The phrase “limited edition” enjoys a liberal application these days.
It can mean it has a little plaque that says so. It can mean a run of 50, 500 or 1,000. It can mean some bygone celeb looked at it sideways once.
But once upon a time — especially in the world of four-wheeled things — it meant something.
To wit, we bring you not the most expensive, nor even the most coveted, but the rarest builds to date. Twenty models that produced less than 20 total units. The unicorns of horsepower.
1971 Hemi ‘Cuda Convertible
Gained major headlines as the first sports car to ever sell for over a million dollars, the Cuda only released 11 models.
1954 Oldsmobile F-88
Perhaps the world’s rarest concept car, this F-88 is the only make in existence. It is the cornerstone of the Gateway Colorado Automobile Museum’s collection.
1954 Packard Panther
This valiant baby is one of four Panthers in existence. Made from an innovative one-piece up to one-inch thick with a whole lot of muscle under the hood.
1967 and the 1970 Dodge Coronet R-T
With one of the rarest Hemi engines Dodge manufactured, only two of these muscle-y steeds were produced each year.
1948-1950 Aston Martin DB1
Only 15 were produced. Which is why we felt secure in our blatant weeping last October when one crashed in the Castle Combe Autumn Classic race.
The Bugatti Royale
Originally, Ettore Bugatti planned to build twenty-five Royales and sell them to royalty. But with the onset of the Great Depression, Bugatti was able to sell only three of the six made.
Ferrari F50 GT1
A well-known frame, though only three GT1s were actually put into production. Such is the homologation process of the rough-and-tumble racing world, which both gave birth to this model and caused its demise.
1957 Jaguar XKSS
Steve McQueen’s mean machine and one of only 16.
2005 Maybach Exelero
One of one created and snagged by rapper “Birdman,” who picked it up in 2012 for $8 million.
Rolls Royce 15HP
Six were made but this girl is the only left in existence. It resides in Glasgow’s Museum of Travel and Transport.
Talbot Lago Grand Sport
One of the premier post-war cars, and renowned for its speed. It was expensive. It was rare (a grand total of 12 hit roads). And it helped Louis Rosier win the Le Mans 24 Hour race in 1950.
1938 Phantom Corsair
A revolutionary futuristic design in the ‘30s and it remains so today. Rust Heinz had planned to put the Corsair into limited production, but his death by car accident in ‘39 ended those plans, resulting in the prototype being the only beauty around. She now lives in the National Automobile Museum in Reno, Nevada.
Alfa Romeo 33 Stradale
Only 18 of these cherries were produced, with fewer than 10 known to still be in existence.
Built in celebration of Lambo’s 50th anniversary. They made five in total — two for themselves and three for customers. Which is why people lose their brains when one is spotted out in the wild.
McLaren F1 LM
Inspired by the track-oriented edition of the F1, but with engine intake restriction modifications for street legality. Five were produced.
Ferrari F12 TRS
A fierce, topless two-seater. One of three. Tops out at 211 mph.
1949 Delahaye 175 S Saoutchik Roadster
Possibly the world’s most exquisite ride. Crafted by Saoutchik, originally a cabinet maker from the Ukraine who moved to Paris and became a member of the automotive elite after showing off his consistent flair in design. The 175 S is blissfully dramatic and one-of-a-kind.
1969 Chevrolet Corvette ZL-1
The most powerful version of the already beastly L-88 Corvette. The most powerful Chevy until fairly recently, to boot. Only two are known to exist.
1971 Pontiac GTO Judge
The kind of car you’d want to have your back in a fight. Only 17 were made.
1970 Ford Torino King Cobra
The tale goes: Bud Moore was in town in ‘71 to pick up a few Mustangs for the Trans-Am season when he couldn’t help but inquire about a couple of pointy-nosed rides sitting idle on Ford’s Dearborn headquarters. One was damaged and the other wasn’t anything you’d write home about. His contact at Ford simply told him, “Take ‘em.” And Moore found himself in possession of two of the only and most significant Torinos ever built.