Help Us Identify This Mystery Car So We Can Get On With Our Lives

Illustration for article titled Help Us Identify This Mystery Car So We Can Get On With Our Lives
Photo: Franck Canetto

In what I suspect was an attempt by our nemeses (Big Lettuce, the American Council of Churches, etc.) we were sent a picture by a reader named Franck (yeah, with a ‘c’) of this odd car driving around Irvine, CA, on Nevada plates. So far, it’s baffled all of us, so I’m putting it out to the most powerful automotive hive mind in the Known Universe, the Jalopnik Hive Mind. What is this thing?

It appears to be mid-engined, possibly rear-engined, but the proportions seem to suggest mid. The front end has a very minimal overhang, and the driver is quite forward along the wheelbase of the car.

The door cutline suggests a very high sill, perhaps suggesting an upward-sweeping scissor door design?

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There are other interesting details worth pointing out:

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Photo: Franck Canetto

Note the odd half-window design that cuts down from the windshield. Maybe that top is removable, and the car is designed to have a sort of Mach 5-esque half-canopy design?

Also, it looks like something is missing or removed from where the B-pillar would be; a bit of trim, or something more substantial? Those four mounting or whatever holes there don’t seem like they’re supposed to be exposed.

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Under the rear, we can see a quad exhaust setup, along with some mounting hardware for the exhaust system (?) and a set of reflectors and reverse lamps to make this vehicle road-legal. Those lights and reflectors look like an afterthought like maybe this was some kind of concept/styling exercise that was adapted to be actually driven?

The bit of underbody we can see there doesn’t seem to match most of the mid-engined cars this would be possibly built on. It doesn’t seem to be a Fiero or Boxster/Cayman, or a Fiat X1/9 or Porsche 914 or Toyota MR2.

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It’s possible it’s something more exotic, of course.

The side marker lamps seem to be taken from a Mini, though there are several companies that use that sort of wheelarch-hugging design.

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The Irvine location it was spotted in could suggest it’s a project from a carmaker’s design studios, of which there are several in the area, though we so far haven’t pegged it as any concept we can remember.

We checked the Nevada plates and found this confusing information:

03-16-2015
Year: 2006
Make: CHRYSLER
Color: WHITE
RRN: 77101141111

There wasn’t a Chrysler concept from 2006 that looked like this, though. I suppose the closest was their mid-engined ME Four-Twelve concept from 2004:

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Photo: Chrysler
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...and this car is not that.

So, what is this thing? A home-built kit-car, one-off thing? Some design study made road-legal? A production failure so dramatic our memories have been altered to forget about it?

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I look forward to all of your speculation, and I’m actually pretty optimistic someone will have the answers we crave.

Have at it.

Senior Editor, Jalopnik • Running: 1973 VW Beetle, 2006 Scion xB, 1990 Nissan Pao, 1991 Yugo GV Plus, 2020 Changli EV • Not-so-running: 1977 Dodge Tioga RV (also, buy my book!: https://rb.gy/udnqhh)

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DISCUSSION

I KNOW WHAT THIS IS!

It’s the AREX, which stands for “American Roadster Experimental.” It’s been hanging around for a while - first time I saw it was 1993, which I remembered mostly because it’s weird as hell and was in a magazine my mom bought me that was full of crazy concept cars. It was originally red, and never didn’t look weird. Here’s the early version I remember.

Evidently they kept working on it, which meant a change of color and a bunch of other changes. It might be Chrysler powered? Not sure. Anyway it’s weird looking.