The ten ballsiest car companies ever

What with the stratospheric development and production budgets involved in manufacturing cars it's no surprise that most companies keep things to Toyota-grade conservatism. That's the rule. Here are the exceptions: The ten most risk-affine, rash, bold car companies history has yet seen, as picked by Jalopnik readers.

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The ten ballsiest car companies ever

10.) General Motors in the 1960s

Suggested By:salguod

Why it's got cojones: The biggest car company in the world took some acid back in the late 1950s and started planning a rush of wild, daring attacks on the automotive mainstream. Any sane auto exec would have stopped the madness there, but General Motors had been building up its lunacy quotient since the mid-fifties, and there was no stopping that crazy train. Things got started with the Corvair, but there was little parallel back then to the world's first production turbocharged car, the 1962 Oldsmobile F-85 Jetfire, or the front-wheel drive Oldsmobile Toronado, or even the rear-transaxle 1961 Pontiac Tempest. Few companies have been so daring since.

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The ten ballsiest car companies ever

9.) American Motors Corporation

Suggested By: Public Account

Why it's got cojones: AMC had little choice but to be ballsy. The big three had the chips stacked high against the small company out in Wisconsin, so every time that AMC put a bet on the table, it had to go all in. How else can you explain a company cutting all of the full-size cars from its lineup back in 1957, when seventeen-foot Fords and Chevrolets were streaming off the assembly lines? How else can you explain the one-two punch of the Gremlin and the Pacer?

Photo Credit: Alden Jewell

The ten ballsiest car companies ever

8.) BYD

Suggested By: SennaMP4

Why it's got cojones: BYD isn't just ambitious, it approaches Bond villain-levels of megalomania. It would not surprise me in the least if BYD's chairman Wang Chaun-Fu has a secret battery lab tucked away in a volcano, where he plots world automotive domination. This man literally drinks battery fluid. He drives through other people's press conferences. He got Warren Buffett to plonk down a lot of money on BYD. He shows up to every Detroit Auto Show and says his car company is selling cars in the U.S. THIS YEAR even though that never really happens.

We are not here to judge the feasibility of BYD's motto "Build Your Dreams," but there is no questioning the kind of balls this company has driving its production.

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The ten ballsiest car companies ever

7.) Subaru in the 1970s

Suggested By: tintern

Why it's got cojones: Back in the early 1970s, Subaru pulled off that great trick of small car company bravado: betting the farm on an unproven product in a market niche that didn't exist. The all-wheel drive Leone (known in the States as the DL) was the only car Subaru was importing to the critical US car market in 1974, when the car went on sale. Everyday all-wheel drive automobiles were unheard of, but the ugly little Subaru muscled its way into the US with a weedy little boxer engine. As if the front-wheel and all-wheel drive DLs didn't show the world that Subaru had balls, they went on to build a DL-amino and stick two seats in the bed. Some may claim that the seats were a means of getting around LBJ's Chicken Tax, but we all know that Subaru just wanted to drive the point home that it was run by a bunch of lunatics.

Photo Credit: Alden Jewell

The ten ballsiest car companies ever

6.) Ford in the bailout years

Suggested By: Fordboy 357

Why it's got cojones: Ford was in dire straits in the mid-2000s, needing to improve its product and its finances. What Ford didn't have was money, so the company mortgaged its assets. How much, exactly? Pretty much everything, from equipment, to office buildings, factories, its stakes in its subsidiaries, its patents, and its logo all were put up as collateral for a massive $23.4b. Ford went on to sell Aston Martin, then Jaguar and Land Rover, then much of its stake in Mazda, and finally Volvo. Somehow, Ford worked it out, and it did it with cojones.

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The ten ballsiest car companies ever

5.) Delorean Motor Company

Suggested By: Jagvar

Why it's got cojones: John Z. DeLorean, the eminently successful, perhaps even legendary product man at GM in the 1960s, decided he could do better without the shackles of corporate structure weighing him down, and he set off to build the perfect sports car. He may not have thought that his plan was so ballsy when he started off, but the scale of his undertaking was certainly clear when he was walking out of the Sheraton Plaza in handcuffs in 1982. The DMC story is quickly growing into legend, but in its infamous failure we can see just the kind of ambition wrapped up in the Delorean Motor Company.

Photo Credit: Alden Jewell

The ten ballsiest car companies ever

4.) Tucker

Suggested By: 68Chrysler

Why it's got cojones: If I was planning on taking on the world's largest, most bitterly competitive car market, I would do the sensible thing and make a nice, slightly quirky, eminently respectable car to weasel my way into things. I would not go for the family car segment, the jugular, as it were, and I wouldn't do it with a helicopter-powered streamliner with more new features in a single car than any rival had introduced in a decade. Tucker's star may have only shined half as long as any other company on this list, but the kind of bravado it showed is more than many other companies can attest to after many long years of operation.

Photo Credit: Alden Jewell

The ten ballsiest car companies ever

3.) Delorean-era Pontiac

Suggested By: thisISaRant

Why it's got cojones: Pontiac built up an enviable position in the 1960s and early 1970s, with top-selling, desirable, beautiful, exciting products. In today's automotive world, this kind of success comes from due diligence and mainstream conservatism. It's been true ever since the Camry came to American shores. Back in Pontiac's golden years, success came on the back of flouting GM's internal doctrines of no racing! no big engines! no wild performance! It showed a lot of chutzpah to put out cars like "the Humbler" and the original GTO, but unlike many ambitious carmakers before and since, Pontiac turned boldness into success.

Photo Credit: Alden Jewell

The ten ballsiest car companies ever

2.) Citroën

Suggested By: Vavon

Why it's got cojones: André Citroën was a gambler. He was not an automotive engineer and didn't have a great passion for cars, but he did focus intently on production efficiencies. The best way to manufacture a car, he figured, was to keep it in production for many years, so that you could keep the assembly line economic and wring as much money as possible from a single development investment. Naturally, the best way to keep a car competitive in the marketplace for many years was to just leapfrog the competition. The man needed a big payoff, so, gambler that he was, he took a big risk. His company ended up getting sold to its creditors, but not before setting the company on what might be the wildest, strangest, most unconventional string of mass-market cars, starting with the groundbreaking Traction Avant, then the groundbreaking 2CV, then the groundbreaking DS, and then the groundbreaking (if doomed) pair, the SM and the wankel-powered GS. No company has been so bold, in such a big way, for so long, except for one.

Photo Credit: Andy Stevens

The ten ballsiest car companies ever

1.) Mazda

Suggested By: Spiegel

Why it's got cojones: Mazda is still a regular automotive wildcard. This might not seem so strange had the company not flirted with bankruptcy twice, just for being the scrappiest, ballsiest car company the world may have ever seen. Back in the 1960s, when the Japanese Ministry of International Trade and Industry was pressuring small car companies to consolidate with their larger competitors to stay relevant in the export market, Mazda started to invest in rotary engines to differentiate itself from other firms. Where did this lead Mazda? To the brink of collapse, after the 1973 Oil Crisis made its less-than-miserly cars into automotive lepers. Did the company give up on the rotary? Hell no! Once the company had gotten back on its feet in the 1980s, they went even crazier, trying to fill every niche that could be found and then invent more that didn't yet exist. Gullwing microcars? Sure! Quad-rotor Le Mans race cars? Hell yes! Even when they tried and make a Camry competitor, it came with four-wheel steering and a turbocharger. Did this plan work? Nope! The company had to be rescued by Ford in the mid 1990s, but there is no diminishing the kind of cojones Mazda is still showing in dealerships today.

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