If your automotive tastes tend toward the weird and unusual, there are scores of boutique carmakers with four-wheeled creations that are anything but mainstream. So far in this series, we’ve explored the lesser-known car manufacturers of North America and Europe. In this final installment, we’ll go on a whirlwind tour of Japan, India, Australia, and South Korea.
Mitsuoka Motors: “Neo-classic” cars like the Zimmer Golden Spirit and Excalibur aren’t unknown in the United States, but they’re also popular in Japan. Mitsuoka specializes in turning late model cars like Toyota Corollas and Nissan Fugas (aka Infiniti M) into Rolls Royce and Jaguar Mark II lookalikes.
If that’s not quirky enough, Mitsuoka also builds a very unusual sports car. Called the Orochi, it’s named after Yamata no Orochi, a mythical eight-headed serpent, and looks like it belongs on the submerged streets of Atlantis. Mitsuoka calls it a “fashion supercar.”
The Orochi first surfaced as a concept at the 2001 Tokyo Motor Show, with a Honda (Acura) NSX chassis underneath that “fashionable” skin. Production cars are still mid-engined, but have a 3.3-liter V6 from Toyota, with 233 hp.
That engine doesn’t really make the Orochi a supercar, but it is certain to garner more looks than any Lamborghini. If the coupe isn’t outrageous enough, it’s also available as a “Nude-Top Roadster.”
DC Design: India’s first bona fide sports car takes its name from a classic American oddball. Designed by a tuner used to customizing other people’s cars, the DC Avanti was unveiled at the 2012 New Delhi Auto Expo.
The angular styling and aluminum construction suggest a supercar, but the Avanti is really more of a regular sports car. At launch, the engine will be a 2.0-liter Ford EcoBoost four-cylinder, with 240 hp and 219 lb-ft. Later on, DC plans to offer a Honda V6 with 394 hp.
Buyers can choose between a six-speed manual gearbox or a six-speed sequential ‘box with paddle shifters.
Performance is equally middle-of-the-road. DC says the Avanti will do 0 to 62 mph (0-100 kph) in under seven seconds. A real supercar would do that in under three seconds, but the Avanti should have the chops to make it in the conventional sports car crowd.
India’s first sports car will cost about $54,000 which isn’t a bad price, especially considering that DC’s custom Tata Nano (the world’s cheapest car in stock form) costs more than $220,000.
Skelta: Australia’s Skelta G-Force is a car on a mission. It was designed specifically to win the Targa Tasmania, Australia’s toughest rally, which explains why its designers didn’t pay much attention to styling.
Underneath that unusual bodywork, which is apparently the most aerodynamic shape Skelta could think of, are the 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine and six-speed manual transmission from a Honda S2000. With a supercharger attached, the engine makes 310 hp.
Skelta also makes a Spyder model, which is just as ugly, but comes with a 3.0-liter Hartley V8 and 460 hp.
With that power in a chassis about the size of an S2000’s, but much lighter, the Skelta was able to take fourth place in the 2008 Targa Tasmania, and second in 2010. The car also flew the Aussie flag at the 2012 Pikes Peak International Hill Climb.
Oullim Motors: The Oullim Spirra is South Korea’s first supercar. It was built to offer Koreans a domestic alternative to Lamborghini and Ferrari, and its maker hopes to offer buyers a more personal touch that the geographically-distant European brands can’t.
The customer service has to be pretty good, because the Spirra is definitely not as refined as anything from Maranello. The styling is a bit generic, with a hint of Koenigsegg in the front end and headlights.
Then there’s the engine, a 2.7-liter V6 from Hyundai. In the base Spirra N, it only makes 175 hp. Buyers who want a real supercar will need to skip to the range-topping Spirra EX (for “Extreme”) with 500 hp and 398 lb-ft, courtesy of two very large turbochargers.
The only transmission is a six-speed manual, and the powertrain is cradled in a tubular space frame, while the body is carbon fiber.
With the full 500 hp, the Spirra EX will do 0 to 60 mph in 3.5 seconds and reach a top speed of 193 mph, putting it firmly in supercar territory. The low-powered base models could be an interesting option for someone who just wants supercar styling, at a lower price, but that performance is what will really launch South Korea into the world of supercars.
de Macross: The De Macross Epique GT1 is a tribute to globalization. Designed and financed by a Korean entrepreneur, the prototype was built by Canada’s Multimatic (builders of the Aston Martin One-77), and it features a 5.4-liter V8 from the Ford GT. Final production will take place in Italy.
The De Macross may look like a throwback, but that was purely intentional. Its designer loves 1960s and 1970s Le Mans racecars and wanted to build a modern tribute to those machines. From the gullwing doors to the chunky wheels and beige paint, this car screams ‘70s and, like a true racecar, the windows don’t open.
Giving the Epique GT1 the credentials to back up its looks is the aforementioned Ford V8. This supercharged engine was worked over by Mustang tuner Roush, and produces 845 hp and 740 lb-ft.
Cradling the V8 is a “Hybrid Composite Chassis Structure” composed of aluminum, carbon fiber, and a carbon fiber-composite honeycomb.
De Macross says the Epique GT1 will do 0 to 60 mph in 3.1 seconds, and reach a top speed of over 230 mph. That puts it firmly within supercar territory, but what really sets this machine apart from the mainstream are its retro looks.
Those looks could also be a liability; most people want a supercar that is sleek and modern, not old fashioned. However, de Macross only plans on building 20 or 30 GT1s, and finding a handful of people who love vintage racecars shouldn’t be too difficult.