From a British cult classic to a Slovenian masterpiece of a supercar.
Europe is a continent of 44 very different countries speaking many different languages across a variety of cultures. That means this article could easily have turned into a book. However, we've stuck with some of the more interesting and modern vehicles and steered clear of cars built just to be cheap in their country of origin. We've also avoided concept cars from companies that showed up and then promptly disappeared as well as the wealth of obscure cars that originated behind the iron curtain and vanished once it lifted.
In 2012, Slovenian racing driver Aljoaa Tushek formed his self-named company out of a former military airport where he also built a test track. Before that, Tushek had bought a K-1 Attack kit car and planned to sell upgraded versions of the vehicle. But that didn't scratch his itch, so the Renovatio was born weighing 2,403 pounds and some ounces. Its Audi RS4 V8 engine wailed from 0-60 mph in 3.7 seconds. Rather than coming out and touting ridiculous numbers in a fit of over-ambition, Tushek focuses on building realistic mid-engine high-performance cars. Its current and more well known beast is the hybrid-powered 950-hp Tushek TS 900.
The Mini Moke was originally developed as a prototype for military use by the creators of the original Mini. However, the lightweight door and roofless design with a low ground clearance and small wheels appealed to the civilian market worldwide, quickly building a cult following. When it appeared in civilian form in 1964, it also featured an 848-cc four-cylinder engine like the original Mini. Moke International Limited now owns the trademark and has re-engineered it for modern use.
When Alejandro de Tomaso, father of the Pantera, needed a business partner for a car called the Bigua in 1996, he went to an American car importer called Qvale, who dealt with American imports of Panteras and Maserati vehicles. The idea was to create "an Italian TVR," and the result was the De Tomaso Mangusta, a revived name from the 1970s. On paper, it sounded amazing.
The chassis was designed by former Formula 1 designer Enrique Scalabroni, who has Williams F1 and Scuderia Ferrari on his resume. The body design is by Marcello Gandini of Lamborghini and Ferrari fame, including the unique folding roof. Ford supplied the 4.6-liter V8 engine, and the car was lavished with praise when it was launched in 1999 by auto journalists for its style, its leather interior, and handling.
However, the business relationship had already broken down, and then the head of Qvale decided he wanted it badged with his company's name - one which nobody had heard of outside the automotive industry. Qvale had sunk the majority of money into the project, and in the end, only 284 cars were sold.
The story of the Mangusta didn't end with Qvale. MG Rover of the UK bought Qvale for the car, with a large part of the reasoning being that it was already road-legal in the US. MG created a whole new subsidiary for the vehicle, and Swedish company Caran spent the better part of a year redesigning it for production, as well as bringing down the price.
Peter Stevens, the McLaren F1's exterior designer, was brought in to make the car more aggressive-looking. However, the car originated in Italy and went through six different companies to get to the UK for its finishing touches and was more expensive than planned. It didn't sell well at all during its 2003 launch year. In total, a little over 80 models were built, with the European and Asian market splitting all but the one that reached the US.
It's been suggested that the MG XPower SV killed MG, which is a little strong. It was just one of many straws that broke that particular camel's back.
Mazzanti Automobili started as a small restoration business and now has two departments. One still carries out automotive restorations, and the other designs, develops, the builds handcrafted supercars. So far, only the Evantra is available, although it has three iterations. It's not the most sophisticated of supercars as it's built on a box-frame chassis and houses a Chevrolet LS7 V8, however, that engine is placed in the middle. Part of its appeal is that the bodywork and interior are customizable to order, along with the ability to hit 62 mph in 3.2 seconds and go onto a top speed of over 217 mph. The top model, the Evantara 781, has both road and track versions available, and 781 hp at its disposal. That will hit 62 mph in just 2.8 seconds.
