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The Franken-kar: a masterpiece from the most misunderstood motors?

For as long as they’ve been around, cars have made for one of the most divisive topics. There’s no unanimous decision on a car’s looks or performance — that’s why you’ll always find people driving about in even the most debated of them.

At the end of the day, the most polarising of cars have been those that dare to stand out. But what exactly was it that made them so different from the rest? It’s a question we’ve asked ourselves, and one that we hope to answer with the ‘Franken-kar’ – a Frankenstein’s monster of over 60 years of the most unique and noteworthy parts of motors.

Despite the Twitter stereotype, more than 335,000 UK drivers love the Fiat 500  

The Fiat 500 is a solid car — even Jeremy Clarkson, a man whose known more for his love of speed and performance, rated it a four out of five.

Seemingly any tweet that mentions holidays in Ibiza, pink gin or a Chinese takeaway will find itself part of the Fiat 500 ‘Twitter-sphere’. Our research shows that in the first few weeks of 2021, 75% of UK tweets mentioning the car had latched on to this particular typecast, focusing somewhat more on this rather than the car itself, racking up over 2,100 likes and retweets.

Despite this however, it won European Car of the Year award after its 2007 rebirth, so it’s easy to see why the 500 is loved by hundreds of thousands and clearly worth the stereotype.

The Fiat 500’s niche popularity is why it inspires the Franken-kar’s overall shape.

Colouring our car after a standout Corsa

Despite a 50% increase in market share over the last year, yellow is still one of the least represented colours on the road, accounting for only 0.4% of cars.

Our reasoning for including the colour yellow for our Franken-kar goes beyond that, though. In 2017, an 84-year-old Vauxhall Corsa driver had his yellow vehicle vandalised for standing out against the backdrop of a picturesque village. So it is only right that ‘Maddox Yellow’, named after the vandalism victim, decorates the car.

It also gets a height upgrade and stockier wheel arches courtesy of the Nissan Juke, which Grand Tour actually named ‘worst car of the year’. This clearly isn’t a view that’s shared by the masses, though, with 290,032 Jukes finding their way onto UK driveways, loved for boldly breaking the mold.

BMW wanted a reaction to their bold new styling

Of all the models that have donated a part to the Franken-kar, the BMW iX brings the most lively debate.

The kidney-shaped grille is a trademark of the German brand and the latest iterations have unsurprisingly sparked a new conversation. After the iX and its design were revealed, critical mentions of BMW on Twitter had a near-100% increase in volume — from 360 tweets in the weeks before the showcase to 686 afterwards. It seems that BMW fans had something to say about the change.

But, we love the new iX design and it seems bold is exactly what BMW were going for. When questioned on that reaction, BMW’s head of design, Domagoj Dukec, said:

 “If you want to create something that stands out, it must be distinguished and it has to be different.” For this reason it’s included in our unique car."

Bonnet lip inspired by the Fiat Multipla

Just beyond the grille, we’ve added a bonnet lip inspired by the Fiat Multipla. If we understand controversy to be one subject creating two opposing views, the Multipla might be the most applicable model on this list.

Amazingly, it won Top Gear’s ‘Car of the Year’ and ‘Ugliest Car’ awards at the same time. Only 1,967 of them remain on UK roads — a quarter of 2015’s figure. By comparison, the Ford Escort, which went out of production eight years before the Multipla, outnumbers it nearly seven to one.

Before big-screen fame, the DeLorean didn’t hit the mark for everyone

As the birthplace of the car, it’s only right we include the most controversial cars of the US, but you might be surprised at the DMC DeLorean’s mention. Despite playing a major role in the Back to the Future trilogy, the DeLorean was certainly not always received as a cult classic.

Production never passed 10,000 and even then, it was well beyond the demand – of the 7,500 built in its first year, less than half were sold. Gull-wing doors don’t make up for poor build quality and lacklustre performance apparently, but they do make it onto the Franken-kar.

Also making it is the Cadillac V8-6-4 engine, so called because it had the (intended) ability to shut down cylinders to save fuel. It’s a great idea that’s fairly common these days, but one that didn’t work so well in 1981. The dodgy electronics hampered its functionality from the off and it was dropped from the range within only one year – a run that’s eclipsed by the Cadillac OHV V8’s 32-year stint.

The ambitious Edsel campaign cost Ford over £4 billion

Despite building two of the UK’s current bestsellers, Ford hasn’t always breezed the car market. Back in the 50s, the American manufacturer eyed up a new demographic and came up with the Edsel project to do it.

They focused so much on bringing an affordable mid-sized model to new audiences that they completely missed an emerging trend for more compact machines. In all, it’s estimated the decade-long venture cost Ford over £4.3 billion in today’s money – a 10-figure sum to get its protruding headlights a spot on our car. Ouch.

Round the backend is the Toyota Prius-inspired double rear window. Not only has it inspired our Franken-Kar but is arguably the pioneer for the ‘electric movement’, leading the way in the government’s 2030 electric vehicle goals.

Despite its triumphant environmental efforts, the Prius’ stereotype the UK isn’t well received by most drivers - just a glance at online forums discussing the model and you’ll get the idea.

However, with a whopping 5 million units sold in America through December of 2019 alone, it’s clear the likes of Jennifer Aniston, Miley Cyrus, Julia Roberts and Leonardo DiCaprio clearly don’t share the same views!

In addition, the GM EV1’s partially covered back wheels make the cut. One of the first to switch to battery power, the EV1 was initially well-received.

Ultimately, however, it was controversially canned after just 1,000 models being built and General Motors faced widespread criticism for failing to properly invest in green motoring. However, Elon Musk claimed on Twitter that Tesla was started in response to GM’s U-turn.

A car for everyone

Mark Tongue, Director at Select Car Leasing, believes the automotive industry is all about challenging the status quo:

“Even the most misunderstood cars find buyers, like the four-billion-pound Ford Edsel — they only sold a few thousand, but that’s a few thousand happy buyers.
“Despite their polarising place in the markets, these motors will always be remembered. You might say their contributions have helped to challenge the perception of design to be where we are today, inspiring the emerging electric marketing which we can see through the likes of the Hyundai Ioniq 5 and the Honda E.
“So the Franken-kar, all be it an amalgamation of some of the most unique vehicles, makes for one that we can see attracting not only buyers but manufactures alike!”

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Tuesday, 10/05/2022