Encyclopedia Hoonatica: Asymmetrical Cars

It’s a weird thing about symmetry. Studies have shown that things that are symmetrical look more appealing to people: faces, bodies, houses, bridges, and most other things. Before you scream at me that people are in fact symmetrical, they aren’t really perfectly so. My left ear sticks out a lot more than my right ear, for instance. Both of women’s boobs may not be exactly the same, just as can men’s testies can be different from each other. 
But cars, cars are almost always symmetrical. Yes, the steering wheel isn’t in the middle unless you’re in a McLaren F1 or various race cars. But on the outside, they’re almost always the same. One of those cars that are asymmetrical is the Hyundai Veloster, which happens to be significantly updated for 2019. But more on the Veloster later, just know that it’s bloody brilliant. 
Today we are looking for asymmetrical cars. Please don’t just google it to be cool. Rather, think of something different than the Veloster or the Nissan Cube, be original. And don’t say that because a vehicle has an exhaust pipe on one side and not another it’s asymmetrical. 
The Caveats (there are always caveats):

  • Must a standard production vehicle.
  • No one-offs, no concepts, no race cars, other such show specials. 
  • Military equipment is allowed as long as it’s more than a prototype.
  • Utility equipment is also allowed as long as it has been in mainstream use. 
  • Buses and trains are not allowed as most of them are asymmetrical based on door layout alone.*
  • Vans and minivans are not allowed for the same reason as buses.*
  • *Exceptions will be made for vans, buses, and trains, but the asymmetry has to be more than just door layout. 
  • The vehicle must have at least one seat – so no lawn-mowers or things like that. 
  • Vehicles must have three wheels or more. 
  • The vehicle must be self propelled – I don’t want to see a stroller or a Big Wheel

Difficulty: 5 out of 10, the other 5 is easy. 
Image: Kamil Kaluski/Hooniverse 2018


      1. As I recall from a contemporaneous issue of (I think) Popular Mechanics, the idea was to encourage use of the larger curbside door for rear passengers while simultaneously minimizing the amount of door that the driver would have to throw outward into traffic (at least in LHD/RHT jurisdictions, not counting the case of offside parking on one-way streets).

      2. It’s useful for when the passengers were in the rear seat of a 2-door car, as was fairly commonplace before mandatory seat belts and booster seats–just toss your kids in the back seat, and they were as secure as a couple of eggs in the carton. No room for them to push each other out on the freeway.
        At the carpool line, mom doesn’t need to leave her seat with a big passenger door.
        On Cadillacs, both doors were the same size, but the passenger door got an extra handle inside, accessible from the back seat.

        1. Reminds me of my grandfather’s philosophy in the 1950s. 2 door cars were safer for kids since you didn’t have to worry about them opening the door and falling out.

          1. The first gen Toyota 4runners also had two door handles on the passenger side.

    1. Damn, that’s the first thing I thought of, but somehow I missed this article yesterday.

  1. Until they started putting dual sliders in, minivans only had a curbside door for the rear passengers. Most full size vans are still this way.

  2. The Saturn SC-series had 3 doors long before the Veloster. I think those were introduced for the 2000 model year…

      1. I couldn’t remember which Renault, so I googled and the 16 is the one that popped up. I think it was the 4 that I was failing to recall.

    1. For that matter, the front door was asymmetrical (handle on opposite side as the hinge).

    1. As did the first gen RX-7 (and probably others). It was supposedly done to offset driver weight, but that only worked in JDM RHD form.

    2. Jensen FF was RHD only because that’s the only way they could get the AWD hardware to fit.

  3. What about MOPARS of the 1950s and 1960s that featured Left hand threaded lug nuts on the left side of the car and right hand threaded lug nuts on the right side of the car?

    1. As a mineralogist, I’d argue that those lug nuts make such vehicles more symmetric, inasmuch as they conform with the implicit vertically-oriented mirror plane which longitudinally bisects each vehicle, with respect to which automotive symmetry is usually defined.
      As a shadetree mechanic and occasional MoPar owner, I’d argue that those lug nuts are a pain in the ass.