The German company Lotec started out in the 1960s building race cars, before turning its attention to aftermarket fiberglass body panels for Porsche vehicles. It moved into creating aftermarket parts for Mercedes and then in 1990, the company was commissioned to build a one-off supercar fora a Japanese businessman. Another was commissioned from the Emirates. The second took five years to build and was powered by a twin-turbocharged 5.6-liter Mercedes-Benz V8 reportedly making 1,000 hp. Lotec followed it up with its first production supercar, the Sirius. That car was powered by the same Mercedes-Benz V12 as the Pagani Zonda and is claimed to push 1,000 or 1,200 hp depending on the boost settings.
Lotec made use of its racing know-how and parts production and built the Sirius using high-tech materials and race-car-inspired suspension. Sadly, only one was built, and Lotec couldn't sell any. As far as we know, Lotec now mainly makes wheels for German brand cars.
The stereotype for Jaguar XJ owners is of people that want everyone to think they have both money and taste. Or for gentlemen with a habit of forgetting their wallet. The way to show that you were genuine money and not a market trader dealing in goods of a questionable origin was to buy a Jaguar XJ with a Daimler badge. The Daimler Sovereign was essentially a rebadged Jaguar with a better finish. The modern Daimler Double-Six was an upgrade of the famous XJ12 coupe and sedan available from 1993-1997 to complete with Jaguar's super-smooth "high-efficiency" V12s.
The Renault 5 Turbo was one of the most out-to-lunch hot hatches of the 1980s. While it's called a Renault 5, it has little in common with the front-engined French-made econobox. It was Renault's answer to the Lancia Stratos rally car, so unlike the standard front-engine Renault 5, the Turbo version had the engine mounted behind the driver instead of having rear seats. The four-cylinder also had a Garrett AiResearch T3 turbocharger bolted to it and made 158 hp at 6,000 rpm. Road versions were created for homologation, and, for most, that's where the legend ends.
However, once Renault had built 400 units to homologate the car, the engineers went to work on creating a less expensive road version by replacing choice racing components with stock factory parts. Renault also removed the Bertone seats and dashboard and replaced them with R5 Alpine parts. However, and this is the important part, the Renault engineers did such a good job with the Turbo II that it was close in performance to the original homologation models. Renault planned to sell 3,000 units of the Turbo II in the US, but it never happened. A couple made it across using the grey market, though.
It's a story almost as old as the car itself. Racing driver ends career; racing driver wants to develop a sports car to go into production. In this case, the story is set in Spain, and Domingo Ochoa ended his career as a racing team director and wanted to build a supercar. After years of development based around Dodge Viper V10 engines, the production model of the GTA Spano debuted in 2013. However, the V10 had a supercharger added, bringing the power up to 900 hp and 738 lb-ft of torque. A second generation showed up in 2015, this time with the Viper V10 twin-turbocharged and making 925 hp and 900 lb-ft of torque. For the second generation, Spania GTA worked with the Spanish nanotechnology company Graphenano and claims to use graphene in the bodywork to improve structural rigidity while reducing weight.
Another age-old story is the lightweight sports car designed to perform as well as a supercar, but for half the cost. This one is from Portugal, but the formula is the same while the components depend on budget. The car, built by Adamastor, is invariably track-derived and typically involves a tubular aluminum frame chassis, an adjustable suspension setup, lightweight composite bodywork, and a reliable yet tunable engine from a large automaker.
In this case, it's Ford's Ecoboost engines in four or six-cylinder form mounted in the center of the car. From there, you can opt for a Ford manual or automatic transmission or get hardcore with a sequential paddle-shift transmission. The P003RL is the company's third car, and the RL stands for Road Legal.
Donkervoort didn't make a big splash outside of the Netherlands until its D8 morphed from being a copy of the Lotus and Caterham 7. Most enthusiasts are now familiar with the D8 as an outlandish sports car built with Donkervoort's zero-compromise attitude. However, the D8 Cosworth wasn't just a copycat Caterham 7; it was the Caterham 7 you wanted in the late 1990s. It was fitted with the legendary turbocharged four-cylinder engine developed for the Ford Sierra Cosworth. With no driving aids and weighing just 1,398 pounds, the Donkervoort D8 Cosworth was a handful, to say the least. It topped out at 280 hp going to the rear wheels, and a skilled driver on a dry track could get it to 62 mph in 4.1 seconds.