The automotive age has lasted over 100 years. This is more than enough to create some mythology, legends and history. The classic car community is filled with interesting barn find stories. In fact, there are thousands of car enthusiasts searching through forgotten warehouses, garages and basements looking for automotive treasures. Most seekers are hoping to find their four-wheeled Holy Grail. In the last few years, there have been several big discoveries of cars worth millions of dollars.
Most of them have been lost for over 50 years. Despite the army of car hunters and the use of modern technology, there are still more than a dozen lost cars out there. These cars have been out of the limelight for decades. Most people think they are hidden or even possibly destroyed. So keep reading to learn all about 14 historically significant models that have been lost for decades.
The whereabouts of some of those cars are known, but they are unobtainable for obvious reasons. On the other hand, there are some famous cars that have disappeared into thin air. These cars have never resurfaced again. Here are 14 greatest automotive mysteries and famous lost cars that have bugged classic car enthusiasts for decades.
As you go through each car story, it may spark your imagination. Wouldn’t you like to find one of these remarkable machines or shed some light on one of these decades-old mysteries?
1956 Chrysler Norseman
Back in the mid-50’s, Detroit was all about crazy concept cars. The marketing experts realized that over the top concept cars drew attention at car shows and helped them sell regular models better. So, The Big Three – GM, Chrysler and Ford – jumped at the opportunity to create insane cars for the car show circuit.
One of those models was the famed Chrysler Norseman. Chrysler built it for the 1957 season. The Norseman was an elegant fastback they based on the 1956 Chrysler platform with a 331 V8 Hemi engine. The most notable features were the lack of a B-pillar and a sloping roofline. Chrysler stylists created the car, but the Italian styling house, Ghia. Chrysler chose them because the complicated roof construction required precision work by hand.
After completion of the car, they loaded the Norseman to ships and sailed to America. However, just before the SS Andrea Doria reached New York harbor, it collided with another ship and sunk some 60 miles from the U.S. shore. The Chrysler Norseman was trapped in a container below the deck and sunk with the ship.
Although the SS Andrea Doria lies just 50 meters below the ocean surface, nobody has managed to pull the car from the ship’s hull. After more than 60 years, it is possible there isn’t anything to pull to the shore. The salt water corrosion could have claimed most of the body, so the only thing that could be left may be the engine block.
Ferrari 375 MM Chassis Number 0378AM
One of the first cars to reach collector status were those classic Ferraris. Over the years, car enthusiasts had uncovered many forgotten yet valuable cars that were lost. Even today, there are numerous tales about finding rare Ferraris all over the world. But even the truest Ferrari aficionados have no information about the famous 375 MM with the chassis number, 0378AM.
The 375 MM was Ferrari’s top racing car with a potent V12 engine and 340 HP, ludicrous power for the day. Emerging in early 1953, the 375 MM was highly successful in Europe, as well as in America. Ferrari managed to make and sell 26 of them. Since it was an important, successful car, most owners took good care of their cars. So, today 25 of those 26 are alive and well.
Ferrari sold the missing one, the chassis number 0378AM to Dr. Enrico Wax, an Italian businessman. Dr. Wax was a supercar collector who didn’t race his 375 MM, keeping it in his garage in Genoa. However, the Ferrari community never heard about the car again so no information is available on the 0378AM after 1953. If the car exists today, it should be one of the most original, well-preserved Ferraris ever.
Bugatti was one of the most important sports and racing car brands in the 1930’s. It was a position Bugatti deserved due to numerous victories and extremely advanced road cars. However, since Bugatti was a small company that relied on outsourcing bodies for their cars, they are hard to keep track of today. Most car histories are missing the documentation of their history.
It is estimated that Bugatti built and sold around 10,000 cars until 1947, and people restored and preserved many of them. However, there is one Bugatti that is possibly the most extreme classic car missing for 80 years. Sadly, there isn’t any trace of its fate or whereabouts. This car is the legendary Bugatti Aerolithe.
Bugatti introduced it in 1935, building the Aerolithe on a T37 chassis with a design like the gorgeous Bugatti Atlantic. However, it came with a body they made from an extremely advanced aluminum-magnesium alloy called Electron. Since it wasn’t possible to weld Electron, the panels were riveted, which became a trademark detail. The car proved popular in car shows around Europe. It was also featured in magazine reviews, but then it vanished.
Nobody knows where the car is and the people who made or sold it are long gone. Some people believe that it disappeared during the Second World War, but no one knows for sure. If the Aerolithe ever resurfaces, it could possibly be the most expensive car in the world.
Steve McQueen’s Mustang GT 390
One of the biggest Mustang legends is the Bullitt movie car. In 1968, the legendary actor Steve McQueen starred in the detective flick, Bullitt. He played a detective who drove a mean looking 1968 GT390 Fastback. They used two cars were used during the shooting, destroying one and using the other for close-ups and promotional shoots. Steve McQueen drove and modified it, preserving it well.
