For however many companies you think turned up out of nowhere with the dream to build a supercar, there were always more. And they’re easy to forget, especially today, when cynicism has never run more rampant.
But we shouldn’t leave them behind! Their failure was due to circumstance, perhaps mismanagement, but not because they had bad ideas — not universally, anyway. It’s for that reason that we’re going to give 10 of these once plucky upstarts their due today, in the time-honored tradition of a slideshow. And because there will assuredly be plenty more that we won’t get to recognize here, why not leave a comment telling us what other bygone brands deserve a place on our list of could’ves and should’ves?
The brainchild of Dome founder Minoru Hayashi, who wanted to both enter the 24 Hours of Le Mans and sell a roadgoing version of his racing machines, the Dome Zero emerged at the 1978 Geneva Motor Show and immediately dazzled the public. Unfortunately, Dome was unable to certify the Zero for Japanese roads, and so the car never saw series production. Neither did the Jiotto Caspita, the slippery supercar in the previous slide, which was also Hayashi’s creation. Pour one out for the best ones; they never make it.
Games it appears in: The Dome Zero appeared in Gran Turismo 4, 5 and 6, as well as Sega GT 2002 and Online and Auto Modellista. Meanwhile, the original Subaru flat-12 version of the Jiotto Caspita also appeared in Sega GT 2002/Online, while the Judd V10-powered one landed in Auto Modellista. What I’d give to drive a meticulously recreated Caspita in GT7.
3 / 12
Lister is technically still around today, tuning Jaguars to be even more raunchy than they already are. But back in the ’90s, the British company stuffed the seven-liter V12 out of the Jaguar XJR-9 Group C prototype in this tight little package — even more impressive, as the Storm was technically a four-seater — and sent it racing. Lister also built four road cars before that dream faded, and three are said to survive today.
Games it appears in: Because the Lister Storm was a race car as well as a road car — and a moderately successful one at that — it ended up landing in a number of motorsport-themed games. Those include the old Simbin GTR titles, Gran Turismo 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6, Total Immersion Racing and World Driver Championship. As for the road version, you’ll only find that one in GT2.
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For all the attention the Vector W8 gets — and I’m not going to say it doesn’t deserve it — I’ve always been a little fond of the styling of the W8's swoopier sequel, the M12. Unfortunately the M12 is associated with a painful chapter in the Vector story, coming after company founder Gerald Wiegert was fired as part of a hostile takeover by Megatech. The M12 was heavily based on the Lamborghini Diablo — Megatech owned them, too — and seemingly hated by everyone who ever got behind the wheel of one. Imagine what Vector could have achieved with more money and less drama.
Games it appears in: Somehow, the Vector W8 and M12 only appear in GT2 — a haven for forgotten ’90s sports cars, now that I think about it — and a racing version of the M12 can be driven in Image Space’s Sports Car GT.
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Let’s go back a little further, shall we? Ex-Ferrari and Iso engineer Giotto Bizzarrini’s automaker bearing his own name lasted just five years before filing bankruptcy. In that time, however, Bizzarrini produced some of the most beautiful sports cars of all time, including the Strada 5300 seen above, which broadly shared its design with the Iso Grifo. The long hood concealed a Chevy 327 small-block V8, though you’d never suspect as much in pictures.
Games it appears in: I’m pretty sure none. Somebody get on that!
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The poster child of ’80s vaporwave, Cizeta founder Claudio Zampolli was trying to resurrect this striking wedge all the way up until his death a year ago. Supposedly a baker’s dozen examples of the transverse-V16-powered, quad-pop-up-headlighted Bizarro-world Diablo exist in the wild. Should you happen upon a chance meeting with “Father of Disco” Giorgio Moroder, it’s probably best not to ask him about it.
Games it appears in:Gran Turismo 4 and 5 feature the V16T, but you really want to drive it in GT6, since it was recreated in stunning detail with a full interior for that game. That makes it ripe for a return in GT7, if we’re lucky.
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While Yamaha definitely still exists and makes motorcycles, electric motors and — I don’t know, keyboards — it never made good on the OX99-11, a concept built during the supercar boom of the early-’90s with tandem seating and an F1-derived chassis. The company attempted to partner with a U.K. design firm to get it produced in modest numbers, but disagreements and a worsening Japanese economy caused the project to be shelved.
Games it appears in: Nothing to report here either I’m afraid, although considering three were built and presumably still exist, you’d think that the OX99-11 would turn up in some game.
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Venturi, too, is a name still making the rounds in 2022, as the Monégasque brand runs a Formula E team and apparently partakes in a range of world record attempts these days. It’s in a very different place than it was in the ’90s when it produced cars like the 300 Atlantique and 400 GT, the latter of which contested the BPR Global GT Series, taking on the likes of the Ferrari F40 GTE and Porsche 911 GT2.
It wasn’t long ago I penned an ode to the Aixam Mega Track, calling it the “only good crossover.” It’s a claim I stand by, because just look at it. Aixam, a French producer of microcars, saw the world as it was and said “why?” The result of its navel gazing was a larger-than-you-could-fathom, high-riding, Mercedes-V12-wielding half-cruiser, half all-terrain terror. That’s a lot of hyphens, and I think I’ve made my case. Nobody seems to know how many were built.
Games it appears in: Nope.
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I tend to deal in obscure supercars and even Lotec remains a mystery to me. This here is the C1000, which pretty much looks like a Pagani Zonda if the Zonda was penned during the waning years of the Reagan administration. Like the Zonda, the C1000 employed Mercedes power. Exactly one was built, for a businessman from the United Arab Emirates. After that, the company delivered a few more one-offs and even briefly tried to market a car called the Sirius, which I’d always seen and thought was an early Koenigsegg. It wasn’t.
Games it appears in: You’re never going to believe this, but there aren’t any.
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Finally, we get to the brand that inspired this list; the one which, if not for editor supervision, I would have placed here four more times without a second thought. Eberhard Schulz was an ex-Porsche engineer who left Stuttgart for a job at coachbuilder b&b in the late ’70s. During his time there, he partnered with Mercedes-Benz to design the CW 311 concept: a gorgeous, forward-thinking mid-engined coupe with gullwing doors, harkening back to the Silver Arrows’ past. When Mercedes didn’t want to produce the CW 311, he decided to do it himself under the brand Isdera — a pseudo-acronym that, when translated from German, spells out “Engineering Company for Styling, Design and Racing.”
After the Imperator 108i (above) and Spyder 033i, Schulz set out to design a totally new flagship, one that was intended to inform a Le Mans motorsport program. But the company lost funding, and no more than one Commedatore 112i was ever made. It recently sold, and last summer I recall hearing that the car was turning up at Radwood-style events across the country. Isdera too still exists, albeit in a sense; the company partnered with Chinese startup WM Motors a few years back to fund the development of a handsome, if bland electric grand tourer.
Games it appears in: Just one, but it’s a biggie: Need For Speed II, where the Commedatore appears alongside other greats of the period, including the McLaren F1, Italdesign Calà and Ford GT90. That’s esteemed company.