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Here Are the Three Coolest Cars I Saw Last Week

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author photo by Chris O'Neill January 2018

I obsessively take photos of cars on the street that I find to be interesting, quirky or otherwise particularly notable. I seldom have an issue making a U-turn, driving past my exit on the highway or showing up a little late to wherever I'm going just to get a picture of something cool. Of course, this isn't normal human behavior. But, as a result, I have a catalog of all these unique cars I encounter. Here are my three favorites that I saw this week.

Xebra

This is a ZAP Xebra, with what I have to assume is a solar panel fixed to its roof. The Xebra was an electric vehicle sold in the United States from 2006 to 2009 by ZAP, a San Francisco-area company manufacturing and/or distributing small, kei-car sized EVs, ATVs and electric motorcycles. A number of ZAP products, like the Xebra, originated in China. Due to its 3-wheeled design, the Xebra is classified as a motorcycle in some jurisdictions, and therefore it's able to side-step some of the stricter regulations that make it challenging for boutique automakers to bring low-volume vehicles to market. The Xebra could travel up to 40 miles on a charge, depending on the battery installed, and it's capable of speeds of up to 40 miles per hour. In 2013, NHTSA ordered ZAP to buy back and destroy all 2008 Xebra models due to a braking issue; the buy-back amounted to about 700 vehicles.

ZAP is also known for its attempt to federalize and sell the Smart Fortwo in the US, after Daimler-Chrysler had abandoned its original US-market efforts with the vehicle in 2004. Despite being hindered by a lengthy legal battle with Daimler-Chrysler, ZAP did manage to sell around 300 Smarts in the U.S.

It's unclear whether the company still exists today.

2005 Mitsubishi Fuso

This is a 2005 Mitsubishi Fuso FG140 4x4. This is a prototype vehicle for the company shown on the side, Base 4x4. Based out of Portland, Oregon, their website says they'll build you a purposely minimal adventure vehicle that you can then finish to your own personal tastes. This one, which is the short wheelbase 4x4 model, retails for $95,000, and has a pop-top roof and pop-out side. It also contains a sleeping area, a kitchen area and a toilet, and it can be optioned with a hot water heater, an indoor or outdoor shower, a furnace, a fridge/freezer, a kitchen area, a flip out couch, a pass-through from the cab to the camper area, an upgraded suspension and (I'm sure) a few other things. I don't know what all of that would add to the price -- but as vehicles in this class can work their way well beyond the quarter-million dollar range with over the top luxury features, this minimalist everything-you-need-and-nothing-you-don't approach is appealing, especially given that 10-year-old Mitsubishi Fusos, like the one used here, can be had for well under $25,000.

2004 Audi S4 Avant

Here's a 2004 Audi S4 Avant, in lust-worthy Nogaro Blue, with a manual transmission. The V8 "B6" S4 Avant was imported to the U.S. in small numbers: Altogether, only 3,200 B6 S4 Avant models were sold in the U.S. over the wagon's four year run. Of those, 1,755 came with a manual transmission, and only 656 were 2004 models. And, like most early 2000s Audi performance models, this one was parked outside a repair shop. According to the Carfax, it has around 120,000 miles, and it appears to be driven often. For perspective, a similar Nogaro Blue example with half the mileage and a rare blue alcantara interior recently sold for $27,500. People don't mess around when it comes to Nogaro Blue Audis.

Chris O'Neill grew up in the rust belt and now lives in Salt Lake City, Utah. He worked in the auto industry for a while, helping Germans design cars for Americans. On Instagram, he is the @MountainWestCarSpotter.

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Used 2004 Audi A4 1.8T quattro Avant
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This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
Here Are the Three Coolest Cars I Saw Last Week - Autotrader