These Cars Might Be Ugly, But They’re Still a Blast to Drive
The 1972 Citroën SM (Source: Gooding & Co) 

These Cars Might Be Ugly, But They’re Still a Blast to Drive

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On Jan. 18 the Gooding & Co. auction house will offer for sale one of the more peculiar-looking cars ever produced.

The 1972 Citroën SM is a two-door coupe of sorts but with a roofline that slopes into a wedge behind the front doors and fenders, hanging so low over the rear tires you can’t actually see them at all. A panel of lights spans the near-entirety of the front in a block of plexiglass; the sides are plastered with graphics and lettering so haphazard it looks like the builders of the car considered entering Nascar but gave up on that idea halfway through the project.

But funny looks are not necessarily an indication of merit. This is the world’s fastest Citroën, with a twin-turbocharged V6 engine that recorded speed records in excess of 200 mph. Set in the late 1980s, the records still hold. Along with a second car and trailer for towing, the lot is worth an estimated $200,000.

The oblong Citroën is far from the only car whose odd looks belie its prowess. Plenty of driving enthusiasts will vouch for things like the BMW Z3 M Coupe—commonly called the “Clown shoe” for reasons you can imagine—and the Ferrari GTC4 Lusso—sacrilegious among Tifosi for its four seats and hatchback styling so long it can comfortably carry a Christmas tree. But when experienced from behind the steering wheel, these cars give such an incredible and fun performance that they make drivers forget and forgive their physique.

There are plenty like them. Here are some that will be offered for sale at the annual car auctions Jan. 18 to 24 in Scottsdale and (this year, thanks to the coronavirus pandemic) online. Their looks may make your stomach turn, but only until you press the gas.

These Cars Might Be Ugly, But They’re Still a Blast to Drive

2011 Tesla R80 Roadster Sport

Estimated Value: $90,000-$110,000
Besides being there at the start of a legend—Tesla cars—the diminutive Tesla Roadster takes its body and chassis from the famously fun-to-drive Lotus Elise/Exige model line. Upon its initial release, the Roadster was powered by a 185 kW (248 horsepower) proprietary electric drivetrain capable of hitting 60 mph in less than four seconds. It comes with a single-speed transmission and an upgraded engine that brought the car up to 215 kW (288 hp)—enough to make this super lightweight roadster (well under 3,000 pounds) feel as fun to drive as a tiny, tough, and rugged rally car.

It’s the interiors that are especially ill-regarded: notoriously scant, with outdated electronics, lackluster trimmings, and nonexistent storage space. It’s all crammed into a toy of a car that, on the outside, looks mismatched, like it was built with spare parts from Mazda’s Miata components bin and Hot Wheels.

These Cars Might Be Ugly, But They’re Still a Blast to Drive

2019 McLaren Senna

Estimated Value: $1 million-$1.3 million
No one contests the fact that the McLaren Senna is insane fun to drive on the track. A member of McLaren’s “Ultimate Series,” it’s named after the late godlike Formula One driver Ayrton Senna and dedicated to Senna’s three F1 World Championships won with McLaren between 1988 and 1993. When it debuted in 2018, it was the most track-focused road car McLaren had ever built. It uses a modified version of the company’s V8 engine that gets 789 hp and can get to 62 mph in 2.8 seconds.

But it looks like an emaciated lizard with a broken tail (spoiler) on top; so flashy and impractical with its mere inches-above-level ground clearance that only the most look-at-me boy-racers would drive it on public roads without the courtesy of a balaclava to cover their identity—and dignity.

These Cars Might Be Ugly, But They’re Still a Blast to Drive

2001 Ferrari 550 Barchetta Pininfarina

Estimated Value: $300,000-$350,000

The Ferrari 550 Barchetta doesn’t look ugly, per se. No Ferrari ever could. It just looks … boring. Where are the pulse-quickening curves? The angles over the wheels that stop you in your tracks or force a photo the instant you see one on the highway? The rear end that makes you look back at the car every time you walk away—just for another glimpse?

The flimsy cloth top might as well have been a handkerchief from your grandma’s dresser. At any rate, it can’t be that wrong if it was owned by Rod Stewart, right? The car at least comes with a six-speed manual transmission (fun!) and V12 engine, with 478 hp and a 186-mph top speed. It’s guaranteed to at least drive like a Ferrari, even if it doesn’t look like one.

These Cars Might Be Ugly, But They’re Still a Blast to Drive

1991 Lancia Delta HF Integrale

Estimated Value: $160,000-$190,000
This one really hurts some of you. But hey, the truth hurts. And the truth is that to non-car guys, the Lancia Delta looks weird, man. It has an odd box body with vents over the tires and an inside as squared off as a Rubik’s Cube. That said, everyone knows these things haul. They became stars during the Group B rally races of the 1980s and are now taking top dollar on the classic market, championed by quirky artists like New York’s Phil Toledano, who incorporated one into his “Bastarda” brand.

These Cars Might Be Ugly, But They’re Still a Blast to Drive

1959 Elva MK IV Sports Racer

Estimated Value: $80,000-$120,000
This one is a real head-scratcher. Looks-wise, I mean. There’s no question about the driving acumen of the Elva MK IV Sports Racer: It has an impressive racing history, including starts at the Sebring 12 Hours in 1959 and at multiple Sports Car Club of America races nationwide in the late 1950s. It’s powered by a Ford engine and sits on Elva-designed “Elektron” wheels.

But it looks like a car from The Jetsons that’s been drawn by someone under the influence of a mind-altering substance. (This, by the way, is another vehicle that used a chassis based on something from Lotus, which is not a good thing to have in common, apparently.) Its alloy frame and fiberglass body look hinged at the front at the nose, with a curved windshield made from Perspex; the wheels are half hidden by the thin flat fenders; the rear is characterized by a single bubble protruding from behind the cockpit. When other racing cars of the era—from Ferrari, Jaguar, Porsche—looked so gorgeous, there’s no excuse for this rather grotesque exception.

These Cars Might Be Ugly, But They’re Still a Blast to Drive

1966 Mini Moke

Estimated Value: $20,000-$30,000
OK, this isn’t a blazing-fast race car or a tried-and-true rally driver—but it’s guaranteed that if you’re driving a Mini Moke, you’re having a good time. That’s because Mokes are typically seen in St. Barts or Monaco, driven by lovely ladies in scarves and sunglasses, or tanned gentlemen in loafers and cigar smoke. They look stiff and retro, like caricatures of what an actual dune buggy should be—but there’s no denying they’re just plain fun to drive.

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