Home » For Years, This Has Been The Greatest Mysterious Unidentified Car On The Internet. Let’s Take A Crack At It

For Years, This Has Been The Greatest Mysterious Unidentified Car On The Internet. Let’s Take A Crack At It

Mysterycar Top
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It’s funny, but I can’t remember the first time I saw this particular photograph, but I know it was a long time ago, and it’s haunted me ever since. Like most unrepentant gearheads, the act of identifying an obscure car in a photo is one of those things that causes a massive burst of satisfactitonin or pleasurisol or whatever those endorphins are called that make you feel good. And in those times when you can’t identify a given car, when the identification slides away and eludes you, like trying to grab a mayonnaise-slathered eel, it can drive you mad. You can feel the identification just there on the tip of your brain, just out of reach, as the details of the car fecklessly light up neurons tagged with neurons that recognize a piece of a Lancia or Panhard or Vauxhall, but just not quite. It hurts. And, by that metric, this picture has caused more of that sort of pain to car-lovers than any other. Behold, the most-unidentified car on the Internet.

I was reminded of this photograph again because it was tweeted out recently, re-kindling the part of my brain that stays in a holding pattern until this car is identified, definitively.

Vidframe Min Top
Vidframe Min Bottom

Here’s the tweet:

And, of course, the car in question is that blue sports car in the foreground there. There’s something about this particular car that almost feels like some AI-generated thing, as it’s an uncanny mix of forms and shapes and details that almost fit with a surprising number of cars, mostly British, mid-century sports cars: Sunbeam Alpines, Reliant Sabres/Sabras, Mini Marcoses, Unipower GTs, Triumphs, and on and on. And yet somehow this thing has defied identification for years.

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The original photo came from a 1968 book called Buses, Trolleys & Trams but there’s no way to know when the mystery car was first identified as a mystery. I’m about certain some late-’60s gearhead spent hours puzzling over that image, and maybe showed it to friends who found it equally confounding, but records of the mystery only really exist in the internet era.

Though there’s plenty of those! This car has been discussed a hell of a lot, all over the place. Sometimes in obsessive detail, with people having built entire 3D models of the car:

Mysterycar 3d

Holy crap! All I did was a quick sketch of what it might look like behind the people blocking it:

Mysterycar Sketch

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There’s so many distinctive details on this thing: that wraparound windshield! The odd door cutlines! That little air-exhaust vent at the rear! Those chrome bumperlets! I feel like I’ve seen these elements on a number of other cars, but all together, like this?

My best guess is it’s likely a one-off, based on, well, something, maybe an Alpine, maybe a Triumph, a Reliant, who knows. The bodywork is likely custom. But that’s kind of a copout answer, isn’t it?

For as long as this car has been posted online, the one thing I can definitively say is that it has never been posted to this audience, the Autopian Brain Trust, and that seems wrong. A wrong that we’re going to correct, right now. I think this particular, spectacular, obsessive group of car-weirdos may be the best collective entity to once and for all figure out what the hell this car is.

Everyone up to give it a try? Speculate, research, and discuss? I feel like by doing so we’re continuing a glorious automotive tradition, one that needs to be kept going, perhaps forever, as maybe this is one of those cases where the search is the real reward?

Either that or we need to pool our resources and build a time machine to go back to this time and place in London and just yank that door open and ask whomever is inside just what the hell this thing is.

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And after that we can swing by and kill baby Hitler before we head home, maybe after we go back a bit and see what dodo tasted like.

Okay! Everyone ready to get driven crazy by this thing? Off we go!

 

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Brau Beaton
Brau Beaton
7 months ago

I’m going to have to suggest it’s a Saab Sonnet II that has been modified a bit, and likely had bumperettes added to meet British laws. (https://silodrome.com/saab-sonett-ii/)

Barry Allen
Barry Allen
7 months ago

I’m late here, but…
I love those weird cut lines and that front and rear. If I ever have too much money I’m building one.
I’ll make it in exactly that color as an homage. When I drive by and I see someone’s head explode, I’ll know who my people are.

Barry Allen
Barry Allen
7 months ago
Reply to  Barry Allen

What badges should I put on it? Something generic like “ACar 1234”? Something like “Mystery Car 1962“? Ooh I should do something completely unintelligible that looks like words from 20 feet but is actually just shapes, maybe not even letters.

