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Check Out These Off-Beat Obscure Classics From RM Sotheby’s Essen Sale

Weird, wild, and wonderful.

Conner GoldenWriterRM Sotheby'sPhotographer

Usually, when we scroll through an auction's lot dossier, we earmark familiar blue-chip classics and investment-grade supercars in off-beat colors for our bookmark bar. RM Sotheby's upcoming Essen sale is different; in addition to the usual Ferrari and Alfa Romeo suspects, the docket is bursting with obscure sports cars and bizarre kit cars, some of which we've never caught wind of before now.

Naturally, we picked nine of our favorite oddities from the upcoming sale. Collectors, this is your chance to broaden your horizon and maybe step outside your comfort zone. For regular enthusiasts, this might be an opportunity to show up to your local cars and coffee with something no one has ever seen before.

1991 Venturi Transcup 260

For a company that actually brought a fight to Ferrari and Aston Martin, Venturi gets little recognition outside of Europe. Heck, looking at how inexpensively a rare and well-presented Venturi 400 GT Trophy changed hands last year, I'm not sure there's even a dedicated fanbase over there, either.

Regardless, the French automaker briefly made a name for itself building fast, well-appointed sports cars for wealthy enthusiasts hoping for something a bit more counterculture than the established high-end marques. For grand touring, this mid-engine Transcup was at the top of the Venturi family, packing a turbocharged variant of the 2.9-liter Peugeot-Renault-Volvo V-6 rated for a healthy 256 hp.

You weren't just buying performance, however; a retractable hardtop protected a lush cream-colored leather interior, accented by miles of burled wood trim. Add in the fabulous Framboise Metallic exterior paint and low-slung profile, and you've got the perfect sports grand tourer for wine country, regardless of continent.

1965 Neckar Mistral 

We were just as confused as you. Then, we did some research, and we came away more befuddled than before. As far as we can tell, Neckar was a German automaker that came about following the sale of an NSU factory to Fiat in 1929. There, German-built Fiats were produced under license and branded as "NSU-Fiat."

Just four miles away, NSU Werke was fast becoming one of the more popular motorcycle manufacturers in the country, and used the profits and recognition from this success to develop a compact car to compete with Fiat. Of course, this didn't go over well with the NSU-Fiat consortium down the street, so after a flurry of litigation, NSU-Fiat rebranded itself as Neckar, and continued to produce cars until 1971, building a total production of 370,000 cars.

We're not done yet. Mechanically, this is a Fiat 1500 coupe, but it's been done-over by Italian tuner and manufacturer Siata, upping power of the 1.5-liter four-cylinder to a rorty 94 hp. To differentiate it from the rest of the 1500 lineup, Fiat/Neckar/Siata commissioned special bodywork from Michelotti.

Alright, let's recap; this is a German-built Fiat 1500 coupe branded as a Neckar, factory-tuned by Siata with special bodywork by Michelotti. If that's not enough to earn your bid, you're impossible to please.

1974 Excalibur 35X

While the prior entries were solid options for someone looking to dip a toe into automotive esoterica, this Excalibur 35X barely qualifies as palatable. Conceived as a spiritual neo-classic reboot to then-defunct Bugatti, Excalibur's Brooks Stevens styled a narrow-bodied Bugatti simulacrum, complete with signature blue paint, horseshoe grille, and red oval Excalibur badge on the front. It wasn't exactly the most stunning performer, considering Excalibur lifted the platform from the Opel Commodore.

Alright, maybe we're being a bit cruel. If you can look past the pseudo-Bugatti looks, this is probably a whole heap of fun, especially with a 2.5-liter inline-six up front. It's not mint condition, but it's the perfect condition for a weekend mountain runabout without fear of ruining something pristine. Only 27 of these were ever built, so this might be your only chance to pick one up.

1964 Fournier-Marcadier Barquette FM 01 

Another mystery car, though this one is easier to wrap our heads around than the Neckar. Inspired by the impossibly low-slung Lotus 23, André Marcadier partnered with André Fournier for the short-lived Fournier-Marcadier marque, producing a run of both road-legal and track-only race cars, all extremely lightweight. This Barquette FM 01 is a stunning example of the breed, utilizing a Renault-sourced four-cylinder fettled by master Renault tuner Gordini. There's almost zero chance you'll be able to put a legal plate on the rear, but this is one hell of a trackday conversation piece.

1969 Marcos Mini Mk. IV

Surprisingly, of all the cars on this list, the Marcos Mini is arguably the most recognizable. For the uninitiated, this one's easy-peasy to understand; for varying years between 1965 and 1996, Marcos offered the Marcos Mini as a fiberglass kit built on the powertrain and subframe of a regular Austin Mini. With a curb weight just over 1,000 lb, the Marcos remained a competition darling of racers on a budget, going so far as to finish in 15th place at the 1966 24 Hours of Le Mans.

1979 Panther Lima 

Excalibur not doing it for you? Check out this other neo-classic roadster crossing the block at Essen. For our readers in the U.K., this one might be more recognizable than the Excalibur, as British automaker Panther made nearly 900 of these roadsters between 1976 and 1982. Just like the 35X, the oily guts don't quite match the exotic exterior; in the Lima, both power and platform come from the Vauxhall Viva and Magnum.

1968 Bizzarrini 1900 Europa 

We've waxed poetic about the wild and wonderful Bizzarrini 5300 GT, but we're not sure we'd lavish the same lust onto this 1900 Europa. The Europa coupe and targa are as effortlessly elegant as their big-brother 5300 GT, but this roadster variant is a little too ungainly and disproportional for our tastes. The powertrain isn't the saving grace, either—the 1.9-liter Opel four-cylinder can't match the 5300's 'Vette-sourced V-8. Still, these go for a pretty penny due to extremely low production figures that hover somewhere around the 25-unit mark.

1974 Bitter CD 

Along with the Marcos, this is one of the more decipherable cars on this list. The oh-so-'70s CD is actually a production version of the stunning Opel Coupe Diplomat concept of 1969, a styling exercise that attracted enough interest to steer Opel toward production. For an unknown reason, Opel never moved forward with the project beyond road-worthy prototypes, and instead licensed the design out to Erich Bitter, who set up shop in his home town of Schwelm, Germany.

The ensuing 5.3-liter V-8-powered Bitter CD was a looker, but its success was stymied by the ensuing 1973 oil crisis. Before replacement by the later Bitter SC, 395 CDs left Germany.

1966 Austin-Healey Sprite Arkely 

Yet another fiberglass kit-car special. As you likely surmised from the name, this is a fiberglass bodykit for the existing 1966 Austin-Healey Sprite, supplied by Arkley. It's a bit homely, but both rarity and solid mechanical bones make this a decent project car.