Top 10 Weird, Quirky Cars That Debuted at the Chicago Auto Show

Sami Haj-Assaad
by Sami Haj-Assaad

For some reason, people don’t typically associate the Chicago Auto Show with interesting, off-beat cars. But there’s a long list of weird cars that have debuted in the Windy City.

In order to prepare you for the 2016 Chicago Auto Show which kicks off later this week, here’s a list of ten interesting cars that have been introduced and shown off at the show in the past.

2016 Chicago Auto Show Coverage

Hyundai HCD6

Back in 2001, Hyundai’s design language just wasn’t as elegant as it is today. The Elantra and Sonata were boring bricks of cars, and the Korean automaker set out to change minds with the introduction of the HCD6 Concept. A two-seat roadster, with such unique features like detached front and rear carbon fiber bumpers in addition to a clear, see-through engine cover and high-mount exhaust helped make this thing really stand out. See, Chicago used to be an auto show where automakers could help start a new mindset with the public and the HCD6 was a perfect example of that.

GMC Denali XT concept

Designed by the GM Holden team in Australia, GMC brought out this wild looking Denali XT concept to the 2008 Chicago Auto Show. A sport-utility concept, much like the Chevy Avalanche, the Denali XT actually rode on the Zeta platform, which is the same rear-wheel drive platform as the Pontiac G8 and the Chevrolet Camaro. Back in 2008, being green was an image thing, rather than an actual performance priority, so the GMC Denali XT used a 4.9-liter V8 engine mated to GM’s 2 mode hybrid system that made a total of 325 horsepower. And just think, Less than ten years later and we have naturally aspirated V6 engines making that much power!

Kia Trail’ster

For some reason Kia loves to debut its quirky concepts at the Chicago Auto Show. Described as Kia’s most rugged concept yet, the Trail’ster is an off-road hybrid that combines a 1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine with an electric powertrain to give a total of 220 hp and 285 lb-ft of torque. On the outside there are cool roof racks for whatever outdoor activities you’d have planned, while the interior is trimmed in gorgeous brown leather. If Kia saw a reasonable demand for an off-roader, the Trail’ster would definitely be the blueprint for that model.

Nissan Cube Krom

You might find this addition to the list a bit pedestrian, but really, a high-end Nissan Cube is all kinds of weird. This car, which is essentially a trim level for the Cube that no one really asked for, is 100-percent the kind of thing you can expect from the Chicago auto show. The Nissan Cube Krom is a high-end model with a three-bar chrome grille, a two-bar chrome front bumper grille, new front and rear fascias, side skirts, a unique rear spoiler, special 16-inch rims and a Krom rear badge. We never knew the Cube needed a special edition model, until the Krom came around.

Kia Track’ster

Another quirky concept, the Track’ster is Kia’s take on a track-oriented version of the Soul. Packing nearly 250-hp and equipped with a short-throw six-speed manual, this thing would easily be the brand’s sportiest model if it was put into production. The expressive exterior features blacked out a-pillars, recessed headlights and sporty wheels that hide the coupe’s upgraded brakes.

Ford Airstream

Remember when vans were trying to be cool? Fighting against the wave of crossovers, Ford unveiled the Airstream concept in 2007. While described as a retro-futuristic Crossover, this two door concept featured a plug-in hydrogen fuel cell drive system. This idea means that the electric motors on board are provided with electricity from the hydrogen fuel cell stack, or if hydrogen isn’t available, the car can be plugged in so a battery gets a recharge. It’s a cool idea that sadly hasn’t been put into a production car nine years later.

Dodge Rampage Concept

Another sport-utility-truck, the Dodge Rampage Concept was shown off at the 2006 Chicago Auto Show as a truck that’s made for the non-truck crowd. Featuring a front-wheel drive setup, which is strange for a pickup, the Rampage sported a 5.7-liter HEMI V8 engine. As odd as that combination sounds, the Rampage did have some good ideas with the interior packaging: The rear seats and front passenger seats featured the same stow-and-go system that’s found in Chrysler’s minivans, meaning this could be an extremely practical truck, if the concept was ever put into production. We’re still waiting for these seats to make it into modern Ram trucks, although the design and powertrain can stay on the cutting room floor.

Ford Libre Concept

This cute open-top car called the Ford Libre Concept debuted at the 1998 Chicago Auto Show. Based on the Ford Fiesta, the Libre featured a neat rear-hinged rear door for easy access to the passenger seats. Under the hood is a 1.25 liter four-cylinder engine mated to a five speed transmission. Sadly, even 18 years later, there’s no hint of Ford making a subcompact roadster.

Infiniti Q29 Roadster

Ok, so you want weird? Here’s weird. This hot-rod, built by California’s Joe MacPherson, uses an Infiniti Q45 engine, a 4.5-liter V8 that makes 276 hp. While strange that this car was on display in the Infiniti stand, the Q29 sure is interesting looking and nothing Infiniti would actually make or use as inspiration.

Geo Tracker “Hugger” Concept

We’re in prime ‘90s territory now with the Geo Tracker Hugger Concept. With a neon-yellow body and a contrasting purple grille, the Tracker Hugger was a concept obviously designed by people randomly selecting colors on a palette. Or it was made by people who have no interest in driving, as this car has no roof, no rear seats, no cover over the rear and holes in the door. Just look at this thing and try not to be confused; it’s impossible.

Sami Haj-Assaad
Sami Haj-Assaad

Sami has an unquenchable thirst for car knowledge and has been at AutoGuide for the past six years. He has a degree in journalism and media studies from the University of Guelph-Humber in Toronto and has won multiple journalism awards from the Automotive Journalist Association of Canada. Sami is also on the jury for the World Car Awards.

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  • Mike Mike on Feb 14, 2016

    The Ford van is cool. Kinda reminds me of the Toyota Previa. The Previa was pretty groundbreaking asthetically speaking. Similar to how the Taurus was in the 80s.