John Sapero
John Sapero
7 months ago

Also, thinking the windshield might be a bit larger than the back window of a Rapier—perhaps the rear window of an early Alpine hardtop?

John Sapero
John Sapero
7 months ago

The Earls Court International Motor of 1962 ran from the 17th to the 27th of October. The exhibit hall would have been about 15 minutes away from where the photo was taken. Perhaps a show car from the event?

The photo was taken at the corner of Vere St and 344 Oxford St, London, facing west. The intersection has changed dramatically.

Black Peter
Black Peter
7 months ago
Reply to  John Sapero

This seems like a really good rabbit hole to fall into. If some small custom body maker had a booth and a photo of said booth.

Olphaeus Megaletor
Olphaeus Megaletor
7 months ago

Late to the thread here…. I actually had a copy of this book when I was a child back in the UK, so I feel I have to chip in. It’s long since disappeared, though, and I haven’t seen it in perhaps 45 years. I never noticed that car back when I was about 10 years old and I have no idea what on earth it is. Sorry!

Crank Shaft
Crank Shaft
7 months ago

In my mind, this all comes down to the windshield. While many have suggested it is a repurposed rear window from another car, that pretty much has to be incorrect because rear glass isn’t laminated and windshields are usually required to be so. I also assume the UK had safety inspections even in 1962, so I doubt a rear window windshield would have passed muster.

That windshield looks unique enough to me that if it could be identified it might finally answer the question. While it certainly could be a custom job, that does seem rather expensive.

Perhaps one of the fancy new AI engines could help to identify the windshield from scanned images. Is there a reader among us who might be able to query one?

Tony Cotton
Tony Cotton
7 months ago
Reply to  Crank Shaft

Windscreens in the UK tended to be mainly toughened rather than laminated at this time.

Crank Shaft
Crank Shaft
7 months ago
Reply to  Tony Cotton

Still, the difference remains which makes the re-purposing unlikely. But an excellent point. Those weird UKers can’t even do glass correctly. 😉

Hondaimpbmw 12
Hondaimpbmw 12
4 months ago
Reply to  Crank Shaft

A tempered glass rear window could not be cut down. A laminated windshield could/can be cut down to a smaller size. Apparently, custom car builders do this on the regular. OTOH, I’ve seen US built production cars that had laminated side glass, and I would guess that more than a few had laminated rear windows.

Beached Wail
Beached Wail
7 months ago

New theory: this could be a Lotus Seven with an enclosed body kit.

The odd thing about this car is that the doors are so far back that they’re cut away around the rear wheel well. Even the tiniest English sports cars of the era (Sprite, Fairthorpe, Turner, Tornado) have doors that don’t impinge on the wheel wells. So, what vehicle puts the driver so far back that an enclosed body would require cutaway doors?

Check out any Lotus Seven picture: the seatbacks are almost parallel with the leading edge of the rear tires. This car is shaped to accommodate that passenger configuration.

Of course, I haven’t found a single picture online of a Lotus Seven with envelope bodywork,but it seems that it could be done. And since Oxford was the home of the MG and Morris factories, perhaps a few workers there acquired a fiberglass body from a company like Buckler and just had fun putting together a one-off.

sentinelTk
sentinelTk
7 months ago

Were car mags a big thing in the UK around this time? If so, just need to find someone with a collection to go back and flip through a few years and I bet the answer will turn up. Something like this would have shown up at a London car meet-up and that was where the early car mags got a lot of their content. I’ve seen a lot of hot rods identified this way.

sentinelTk
sentinelTk
7 months ago
Reply to  sentinelTk

Or for that matter, if it is a kit car, an ad may turn up….

Opa Carriker
Opa Carriker
7 months ago

I believe the front bumpers are the rear bumpers from a Triumph TR2/3.

Notta Bawt
Notta Bawt
7 months ago

Stuff like this is why I love this site.
(I have nothing productive to add to this discussion.)

MikeT-MA
MikeT-MA
7 months ago

Re-bodied Daimler SP250? That was a fiberglass production vehicle, so….easy conversion?

MiniDave
MiniDave
7 months ago

Maybe kit car, maybe based on an early SAAB Sonnet?

William Domer
William Domer
7 months ago
Reply to  MiniDave

Yes. As soon as I saw it my brain said SAAB Sonnet.

Bizness Comma Nunya
Bizness Comma Nunya
7 months ago

I have a hunch that it’s sitting on something rear-engined.

