Talking about great cars (and discussing what makes them great) is always fun, but we at Gear Patrol also enjoy looking back at the vehicles that were downright weird. Not the worst cars –though that can be fun, too — but rather, the strangest, most eccentric vehicles that carmakers actually went to the trouble and expensive of developing and selling. Many of said cars remain absolute headscratchers, even with decades of hindsight.
Earlier in this series, we looked at the oddest offerings from General Motors and Ford. Now it’s time to round out the Big Three and unearth some strange gems from the Chrysler and Jeep lineage. Below are seven of the weirdest we found.
Dodge La Femme (1955-1956)
Back in the 1950s, Chrysler noticed the seemingly obvious fact that women also drove cars — then began marketing to them in the most ham-fisted way imaginable. The female-targeted car was called the “La Femme” (because…women like French things?), and came in varying shades of pink. Feeling patronized enough yet? No? Well, how about if we told you it also came with a matching purse?
Jeep Forward Control (1956-1965)
The Jeep Forward Control, or “FC,” was a 4×4 pickup based on the CJ-5 — and, for the smallest iterations, its tiny 81-inch wheelbase. It was able to offer a decent-sized bed by using a cab-over body style. The FC was versatile for commercial applications, but a bit out there for regular folk. Jeep eventually phased it out for the more conventional Gladiator pickup.
Dodge Warlock (1976-1979)
Dodge marketed the Warlock as part of its “Adult Toys” collection. (We assume that had a far different connotation in the 1970s than it does today.) It looked sort of like a normal Dodge pickup…from the middle forward, at least. It was ultimately only sold in black, had some quasi-mystical graphics and could be optioned with old-time wood sideboards.
Dodge Rampage (1982-1984)
Chrysler was determined not to be left out of the vibrant subcompact sports coupe-cum-pickup market of the early 1980s, so the 96-horsepower, front-wheel-drive, Subaru BRAT-annihilating Dodge Rampage was born. The Rampage makes the cut mostly because Chrysler sold the same car simultaneously as the aggressive-sounding Rampage and the adorably named Plymouth Scamp.
Chrysler TC by Maserati (1989-1991)
Chrysler and Maserati decided to collaborate on a sports coupe, the TC by Maserati. Maserati built it, but it ran on Chrysler’s ubiquitous K car platform, and primarily used Chrysler and Mitsubishi engines. Except some (fancy?) round windows, it looked just like a Chrysler LeBaron. But again, Maserati built it — so it cost more than twice as much as a LeBaron.
Plymouth Prowler (1997-2002)
The Plymouth Prowler was Chrysler’s lightweight, open-wheeled, retro-styled not-so-hot rod. It would have looked pretty cool, were it not for the hideous bumpers needed to make it street-legal. A lethargic V6 engine and four-speed automatic spoiled any hope of performance. It topped that off by being impractical and crazy expensive. (Owners who were super-into their Prowlers could buy a body-matched trailer that looked exactly like the rear of the vehicle. We mention this apropos of nothing other than how weird it is.)
Chrysler PT Cruiser (2001-2010)
The PT Cruiser was the practical person’s Prowler. It had similar, 1930s-esque retro styling, with more conventional closed wheels; yet it was much cheaper, thanks to its Dodge Neon-based bones and wimpy four-cylinder engine. It joined the storied line of inexplicable vehicles to win Motor Trend’s Car of the Year in 2001. It was certainly unique; it was also exceptionally uncool, especially if you opted for the dealer-installed flame package.