For many affluent auto buyers, exclusivity is intrinsic to luxury. While an obscure upscale marque might lack the broadly recognized brand prestige of, say, a Bentley or a Ferrari, boutique builders offer both handmade quality and money-is-no-object individuality.
Here are five ludicrously luxurious cars you may not have heard of.
Danish automaker Zenvo builds just three of its ST1 sports cars each year and is promising to create only 15 in total. Resembling a “Star Wars” Stormtrooper helmet on wheels, the ST1 prototype appeared in 2009 following five years of development, with production beginning last year. This 1,100-horsepower great Dane put a country previously not noted for its auto industry on the hypercar map almost overnight and, rather bizarrely, sweetens its estimated $1.8 million sticker shock with a “free” watch valued at $50,000 — or roughly the cost of a new Corvette.
Although Vector Motors is headquartered in the South Los Angeles neighborhood of Wilmington, most Angelenos are likely unfamiliar with the automaker. That’s understandable, given that Vector sold just a handful of cars in the 1980s and ’90s (including a $455,000 supercar to tennis star Andre Agassi). But Vector reemerged at the 2007 L.A. Auto Show with its Lamborghini-like Avtech WX8 prototype, and the company’s website is now promising a sleek, carbon-fiber production WX8. Claiming a state-of-the-art hybrid powertrain and top-speed capability north of 300 miles per hour, this Vector, if realized, will be a supercar to behold.
Distinctly British luxury marque Bristol Cars is “low-key” personified, building but a handful of vehicles each year and operating just a single London showroom. The last surviving descendant of the once-giant Bristol Aeroplane Co., famed for its warplanes, these days the company specializes in the restoration of cars such as the 1948 Bristol 401 Farina — one of just five in the world. Though the last of its aptly named Fighter gullwing coupes was crafted in 2009, Bristol was rescued from administration (basically the U.K.’s version of bankruptcy) in 2011 and is promising a new-breed “gentleman’s express” with a hybrid powertrain within two years.
Formed by a former Mercedes-Benz design engineer in 1981 and based in a small German workshop, Isdera has long been rather mysterious and today announces only that its high-performance sports cars are still “partially produced in small series.” Each of Isdera’s utterly exclusive creations, of which only an estimated 70 of have ever been sold, take around six months to be hand-built to order. While an Isdera Imperator 108i — a Mercedes-Benz concept-based supercar produced from 1984 to 1993 — wowed onlookers at a Belgian race track in August, the company’s current automotive ventures remain under wraps.
Ascari has built just a few dozen vehicles since launching in 1995, with each of its $380,000 Ferrari-esque KZ1 sports cars requiring some 340 hours of handcrafting. Despite its Italian name, Ascari Cars is actually a British company founded by a Dutch billionaire (though named for legendary Italian racing driver Alberto Ascari). Late last year, Ascari Cars was reportedly for sale, and lately owner Klaas Zwart (the “KZ” in KZ1) appears focused on his super-swanky Spanish racing club and hotel, Ascari Race Resort, where many of his elusive megacars reside.
—Paul Rogers, Brand Publishing Writer