Foibles and Quirks about Makes of Cars

The Mercedes I bought has one windshield wiper–right in the middle. (“cyclops.”) The Citroën has a steering wheel with only one spoke.
What other car makes have oddities in their design?

Reported for forum change.

The Porsche 911 had (and maybe still has) the ignition key on the left side of the instrument panel, reachable with the driver’s left hand. Saabs, from what I understand, had the key on the floor between the front seats.

Some Porsches had an unusual shift pattern on their manual transmissions; first gear was to the left and back (where most cars would have second gear). The shift from first to second was forward, right, and forward again (as most cars would shift second to third) etc. Some other makes may have used that pattern occasionally, but it seems most common to Porsche.

The MG logo is an octagonal badge and some models had octagonal bezels around the instruments.

That’s just off the top of my head. There’s probably dozens more if we put our minds to it.

Sure,so we probably want to restrict ourselves to something along the lines of "it was really stupid " or “Its very smart, just way too smart and it seems to be compliance with expected normality that its not seen”.
For example, boat cars and airplane cars don’t count, thats just not stupid and the reason its not done is makes a compromised boat (or plane) and a compromised car… And you may as well tow the vehicle you need behind your car.
Basically IMHO was the correct place for that reason, its got to be an opinion as to whether its really stupid or too smart.

Perhaps the only “really stupid to release this in this form”… The Edsal Teletouch automatic controls on the dash board… the feature was too complex, and accidentally pressing a button caused it to change, and that could cause damage to the car. The rear turn indicator (part of the brake) lights on the Edsal station wagon also seemed to be arrow shaped, and pointing in the wrong direction. (the left hand one pointed right.)

For many years Buicks had fake “Exhaust Ports” on the hood.

They went from large and round to small and rectangular before disappearing entirely.

The Ford Model T had a planetary transmission, using pedals for gear selection. I have no idea of exactly how that worked, so don’t ask. They (wisely) dropped it with the Model A in 1928.

The original VW ‘Bug’ had residual running boards - right down to the ribbed rubber covering.

Studebaker (exhibiting the vision which doomed them) used 8v electrical systems when everybody else went to 12v.

The Model A Ford also had POSITIVE ground.

The original VW Bug also did not have a fuel gauge! You were supposed to guess how much gas (petrol) you had left by the miles on the odometer.
When you ran dry, you could pull a lever-- which opened an additional gas tank (or maybe a compartment inside the main gas tank), to allow an additional gallon or so of fuel to flow.

Now, sure, I understand…it was a cheap car. But would a simple gauge and electrical circuit cost much more than the extra mechanical stuff(the lever inside the car and the compartment in the fuel tank?)

The battery on my BMW is in the trunk. There is a compartment under the hood where it looks like a battery could fit, but it’s empty aside from two shielded connectors–so that jumper cables can be used.

A number of cars have the battery in the trunk; Miata comes to mind. It’s for weight distribution.

Chevrolet thought it would be a good idea to put a V-8 in a Chevy Monza (so many wrongs). Also building the Vega out of compressed rust instead of steel was a major failure.

Continuing with the VW Bug. And I think this is a one of a kind…

The windshield washers were run off of air pressure from the spare tire.

Didn’t the Citroen 2CV originally have windscreen wipers connected to the speedometer or something like that? They only worked when the car was moving and there was a crank to operate them manually if required, from what I recall.

My Bonneville had the battery under the rear seat. I can’t remember if driver-side or passenger-side, and I don’t feel like googling it right now. It did have posts for jumping in the engine compartment, though, but there didn’t appear to be any space for packaging a battery.

I think the OP’s question is more targeted than somply odd or strange design decisions on a few models. These are design elements that took on an element of the marque’s design DNA. If you saw a car behind you with the one huge wiper thwaking back and forth, you knew it was a Merc. Citreons has so many design quirks that the presence of design quirks is itself a part of the marque’s DNA. The hydraulic suspension especially so (a car that lifted itself up when the engine was started was a very clear quirk.)

The metal open gate gearshift was a distinguishing feature of most Ferrari’s until the advent of flappy paddles. After market addons are popular for some cars to mimic this design.

The AC Cobra (the real ones) had a speedo that ran counter-clockwise.