Hotdoughnutsnow
Hotdoughnutsnow
7 months ago

Holy crap! I almost sent this photo to you guys a few weeks back. It showed up in Chronophoto, an online game where you guess the year that the photo was taken.

Spectre6000
Spectre6000
7 months ago

Well… If this hive mind hasn’t landed on anything already, it ain’t going to happen. It’s a kit, so let’s drill down on that.

Here’s why it’s a kit:
(see above)The notched doors are an extremely uncommon feature; precisely the sort kit cars often have for “wow”. Those b-pillar vents fall into the same category; plenty of “wow” and easy to mold in fiberglass.The license plate faces the sky on top of the nose, I can’t think of another car that does that at all. I’m seeing various call outs to specific parts from other cars in the comments, and that is also classic kit car.
So let’s drill down further for confirmation:
Where do the individual, difficult/expensive to manufacture parts come from? The windshield, chrome, and chassis.
I see comments talking about the windshield being the rear glazing from such and such. Hubcaps from an aftermarket supplier to MG, but also a few others. Bumper overriders? Also, let’s look at the size. There are people standing right next to the thing, and it is TINY. Even for the UK market, that rules out a LOT. Someone with more and better skills than myself could likely do some photometric magic and figure out something like wheelbase. If we have a model or two with matching chassis to start with, a search for “XXXX kit car registry” or some such would possibly turn something up.

Last edited 7 months ago by Spectre6000
Noahwayout
Noahwayout
7 months ago
Reply to  Spectre6000

It was very common for sports cars in UK to have bonnet decal number plates at one time. See every e-type in England in the 60s.

Last edited 7 months ago by Noahwayout
Bongo Friendee Harvey Park
Bongo Friendee Harvey Park
7 months ago
Reply to  Spectre6000

The headlight enclosures are also a giveaway that this is a body kit.

JDS
JDS
7 months ago
Reply to  Spectre6000

I have discovered a truly marvelous demonstration of this proposition that this margin is too small to contain.

(Apologies to Fermat, obvs.)

Masa
Masa
7 months ago

Modified Daimler SP-250?

Sklooner
Sklooner
7 months ago
Reply to  Masa

I saw that too- I actually owned one for a while

Drew
Drew
7 months ago

It’s either a TARDIS or a Transformer. Either way, it’s selected a form that seems appropriate to the time and place, but it’s not quite any specific model from the era.

Mortalcombatant
Mortalcombatant
7 months ago

The front end of this car looks like 1960 prototype of polish sports car FSO Syrena Sport. Also hubcaps looks similar. I looked up what inspired the Syrena Sport and the designer said it was Mercedes 190SL and various Ferraris, so it doesn’t help.

JamesRL
JamesRL
7 months ago

I can tell you with ABSOLUTE CERTAINTY that those hubcaps are Ace Mercury brand hubcaps… rare factory installed accessories on MGs but also available on other brands.

I do not recognize the fake “spinner” part of the hubcap though.

I mildly suspect that the car in question may possibly be based off a very rare Marcos GT Gullwing… as those doors would not be able to open in the GT-40 style doors…. but they only made 13 Marcos GT Gullwings… and the car in the photo would have to be a heavily modified version.

Beached Wail
Beached Wail
7 months ago

The front is reminiscent of a Deutsch Bonnet Le Mans or a René Bonnet Missile if someone chopped a foot or so from the wheelbase and added a fastback. DB cars were such limited production that they may have a few one-offs here and there. Or it could have been a fiberglass shell on any number of English or French sports cars of the era.

https://www.gullwingmotorcars.com/galleria_images/2169/2169_p3_l.jpg

https://live.staticflickr.com/7102/7215652226_626ee0a563_b.jpg

Last edited 7 months ago by Beached Wail
What me?
What me?
7 months ago
Reply to  Beached Wail

That certainly looks a lot like it

Cerberus
Cerberus
7 months ago

First thought was, oh that shouldn’t be so hard, I know I’ve seen something like . . . hm, damn what the hell is it? It’s not a Sabra coupe. Next, I thought a Triumph kit car or well done full custom bitsa. Could be built off a Spitfire from the one piece front end and the glass to body height proportions, but the vent intake is missing, the wheel well shape is wrong, and it looks like the hood comes down further behind the wheel arch. So, IDK, and my attention span is up.

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