Journal: In Appreciation Of Unlikely Racing Cars

In Appreciation Of Unlikely Racing Cars

By Michael Banovsky
October 13, 2016

Ever hear the one about the Iso Isetta winning its class in the Mille Miglia? No? The term “winning” might be a bit modest, too: the car swept the top three finishing positions in its class. If that 1954 result doesn’t impress you, keep reading: the Isetta wasn’t the only unlikely racing car.

With a top speed of around 75 km/h in top trim, not only would it have taken the Isetta ages to finish the Mille Miglia, but the cars were among the first to be set loose in the race, perhaps acting as a slow-moving warning to motorists that the race was on its way through…

Efforts to help small-displacement vehicles enter competition after the Second World War were what prodded cars like the Isetta, Citroën 2CV, Lotus 7, and, unbelievably, the ‘tin’-engined Crosley Hot Shot into racing. Not only did the Hot Shot compete at the first race at Sebring in 1950…it won. (It was scored as an index of performance based on displacement.)

Hilariously, Crosley didn’t expect to win, so the nice photos of the car are actually from the next day, all staged for marketing and promotional work. In contrast, the vastly better-funded Prince, and later, Nissan, raced for both marketing and development purposes, but still pinned its hopes on a few Nissan Cedrics (backing up the faster Bluebirds) in African rally competition. In 1968, the company even recruited the exceptionally talented Joginder Singh, who not only led the rally at times but won his class in the luxury car.

Those are far from the only unlikely racing cars, but which vintage racing car stands out for you as the most awesomely awkward?


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6 years ago

Did DAF enter some rallies?

Tony Piscitelli
Tony Piscitelli
6 years ago

The Volvo PVs run in the early 60s stand out for me. A design from the late 40s and horrid drum brakes, they still won rallies against newer & better-equipped cars.

André Borges
André Borges
6 years ago

Truly formidable machines, if you’d ask me.