Here’s to the crazy ones
The motor industry tends to be pretty sober and conservative. Things like safety, cost-effectiveness and efficiency are usually prioritised. Once in a while, though, all those things that keep the pencil pushers, bean counters and safety officers up at night get thrown out the window. Here are five SUVs that should (probably) never have seen the light of day.
5. Bowler EXR S
Fifth place goes to the Bowler EXR S. On any other list, it would be a seriously extreme SUV. Here, though, it looks downright sensible. If you’re thinking that its shape and front end look vaguely familiar, you’re right. The EXR S has been designed to resemble a Range Rover, but it has been built from the ground up, complete with composite panels, a hydro-formed chassis and a steel roll cage. Under the bonnet is a 5.0-litre supercharged Land Rover V8 that Bowler has remapped to provide 410kW of power and 625Nm of torque. Thanks to all this grunt, the EXR S can go from 0–100km/h in 4.2 seconds, and has a top speed of 250km/h.
But how, you ask, can we call such a monster ‘sensible’? Well, unlike most of the other vehicles on this list, the EXR S isn’t some Frankenstein monster that’s been cobbled together by raiding the performance-parts bin. It’s a street-legal rally car, essentially, and it’s been designed with one purpose in mind: to go (very) fast over uneven terrain. With this in mind, it boasts large Cooper tyres, bespoke Bilstein dampers, progressive Eibach springs and Brembo brakes. It’s also got permanent 50/50 4WD, a racing rear differential, low-range gearing and 285mm of suspension travel.
Crazy rating Pretty sensible, actually. Yes, the EXR S is capable and fast, but it’s not all that crazy.
Design philosophy What if you could buy a proper rally car and drive it on the road?
Price £155 000 (R2 600 000)
4. Nissan Juke-R 2.0
Even now, it’s hard to believe that the Nissan Juke-R exists. It’s such an absurd vehicle, that its very existence defies comprehension. Here we have a cutesy Juke fitted with the twin-turbo performance V6 from a GT-R. So far, there have been two versions of the Juke-R. The first came out in 2012, and boasted 361kW of power. It could race from 0–100km/h in a mere 3.7 seconds. In 2015, we saw the Juke-R 2.0, which upped power to 447kW and, though it was never officially disclosed, a rumoured 652Nm of torque. What makes the existence of the Juke-R even more astonishing is the fact that it is a product of Nissan itself. Usually, when a little car or SUV is given a huge power boost, it’s the result of a tuning house or backyard tinkerer. Very seldom do manufacturers bastardise their own creations in such spectacular fashion.
The pencil pushers won’t allow it. But some truly crazy engineers somehow got the powers that be to sign off on the project. The Juke-R is even an official production vehicle; it was made available to the public, albeit in very limited numbers. The Juke-R is more than an SUV; it is a beacon of hope. It shows us that vehicle manufacturers still sometimes throw caution to the wind and do something simply because they can. Even in the modern world of political correctness and number crunching, common sense doesn’t always prevail. That’s a very good thing.
Crazy rating This one’s crazy, no doubt about it, but the fact that it’s a production car lessens its craziness somewhat. Nissan has done such a good job with the Juke-R that the little crossover seems far more sensible than it should.
Design philosophy To create the ultimate sleeper car – a compact crossover that can take on a Bugatti Veyron.
Price $600 000 (R8 200 000)
3. Hennessey VelociRaptor SUV
What would happen if you took the Ford F-250 Super Duty and gave it a lot more power? And reworked its suspension? And turned it into an SUV? You’d end up with the latest Hennessey VelociRaptor SUV. Hennessey has gone to town on the F-250 Super Duty. In fact, you barely notice its bakkie origins. The load area has been replaced with a custom-built shell that turns it into an SUV, and creates a third row of seats that can comfortably accommodate two adults. As mentioned, the suspension is also thoroughly reworked, and there’s a steel replacement bumper. Under the bonnet, two petrol options and one diesel upgrade are available.
The VelociRaptor 600 Supercharged upgrade increases power to 600 horsepower (447kW), and the 650 upgrade pushes power to 650 horsepower (484kW). If you want a diesel, Hennessey will take Ford’s 6.7-litre PowerStroke oilburner and up power to 328kW and 1 193Nm. The Hennessey VelociRaptor SUV is the best kind of Frankenstein creation. It takes a vehicle that was crazy to begin with, and turns the dial up to 11. Who doesn’t want an SUV that has almost 500kW of power, more than 1 000Nm of torque, and enough space to comfortably seat eight adults? Good luck parking it, though…
Crazy rating We’re into proper crazy territory now. If arriving at the office dressed in your underwear while wearing a Spiderman mask and riding a pony is a 10 on the crazy scale, the Hennessey VelociRaptor SUV is probably an eight.
Design philosophy U-S-A! U-S-A! U-S-A!
Price Conversions start at $150 000 (R2 100 000). This is for the conversion only – not the vehicle.
2. Toyota Land Speed Cruiser
If you were to ask us to list the vehicles least likely to ever match a Bugatti or McLaren when it comes to speed, the Toyota Land Cruiser would be on that list. It’s a great overlander, but there’s no way you can make it go really, really fast. It’s too big and heavy and tall and, well, brick-shaped. Or is it? Those crazy dreamers at Toyota looked at the Land Cruiser and decided to turn it into one of the fastest cars in the world – something that could indeed keep up with a supercar.
They dropped it until it was sitting lower than a Corolla, and added what the company describes as “a volleyball-sized Garrett turbocharger” to each cylinder bank of the vehicle’s 5.7-litre V8 engine. The result is 2 000 horsepower (1 491kW) and a top speed of 220mph (354km/h). Sadly, though, you can’t purchase this bad boy. Toyota’s engineers built this one just to prove that they could. It was on display at the SEMA show last year.
Crazy rating Solidly certifiable. This is the sort of thing you dream up when you mix LSD and cocaine with bad mushrooms.
Design philosophy Have you, like, ever tasted the colour purple?
Price Not for sale, since most new owners would kill themselves within five minutes. Production costs are prohibitive, too.
1. Renault Espace F1
How do you celebrate the 10th anniversary of your popular MPV and your third year as a champion F1 engine supplier at the same time? If you’re Renault, you do it by putting an F1 engine into an MPV. Back in 1994, the company created a lightweight carbon Espace and dropped a 3.5-litre Renault V10 engine from a 1993 Williams-Renault F1 car into it. It weighed just 1 300kg, boasted 611kW of power, and could get from 0–100km/h in 2.8 seconds.
What made it particularly great, though, was that it was still a people mover. The Espace F1 had three passenger seats, so four people could experience all that F1 awesomeness at the same time. With its higher centre of gravity, it was a hand-ful, though. It could intimidate even a seasoned racing driver. F1 driver Eric Bernard, who helped create the Espace F1, said that you got the best grip through a corner in the MPV when on two wheels.
Crazy rating The Mount Everest of crazy. The Espace F1 has set such a lofty benchmark in the world absurd motoring creations that it is unlikely to ever be surpassed.
Design philosophy How do you make an F1 driver soil himself?
Price Not for sale.