They sold the second car and it had several owners. The car finally settled in the East Coast of America in the hands of a private owner who wants to remain anonymous. They are fully aware of the importance of this particular car. The owner doesn’t want to sell it, but when this car eventually makes its way to the auction block, it will be the most expensive Mustang in the world with a price that will break any previous records.
The original Bullitt car has just been used by the Ford in promotional purposes in promoting the 2018 Mustang on Detroit Auto Show! This means that Ford managed to track the owner and pursuede him to let the automaker diplay the original 1968 Bullitt next to 2018 Bullitt special edition Mustang as a best way to mark the car`s 50th anniversary.
Renault Type CB Coupe de Ville from the Titanic
In the last 106 years, the Titanic disaster has captured the imagination of millions all over the world. After so much research, most people now know all the aspects of this event. However, there is still the case of the Renault Type CB Coupe de Ville from the Titanic. The public first caught a glimpse of this car when James Cameron released his epic Oscar-winning movie, Titanic, in 1997. Cameron’s team did some thorough research and found there was a 1912 Renault on board the ship in the cargo area.
The owner, William E. Carter of Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, survived. He was able to settle with the insurance company for the loss of his luxury car. However, a rumor was that the Renault was never on the ship. Some people think Mr. Carter used the naval disaster to get a hefty paycheck from Lloyd’s of London.
In 2003, an interesting documentary about Titanic was released called, Ghosts of the Abyss, which was featured footage from the wreck. One of the things the film crew wanted to find was the remains of the Renault since they knew exactly where they stored it. However, the crushed metal parts they found proved inconclusive. The mystery of Renault from the Titanic still remains.
Goldfinger Aston Martin DB5
Movie cars are always an interesting topic among car enthusiasts. Among dozens of popular vehicles from the silver screen, James Bond’s rides are one of the most sought-after by car fans. Although the whereabouts most 007 cars are known, one particular car is still missing. It was the most popular Bond car, which was the silver 1964 Aston Martin DB5 from the movie, Goldfinger.
The film company used several cars for shooting. However, the car with all the gadgets, like revolving license plates, ejector seats and mounted machine guns was for driving scenes and close-ups. After the shooting, it changed hands of several collectors, including Florida businessman Anthony V. Pugliese III.
However, in 1997, someone stole the car from the airplane hangar where it was in storage. Thieves disabled the alarm and security cameras, stealing the car in the middle of the night without a trace. Thankfully, they insured this silver DB5. The insurance company paid $4.2 million to its owner, but the car vanished into thin air.
There were some rumors the car went to Boston, but nobody has been able to confirm that. Today, 20 years after they stole the famous Goldfinger DB5, it still remains one of the biggest missing car cases in history.
Chevrolet Corvette Nomad
Back in the mid-50’s, GM held the Motorama traveling car show. It features some crazy concepts, future cars and promotional materials. Those were the glory days of the American concept car trend. Each year, manufacturers competed with different cars that later became car styling and pop culture icons. In 1954, Chevrolet presented the Corvette Nomad. They named it the Waldorf Nomad since it first appeared at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel.
It was practically a Corvette station wagon, but the design proved to be influential. Chevrolet presented the Nomad as a three-door station wagon. It became part of the mainline Chevrolet model lineup just a year later. Also, the Corvette Nomad was one of the most popular concept cars from the Motorama period. After their short lives on the show circuit around America, most concept cars went to the crusher, but some managed to survive.
This is where the Corvette Nomad case gets strange. Since it was a fully functional vehicle, the chances are they sold it, possibly to an employee or dealer. There are no records to show they crushed this car, but there are no records to prove someone bought it, either. It vanished in the mid-50’s and Chevy fans have been searching for it ever since.
The Bettencourt-Zupan Coupe
The late 1940’s marked the beginning of the custom car culture with modified cars first appearing in magazines and car shows. One of the first highly influential models that gained wide recognition was the Bettencourt-Zupan 1949 Mercury. This car was the first customized “Lead Sled” Mercury model that set the template for thousands that came after it.
When they built the car, it became popular and was in several magazines. However, by the end of the 60’s it was outdated. After the original owner died in an accident, they sold it to the famous So-Cal customizer Dean Jeffries. But, one night in 1970, someone stole the car in front of his shop and he never recovered it.
The custom car guys are on the lookout for this extremely important, valuable piece of the American car culture. The only trace was a pair of photographs which were allegedly taken in the 1980’s. Those pictures suggest the car still exists, but it could be in a private collection.
Isadora Duncan’s Car
One of the most intriguing figures of the early 20th century was American-born dancer and choreographer, Isadora Duncan. Despite her American roots, she spent most of her life in Europe where people highly respected her. She became a celebrity among the artistic elite of the Art Deco age. Unfortunately, her untimely death was bizarre and somewhat of a mystery.
Isadora was in the company of her Italian lover and mechanic on a warm September night in 1927 in Nice, France. The couple went for a ride in her convertible car and Isadora was sitting in the passenger seat. During the ride, her long silk scarf got caught up in wire wheels of the car, strangling her, causing fatal injuries. The driver rushed to the hospital, but there wasn’t anything they could do and there weren’t any witnesses to the case.