Citroen must surely hold top place for being the successful producer of the most eccentric cars.

The tiny 2CV, with suspension that allowed it to drive over fields, the ability to carry a bale of hay, and a fabric rollback roof was designed to get French farmers off their horses and carts in the 1930s. It was produced right up until the 90s.

The Light Fifteen, one of the first ever front wheel drive cars. As used by Maigret in the eponymous TV series for those old enough to remember it.

The DS series, with its futuristic body design and too many innovations to list: disc brakes, self leveling suspension and headlights that turned with the steering to name a few. All this in a mainstream 1960s car. You may have seen Patrick Jane driving one in The Mentalist.

It’s only got me once, but I remember trying to get the front left wheel off an old ford transit van once, no amount of penetrant nor length of steel pipe over wheel wrench was helping, next day I noticed a little “L” stamped into the end of one of the studs! I know a few other makes have had them, but that was my experience with left hand thread wheel nuts!

prior discussion on these:

Our Edsel has a pushbutton automatic transmission and a distinctive front grille. It’s the reason the car is so beloved and successful.

Bristol cars - for those who found Aston Martins and Rolls Royces too ostentatious - were characterised by having the spare wheel stored in a special compartment the front wing (US: Fender?)


The battery in my 1948 Chevrolet pickup was under a hatch on the floor of the passenger side of the cab. It was suspended from the bottom of the cab, an odd spot for a battery. There was plenty of room under the hood, why not put it there?

I’m on my seventh Citroen, me, so I’ve got quirks coming out of every orifice. The BX had an indicator switch that - instead of the usual stalk - was a rocker switch mounted on the top of the steering column. I quite liked this as there was no automatic turn-off mechanism to stop the indicators prematurely.

My favourite though was the handbrake (parking/emergency brake) arrangement on the XM. For a start this went to the front wheels instead of the usual rear, and was operated by a fourth pedal to the left of the clutch pedal in conjunction with a locking lever on the dashboard. To apply the handbrake you would push down the foot pedal and then lock it with the dashboard lever, and to release you would pull on the dashboard lever and the parking brake would be fully released with a loud THUNK! You’d think the release mechanism would make hill starts difficult, but the XM was so heavy that it was possible to engage the clutch before the car started rolling backwards. This arrangement was also helpful with driving in snow as when one of the driven front wheels started to spin it was possible to apply a bit of improvised diff lock by applying some parking brake.

Also on the XM: the suspension, power steering and brakes were all operated by the same hydraulic system, pressurised by a pump that was driven from the crankshaft pulley. If the engine stopped while in motion then you had a few moments grace while the hydraulic system was still pressurised, but after that you had no suspension, power steering or effective brakes. I had this happen a couple of times, and it took all my strength just to turn the steering wheel once the hydraulic system was out of the equation.

Although they mainly used conventional engines, for many years Mazda always had at least one model (usually the RX sports cars) which used a rotory Wankel engine. Mazda was the only manufacturer who continued to offer a Wankel engine after firms like NSU (with the then fantastic Ro80) gave up.

In a similar fashion Tatra went years with only one real model which was powered by an unusually large V8 air cooled engine in a 1950s / Flash Gordon / Futuristic bodyshell. The model went so long without being replaced it went from futuristic to dated to retro.

Meanwhile German firm Audi were unique in being the only firm to offer four wheel drive across the whole range of production models where most of those models are intended for on road use. However I believe Subaru then achieved the same with their range including a (European Sizing) small city car.

Mercedes Spin off company SMART used to offer three different ranges of small, lightweight cars (two seater, four seater and two small sports cars) and all were designed to proudly emphasise the protective ‘cage’ chassis concept that the firm used to construct around.


My MGB had two 6v batteries under the back seat (such as it was), on either side of the drive shaft, connected in series so they acted as one 12v. MGs were positive ground up through the MGA model in the early '60s.

And the discs (the front, at least) were inboard instead of being out in the wheels. A friend was showing off his DS to me once and wanted to show me how easy it was to replace the brake pads. He opened the hood, reached in, there were a couple clicks, and he pulled out a brake pad.

Were those regular lug nuts (apart from the thread) like on a modern car? How many per wheel? I know the old center-lock wheels (as seen here) were threaded differently on either side, but there was only one nut in the center of the wheel.