Including an MPV that's rarer than a Ferrari Enzo.
The car world is full of rare cars. That's not just a fun sentence to type; it's also true. There are so many rare cars out there that they can be categorized, sub-categorized, then subcategorized again. They roll across auction blocks and show up on popular car selling sites every day. However, there's also a lot of car models out there that are even rarer than you might think. In this list, we've got a 500-horsepower people carrier that's rarer than a Ferrari Enzo, a convertible Porsche 911 that you would have sworn exists in the thousands, and an oddball Japanese crossover that sold more units in America than it did in its homeland. These are cars you know were rare, but might not be aware of just how rare they are.
The only turbocharged Mazda Miata that has made production and was available in the US, is the second generation Mazdaspeed built for the 2004 and 2005 model years. Mazdaspeed equipped the Miata's 1.8-liter engine with an IHI turbocharger creating 8.5 psi of pressure that pushed the engine to develop 178 hp and 166 lb-ft of torque. The Mazdaspeed Miata wasn't just about extra power, though. The little unicorn also came with tuned Bilstein suspension, upgraded six-speed manual transmission, 17-inch Racing Hart wheels, and unique interior trim.
The best total build estimate is 6,235 units with its rarity depending on the market. The MazdaSpeed Miata was available in Japan (300), Canada (353), New Zealand (15), and the US got 4,000 models. A fire at the production facility meant that Mazda built less than intended in 2005 for export. For that year, the US only got 1,428 units, Canada got 53, Australia received 174, while New Zealand got just six.
The CTS-V was part of Cadillac's first real attempt at taking BMW on in the performance sedan market, and it was excellent. With a 6.2-liter V8 under the hood making 556 hp and handling chops that took the German's to task, it was a performance sedan America could be proud of. Throughout its first generation from 2004-2007, enthusiasts begged Cadillac to build a station wagon version. GM Vice Chairman Bob Lutz responded, saying, "should sufficient demand materialize, there is no reason why we couldn't do a V-Series wagon, and I would be standing in line for one, just ahead of you."
Cadillac did decide there was enough demand, and the second-generation CTS-V got a wagon variant. Since the end of production, they have been going for good money on the used market. Part of that reason is that only 1,764 units were built and sold through model years 2011-2014.
The BMW Z1 was a bit of an odd duck, but it was the first of BMW's modern roadster line. The reason people remember it is because the doors don't open. Instead, they retract vertically, meaning they slide down into the high door sills. Other innovations carried over from the concept include removable plastic body panels, a roll-hoop integrated into the windscreen surround, and a flat plastic undertray to aid aerodynamics. It was powered by the 2.5-liter straight-six engine from the E30 generation BMW 3 Series through a six-speed manual. The Z1 was well received by media and customers alike, and 3,500 vehicles were ordered before production began in Munich. Then, in October of 1988, BMW said it had received 35,000 orders. However, the excitement tailed off quickly, and only 8,000 were built in total from 1989 to 1991.
Kia's luxury sedan is a dependable seller in its home market of South Korea. The K900 was inserted into the US mass-market's consciousness via a Super Bowl advert in 2014 featuring Laurence Fishburne reprising his role as Morpheus from The Matrix movies. Later in the year, Kia named basketball superstar LeBron James as the K900's "luxury ambassador." The K900 is a luxury vehicle that should be eating into BMW's 7 Series and Mercedes' S-Class sales figures based on its quality and fantastic price. However, Kia has been unable to climb the mountain of "But it's a Kia!" cries from the ignorant, and it's a rare beast on American roads. In 2014, Kia sold 1,330 units and then 2,524 in 2015. Sales dropped off sharply after that, and just 5,887 were sold in total by the start of 2020. The K900 is even rarer in Canada, with just 96 units sold, and none of those were in 2019.
Chevrolet introduced its heavily retro-inspired SSR sports truck to America as a 2004 model. It was proceeded by the success of the also heavily retro-styled PT Cruiser, which sold over a million units, and came before the Chevrolet HHR, which sold over half a million units. In 2003, The Chevrolet SSR was featured as the pace car for the 2003 Indianapolis 500 and started out with a 300-hp 5.3-liter LS-based V8 under the hood. In 2005, the SSR came with the same LS2 V8 as the Corvette making 390 hp. It sounds like a recipe for success, but it went out of production in 2006 when GM closed the Lansing Craft Center. If you see one on the road now, it's just one of 24,112 built.
Isuzu's VehiCROSS is one of those vehicles we know is rare, but it's surprising just how rare it is. The love-it-or-hate-it looking compact SUV came with a potent little V6 engine, and a computer-controlled AWD system that was ahead of its time in 1997. It was a concept car that went into deliberately limited production with only 4,153 sold in the US. The surprising part is that Isuzu only built 5,958 in total. The US was the only international market for the VehiCROSS, and the other 1,805 were sold on Isuzu's domestic Japanese market. Japan didn't get more due to exterior width dimensions not complying with national regulations, and the engine size put it in a high tax bracket for domestic customers.
The Mercedes-Benz R63 AMG is a car that regularly pops up on lists of sleeper models, and with good reason. It's a bland people carrier designed to cart groups of executives to and from airports. Why AMG decided to drop a 500-hp handbuilt 6.2-liter engine into it is anybody's guess. However, someone signed off on the project, and it has entered automotive legend as the fastest production MPV on the planet. That's fun, but the real reason we would buy one is so we could park it next to the Ferrari Enzo that occasionally shows up at our local Cars And Coffee so we can tell the owner our car is rarer. Only 330 R63 AMG models were built.
Saab introduced the 9-4X as a midsize luxury crossover SUV in 2010, and just in time for the company to go bankrupt in 2011. GM owned Saab at the time and was responsible for production. The 9-4X was closely related to the Cadillac SRX, and the idea was that the 9-4X would revive Saab in the US. However, GM then decided to sell the brand. And, because one of the companies looking to buy Saab was Chinese, GM ended production of the 9-4X as it didn't want to sell its Cadillac chassis and drivetrain to a competitor in the Chinese market. There are conflicting reports on how many were built before production ended, but, according to the Saab Museum in Trollhattan, Sweden, only 814 units were produced.
The 993-generation 911 wasn't a rare car, and during its production run from 1994 through 1998, neither was the hallowed Turbo model. With Porsche's long history of 911 convertibles, it's hard to believe just how few Cabriolet optioned Turbo models were built. There were 17,921 standard 993 Carrera and Carrera 4 Cabriolet models built, but in surprisingly stark contrast, only 14 total 911 Turbo Cabriolet variants made it onto the road. The reason is that Porsche didn't actually build a production model, and customers had to option it through the Porsche Exclusive program.
The Pontiac Solstice isn't a common sight on the road, but it isn't rare yet. In total, Pontiac built 65,724 of the baby roadster that could have gone on to be America's answer to the Mazda MX-5. The two-seater convertible was produced from 2005 through 2009, and it even got a role in the "Transformers" movie. The even better looking coupe appeared for just one year after going on sale in 2009, just before Pontiac's well-documented demise in 2010. Pontiac only built 1,200 Solstice Coupe models. Even rarer, though, is the performance-enhanced GXP Coupe. Its production run is measured in months, and Pontiac only had time to build 781 units.