A car that drives on water. A gold sports car. A paint job that changes color based on how hot or cold it is outside. Vehicles that run on restaurant grease. Just when you think there couldn't be anything more unbelievable (read: crazy) than those, we've got six others to make your jaw go south (and maybe cause your wallet to quiver). From the $2 million Natalia to the insane-fast Viper, this outrageous bunch of cars is making the roads a little more interesting. Even for those of us just watching.
1. Gold Porsche
This 22-karat gold-plated Boxster goes by the name of Gold Porsche. (Sometimes you just gotta call a cat a cat.) There will be limited production of models for sale (nine worldwide). However, if you've got the cash (and a real burning desire to ensure everyone knows you've got some), any Porsche model, regardless of engine configuration or interior, can be covered in the beaten gold. As a buyer, you can choose which of the vehicle's parts to goldenize (the body, the steering wheel, the doorknobs, the wheels and so on). For the smallest Boxster, pricing starts at around 150,000 Euros (around $190,000 U.S.). No word on how much heavier the Porsche gets with the flash, but we're sure it's worth its weight in gold.For more info, see the Visualis Web site.
2. Self-Parking Lexus
Parallel parking is one of those things that simply doesn't get better with age, is it? Lexus has turned the process into a no-brainer, thanks to the 2007 LS 460 sedan's optional Advanced Parking Guidance System. Basically, the driver points and the car shoots. Position the car and ID the parking spot through the navigation screen, and the backup camera, parking sensors and electric power-steering system will go to town and guide the car into place. All the driver has to do is handle speed control by braking. The base LS 460 has an MSRP of $61,000; the smart-park technology is an extra $700.
3. The New 1969 Camaro
It's big news that Chevrolet is producing an all-new Camaro for the 2009 model year. But what if you're a fan of the "old" one? Enter the Baldwin-Motion Phase III 540 Camaro. You can get a limited-edition, custom-built, contemporary 1969 Camaro in either coupe or convertible form; the B-M take on the car includes 1969 Camaro "donors," so your model would come with an original VIN. The standard engine for the Phase III 540 makes 600 horsepower, but a 700-hp car is also available. You may have heard that original muscle cars are getting huge bucks at auction — they're not the only ones. The Phase III redo starts at $189,000; the Camaro pictured is a $250,000 version.
4. Amphibious Car
We're hard-pressed to come up with a cooler way to impress people than to pilot your car right into the local lake — and not sink. The Hydra Spyder is stuffed with a Corvette engine and a Berkeley marine jet, and features a computerized air ride, retractable four-point front and rear suspension. The lower hull is aluminum while the upper structure is constructed from fiberglass. It's considered an SUV since it's longer and wider than most cars, and it weighs about 3,300 pounds. It can seat four — as well as drag a water skier from behind (preferably once on water). A base model starts at $155,000, and so far you are likely to spot the Hydra Spyder in California, Illinois, Pennsylvania and overseas, including Dubai.
5. Grease-Fueled Vehicles
If you'd told us during the '70s gas-oil crisis that when it all happened again in the future we'd be taking something called Greasecar Vegetable Fuel Systems seriously, we'd have thought you were on the dope drops. But, here we are, embracing vehicles that run on alternative fuels — including the oil that restaurants are ready to dump. The bulk of Greasecar's orders have come from diesel drivers in California and New England, with notable growth in the Midwest and Southern states. So far, the company has sold close to 3,000 do-it-yourself conversion kits for using new, used, straight or unprocessed vegetable oil as fuel. Kits for the Duramax, PowerStroke and Cummins diesel engines are still in R&D. Fun fact: Asian restaurants tend to have the best product, because they often use pure canola or soy oil.
6. Swarovski-Crystal Cars
Burkitt & Burkitt spends its days figuring out ways to stick thousands (or more than a million) Swarovski crystals on cars, trucks and SUVs. Want yours done up? Figure you're looking at a minimum of $150,000 (a Rolls-Royce could run you half a mil). The company has a history of doing weird things to cars — 100,000 gold-plated British pennies on a bus, for example. Yet Swarovski crystals are all the rage right now — Lincoln Navigators and Minis still are, too, so you can see why those are the concepts in progress for Burkitt-squared. In fact, a 1:6-scale Mini with 35,000 crystals — done in a tribute to the Beatles — just sold for $25,000.
7. 1,000-Horsepower Dodge Viper
The factory Dodge Viper SRT-10 has an 8.3-liter V10 that makes 510 horsepower. Pretty wimpy, eh? Hennessey Performance Engineering has built 24 2007 Venom 1000 Twin-Turbo SRT Coupes good for 1,000 hp and 1,100 pound-feet of torque. Zero to 60 mph in 2.9 seconds, anyone? In addition to the potent engine, the Hennessey Viper has a lowered suspension and performance upgrades. There's even private track instruction as part of the deal (thank goodness). Eleven of the cars have already been snapped up.
8. The $2-Million Car
It's coming in late 2008, this vehicle with a price tag of $2 million. It's the Natalia SLS 2, brought to you by the same person who produced the Clenet in the '70s and '80s: Alfred DiMora. The Natalia features a DiMora Motorcar V16 Volcano engine — loosely translated to mean 1,200 hp. The car itself will have 60 onboard computer systems for everything from performance and communications to safety and comfort. A futuristic chassis and body-utilizing aerospace materials will enable it to weigh about 1,500 pounds less than other luxury cars in its class. And then there's the paint. An optional paint job allows the car's hue to change from black or blue when it's colder or to white when it's hot. Oh, and a limited-production purse will be included in each Natalia for the ladies. That's a $12,000 "value." For more info, see the DiMora Motorcar Web site.
9. 333-MPG Hybrid
What if there was a hybrid that could make 333 mpg at 65 mph and cost less than $20,000? Meet the Aptera, which is being manufactured in Southern California by Accelerated Composites. The two-seater is constructed from a lightweight composite said by the company to help it achieve acceleration and driving characteristics similar to the ultrafrugal Honda Insight. A 12-hp CARB diesel engine coupled with a 25-horsepower DC motor hooked to an automatic CVT power the Aptera. While it looks bite-size, it's actually 173 inches long. (Think Jeep Patriot.)
10. Zero-Emissions "Human-Electric" Hybrid
You could get us on a technicality here: The Twike looks like a pretty out-there car (enclosed, side-by-side seating) — but it registers as a motorcycle. The custom-made Twike runs off a 5kW electric motor and NiMH batteries, and uses regenerative braking to feed itself through deceleration. It weighs less than 600 pounds and has a range of around 80 miles per charge, with the ability to peg 53 mph. It's about $26,000, but if you want a more upscale interior, you're looking at a sticker of possibly more than $35,000.