of Chrysler Minivans, David Zatz has been writing about cars and trucks since the early 1990s; he also writes on organizational development and business at toolpack.info and covers Mac statistics software at macstats.org. His latest book, for kids, is Meet the Jeep.
David has been quoted by the New York Times, the Daily Telegraph, the Detroit News, and USA Today. You can reach him by using our contact form (preferred) or by calling (313) 766-2304.