The Rinspeed Spllash has two things most of the cars on our list don't - it exists, and it works!

Johannesburg - While many people buy cars with the same emotion they'd reserve for acquiring a kitchen appliance, some of us adopt a more right-brain approach when it comes to choosing our wheels.

Whichever way you lean, it's led to a cornucopia of weird and wonderful road conveyances that have wooed and captivated car fans since Karl Benz invented the horseless carriage 132 years ago.

Not every one of these car ideas was destined to be a success, but to celebrate the efforts of the motor industry's most fertile (and possibly deranged) imaginative minds, here's a selection of some of the whackiest cars to ever exit a design studio or make it onto a motor show stand.

Ford Nucleon (1958)

Long before Chernobyl and Fukushima, the world was enamoured with the prospect of atomic energy and it wasn't long before the mad scientists at Ford fiddled with the idea of whipping out a car's internal combustion engine and replacing it with a nuclear reactor. Exhibit A: the Ford Nucleon. 

It was only a scale model concept, but the idea was for the Nucleon to use a steam engine powered by uranium fission in much the same way as a nuclear submarine. The Nucleon had an incredible theoretical range of more than 8000km between fill-ups, but eventually the prospect of it blowing up in a mushroom cloud during a bumper bashing put the brakes on the idea.

Honda WOW (2005)

Yes, in Japan you can (with a more or less straight face) call a car the Wonderful Open-hearted Wagon (WOW). Honda believes you and your four-legged friend should be able to travel together in comfort, so it replaced the cubbyhole with a mesh-covered dog carrier in which to stash your excitable dachshund while driving. 

There's a larger dog box in the back if you want to take along the German Shepherd too, and there are flexible vents that introduce streams of fresh air into the cabin to limit the amount of doggy drool on the seats. They should have called it the Bow-Wow. A doggone good idea, some might say, but it never made it past the concept stage. 

Moller M200G (1974)

Is it a bird, is it a plane? No, it's a flying saucer of course. Looking like something that just jetted in from a galaxy far, far away, the Moller concept flying car is powered by eight large propellers to give it the ability to dispense with pesky minibus taxi drivers in the gridlock by simply flying right over them.

Pity none of those fans was directed into the glass bubble over the cockpit, which ensures that any trip in the African sun would result in medium-to-well-cooked passengers (the picture shows it with the glass bubble removed).

Wolfrace Sonic (1981)

This flamboyant two-seater concept would make the perfect set of wheels for any caped superhero and his faithful sidekick. Cruella de Ville might like it too, though there's not much space inside for dalmatian puppies.

Created by an ex-aircraft engineer who built hotrods as a hobby, this six-wheeled Batmobile-wannabe has two V8 engines - just so there's a backup in case one packs up while you're chasing the Joker across Gotham City. Each of the two cockpits has its own complete dashboard although there's only one steering wheel - we wouldn't want Batman and Robin fighting over the controls.

Tang Hua Book Of Songs (2008)

Yes, this is really what this Chinese car is called, and its appearance at the 2008 Detroit Motor Show elicited more than a few looks - most of them hastily in the other direction. It shared the Tang Hua stand alongside its exotically-named stablemates the Detroit Fish and Piece of Cloud - we kid you not.

With a bizarre design to go with the oddball name, this cartoonishly-styled electric city car looks like a prop from a Toy Story movie, although we suspect Buzz Lightyear would give it a wide berth. Its designers called it a "rounded, friendly" look indicative of Chinese culture. Quite.

Rinspeed Splash (2004)

No compendium of wheeled weirdness would be complete without Rinspeed, a Swiss firm that's penned a vast number of whacky concept cars. If we're to choose just one we've settled on the amphibious Splash. Should you ever find yourself stuck in a traffic jam at a bridge, no worries: simply drive into the water, deploy the two hydrofoils and let rip. 

The Splash is able to skim along water at a brisk 45 knots, and in 2006 it set a record for crossing the English Channel in a hydrofoil car, taking just three hours 14 minutes. Better yet, you could commute to work on the Jukskei river and avoid all the Pretoria-to-Johannesburg e-tolls.

IOL Motoring

Like us on Facebook

Follow us on Twitter