A full 90 years after Duncan died, the community is divided on which car she rode in back then. During her lifetime, Isadora owner many prestigious machines. Most historians claim that a Bugatti was the car in question. However, recent research shows Isadora also owned an Amilcar, another long lost, obscure French brand. Her lover is long gone and could not provide any information, so nobody knows what happened to this car.
Buick Wildcat Concept
One of the first and currently unaccounted classic Detroit concept cars was the gorgeous 1953 Buick Wildcat. They made just two cars, white and black. Despite being similar, these two cars were not identical. Buick presented the first car in the lobby of the Waldorf Astoria Hotel. It was a black elegant roadster that gained much public attention.
The white one was a later car they featured afterward. There are even rumors of a third car they painted green, but no one has been able to confirm that as fact. The location of the first, black Wildcat is unknown. There were no reports of it being sold, scraped or reappearing anywhere in North America.
However, there was a story of black 1953 Wildcat concept in the garage of a GM employee who saved it from the crusher. They bought it for next to nothing a few years after the car retired from car shows. Someone allegedly saw the car was in the late 60’s. There were even a few photos of the owner and the car, but even the best automotive historians and collectors cannot confirm anything.
Jim Morrison’s Shelby GT500
One of the coolest, most intriguing stories about legendary missing cars is the tale about the 1967 Shelby GT500 Jim Morrison owned. He was the lead singer and songwriter for The Doors, a famous L.A.-based rock band. The car was a gift from Electra Records to celebrate the success of their debut album in 1967. It was a dark blue, 1967 Shelby GT500 with a white interior and a manual transmission. Morrison was fond of the car and drove it often.
He even featured it in his art film, When You’re Strange, giving it the nickname, “Blue Lady.” One urban legend says that Jim crashed the car after a night of heavy drinking, leaving it by the side of the road. When he came to pick it up, the car was gone. Others say Morrison left the car at the airport when he went to France. After his tragic death from an overdose, they impounded and sold the car.
There is also a rumor that the new owner used it as a getaway car in the late 70’s, scrapping it to get rid of the evidence. In any case, the car is missing. For years, the Mustang community thought Morrison’s Shelby was gone. However, several years ago, a female forum user asked around for Shelby spare parts, claiming she owned a “deceased rock star’s GT 500.” The author has since deleted the posts, but many Shelby fans hope the legendary “Blue Lady” is still alive somewhere.
James Dean’s Porsche 550
Even though James Dean only made three films and died at the age of 24 in 1955, his legacy is so great, he is still one of the most legendary names in the film industry. On the other hand, the story of his Porsche 550 Spyder nicknamed “Little Bastard” is one of the most enduring automotive mysteries of all time.
Dean died in 1955, crashing his Porsche at an intersection in Cholame, California. The car was badly damaged, so they sold some mechanical parts like the engine, but the body and few components remained. After a few owners, the car ended up with the famous Hollywood customizer George Barris. He loaned it to an organization that promoted highway safety. Reports of people being injured in freak accidents involving falling pieces from the car and other strange occurrences lead the public to call the crashed Porsche, “a cursed car.”
In the late 60’s, they shipped the remains of the 550 Spyder from Florida to California, but they never arrived in L.A. Someone stole the car under suspicious circumstances and no one has been able to recover it. Some historians claim George Barris had something to do with the disappearance of the legendary Dean`s Porsche. But, Barris has taken the secret to the grave since he passed away in 2015.
Duesenbergs are one of the finest American cars the industry ever built. It is also one of the most respected, sought-after classic cars in the world. The SJ model is the top of the line “Doozy” with a supercharged eight-cylinder engine and an astonishing 320 HP. This was unheard of in the 1930’s. Duesenberg only made 26 of them.
While they’ve accounted for most of the cars, the chassis number 506 has been missing since the early 60’s. The car was bodied by the French company Franay, appearing at the Paris Motor Show in 1934. They sold it to Emile Beghain of Algeria, who raced on the Le Mans track, later returning with the car to Algeria.
The elegant roadster remained in his possession until 1962 when civil war broke out and Beghain was forced to flee. Although some people think the car was destroyed, there is no evidence of that, so the destiny of the SJ-506 remains a mystery.
Cadillac La Espada
One of the legendary and lost Motorama concepts was the beautiful Cadillac La Espada. Cadillac designed it as an elegant two-seater roadster. The La Espada featured several interesting, innovative features like a power top that created a curved surface when drivers closed it. It also had four headlights.
The car was a perfectly functional prototype with a Cadillac V8 engine delivering 230 HP. As with all other outdated concepts, it was destined for the crusher. However, it looks like it never got there. The story is they sold the car was sold to a private party who stored it in their garage, rarely driving it. After that, they sent it to the scrap yard and it disappeared afterward.
The legendary mysteries of famous lost cars still intrigue many people and car historians today. If you ever see any of these treasures, be sure to take a picture before it disappears again.