By now, we’ve all heard of “self-driving” vehicles and driver-assist tech like Honda’s adaptive cruise control, head-up displays, yada yada yada. Yeah, they’re pretty cool, perhaps even worthy of their high praise; but for all us digital dorks and dweebs (own it!) out there, these new automotive features don’t quite scratch that itch for the truly unusual and unique.
We want game-changing tech that could have altered the course of history, failed futuristic designs that were ahead of its time, obscure concept cars that never impressed aside from on car show runways. We crave the weird and bizarre, and we won’t stop till we get it!
So, without further ado, nerd out with us as we look through the wackiest, coolest and, dare we say it, most ingenious car innovations and inventions to ever see the light of day.
1. The O.G. Honda Insight
Today, the new Honda Insight is known as one of the best hybrid cars in America, offering 55 city/49 highway mpg*. But if you turn back the calendars to 1999, you’d see a far different Insight.
Originally developed as a concept car in 1997, the old Honda Insight was released right before Y2K, becoming the very first hybrid car for sale in North America. In fact, even to this day, the first-generation Insight is one of the most fuel-efficient vehicles per EPA guidelines.
What made the Insight so unique wasn’t its fuel efficiency, however; it was its Jetsons-esque design. With an emphasis on aerodynamics, Honda engineers made the Insight incredibly streamlined, opting to tuck the rear wheels beneath the exterior sheet metal. The result…well, see for yourself:
While we certainly like and even adore the 2021 Insight, there’s no denying the old Insight’s unique ability to charm us straight out of our boots.
2. Automatic seatbelts
If you remember automatic seatbelts from the 1980s, you’re not alone. As a kid, these were kind of cool car features “back in the day,” but they failed to stick around due to federal regulations and safety concerns. The last vehicles to incorporate electric seat belts were manufactured in 1995, which makes us feel mega-old. Sigh.
Is it a boat or a classic car? Why not both? The Amphicar Model 770, launched in 1961 at the N.Y. Auto Show, featured a foldable top similar to those on cabriolets, twin propellers mounted beneath the back bumper, and a uniquely shaped cutaway undersurface.
Most importantly, the Amphicar was able to navigate the Yukon River and English Channel, so you could say it worked as intended. Is it practical, though?
4. Pedestrian airbags
For a couple decades now, someone — *cough*Volvo*cough* — has been developing exterior airbags that fit underneath the windshield. In the event of a crash, the airbags inflate to protect the pedestrian from more serious injury. Not sure if this is a brilliant car innovation, but it certainly is a car innovation.
5. Honda S-MX
Whether used for camping or as a mobile motel, Japan’s Honda S-MX sure had a lot going on, though the concept of “love” was obvious. All its seats — yes, all of them — folded down flat, creating an enormous double bed. On the side panels, there were built-in nightstand tables. Windows were available with darker than dark privacy tint. It really was built for a certain type of free spirited lifestyle.
6. Bose’s electromagnetic suspension
For over two decades, Bose had developed what should have been a game-changing suspension system. Unfortunately, the original suspension was deemed far too expensive and far too heavy to implement in your normal daily drivers, so the project was scrapped. What the company ended up with instead was a niche car seat for truckers that made driving more comfortable. We’d sure like to see them try again because it looks fun as all get-out.
7. Falconry by Mulliner
You know, when you’re out on the road with your trained bird of prey, not just any old car will do. Drop a few hundred thousand bucks on a Bentley Bentayga Falconry, and your feathered buddy will be living more luxuriously than I did during college. The ultra-expensive luxury SUV was custom built to include everything a falconer could want: Refreshment Case, Master Flight Station, GPS bird tracking antenna — literally everything.
We’d say your money would go further if you bought 10 Honda Pilots, but rich falconers will do what rich falconers do.
8. Rolls-Royce Rear Toilet Seat
On the fence about hunting with birds because their talons are sharp and, honestly, too creepy to exist outside of the Mesozoic era? Sit within the leather-accented palace, but atop a porcelain one, of the ultra-ultra-expensive 1954 Rolls-Royce Silver Wraith. That’s right: This custom-built luxury car was equipped with a portable toilet, really giving new meaning to the term “porta-potty.”
Not sure what else to say about it, but if you need to spend a million bucks just to avoid a gas station bathroom, perhaps you should consult a doctor.
9. Oldsmobile Incas
As far as weird concept cars go, the 1986 Oldsmobile Incas is arguably one of the niftiest we’ve ever seen. It featured not only futuristic gull-wing doors, but also a cabin with wraparound glass, a digital dashboard and a Flight Simulator styled steering “wheel,” all of which screamed the 1980s. Oldsmobile ended Incas’s run before it even began, as they dared not venture past the prototype stage. What a shame.
10. Honda CR-V for Camping
Before the Ridgeline took the throne as the most versatile small truck in the country, Honda had already been playing around with Ridgeline-to-be features. Case in point is the original 1997 Honda CR-V, which is still one of the best and most functional SUVs in America, especially if you’re camping in Arizona.
The ‘97 CR-V came with an available cargo floor storage compartment that could act as a waterproof cooler (sound familiar?), as well as a removable cargo floor that doubled as a picnic or card table. Early on, the first-generation CR-V was even equippable with a 12V portable shower — this consisted of a plastic hose, water jug, and showerhead — to make clean-up a breeze. Alas, the table, cooler and shower were deemed too frivolous to continue manufacturing, and Honda yeeted them in the early 2000s.
We remember the old CR-V fondly. If you’ve got one laying around in Phoenix, bring it into your Valley Honda Dealers; we’d love to see it!
We couldn’t talk about cool vehicle technology without mentioning Honda’s patented CabinWatch camera. Fitted inside the Odyssey Elite and Touring models, CabinWatch is a revolutionary parent-friendly feature that enables front riders to keep eye on mid- and back-row passengers. Thanks to special night-vision technology, the camera even displays HD pictures when it’s dark.
Best of all, unlike most of the vehicles and features on this list, the Honda Odyssey and CabinWatch are still around. If you’re interested in checking it out in person, visit any of our Arizona Honda dealerships today. Request a quote or test drive, and we’ll have your next 2022 Odyssey ready to go by the time you arrive.
Insight 55 city/49 highway/52 combined mpg rating for the EX trim. 51 city/45 highway/48 combined mpg rating for the Touring trim. Based on 2022 EPA mileage ratings. Use for comparison purposes only. Your mileage will vary depending on driving conditions, how you drive and maintain your vehicle, battery-pack age/condition and other factors.