      1. The previous owner of my 1967 Imperial convertible had 4 tires installed at Pep Boys. I can personally attest than Manny, Moe, and Jack’s monkeys can apply enough torque with an air impact that it don’t matter which way it is supposed to go on. I think I replaced 6 of the 10 studs on the left side of the car when I got it. At least one lug nut was rattling around inside a hubcap.

      1. GM didn’t offer a diesel in light trucks back then, wonder who did the conversion and what kind of diesel they are using?

        1. Interesting point. They also have diesel Checker Marathons (including at least one wagon), International Travelalls and an 80s vintage tour bus that they use for giving tours of the grounds. I wonder if they were all converted to diesel rather than bought. No spark ignition and no computers, it interferes with the telescope.

      1. I remember the first time I noticed it in a picture I spent the rest of the day looking up MR2 pics to confirm I wasn’t insane.

    1. Asymmetric hoods are a list unto themselves.
      Mitsubishi Eclipse, 280ZX Turbo, 924 Turbo, Opel GT, 3rd-gen Firebird…

          1. The powertrain is offset as a carryover from the similarly offset placement of the slant-three two-stroke engine in the Sonett II, which fit without the bulge (although there was a subtle, symmetric raised portion of the hood). SAAB kept the same geometry for positioning the transaxle, so for the most part the only difference in the bodies between the II and the V4 is that bulge. They disguised the offset in the Sonett III by using a symmetric hood hatch which simply wasn’t centered above the engine. Here’s a view with the front bodywork removed:

          2. I didn’t realise Saabs had the engine/trans offset like that. Is it to improve driver footwell space, or some obscure engineering reason that is not obvious?

          3. I don’t recall encountering an explanation but I’m happy to speculate: For the two-stroke engines originally in the Models 93/95/96/97, which have their cylinders tilted to the left, it probably made sense to offset the engine to the right for purposes of clearance and, to a lesser extent, weight distribution. (For the 94 the powertrain is “backwards” and is correspondingly offset to the left.)
            Upon switching to the V4 engine, the company may have decided it wasn’t worth the trouble and expense to redesign the front ends of the 95/96/97 just to center the engine, particularly with an all-new replacement (the 99) on the horizon. They may not have expected 95/96 production to continue as long as it did.

    1. The local market used one to haul corn on the cob from the field to out front of the store. Sort of freaked me out as a kid. Did this have an accident and get rebuilt wrong?

    2. Also the IH 274 and the smaller Farmall Cub. And there was a Farmall B, basically an A with a narrow front and a longer left axle housing so the engine was on the centerline and the operator was offset to the right, till the B was replaced by the conventionally symmetrical C.

    1. Minivan caveat exception: The 1998 Ford Windstar (and only the 1998 model) also had differently sized front doors, because they saw that having two sliding doors was popular but the next model wasn’t ready yet, so they made the drivers door bigger so you could theoretically use it to get in the back. So it’s asymmetrical in a second way.

      1. I’m also pretty sure that the Windstar continued to use the same door windows as the old Aerostar.

  4. The 1st gen MINI Clubman (08 – 15?) has an additional half-door on the passenger side. I might be mistaken but I thought that’s where the inspiration for the Veloster came from. It also only has a reverse light on the passenger side for some reason. I’m not sure if the same layout is available for the current gen though, as I’ve only seen them in the 4-door style

    1. The new version (2016? on) is only available in the boringly conventional 4 door style (strictly ‘5 door’?) which you have seen. The world has lost the one remaining thing that was interesting about MINI.

    2. The reverse light on one side, and fog light on the other is pretty standard for European cars

      1. W124s also have differently shaped mirrors on each side, The driver’s side is larger and is manually adjusted, the passenger’s is smaller, squarer and electrically adjusted. Why would you want the extra weight and complexity of electric adjustment for the driver’s side when it is right there within reach, (though they are still heated) ? Obviously the passenger’s has to have electric adjustment, it’s too far to reach. The W124 is an ENGINEER’s, a DESIGNER’S car.

  5. Didn’t have early 911s have their rear view mirrors at different locations on the respective door, to accommodate viewing angles?

      1. Passenger side mirrors were optional for many years. My 1977 Corvette came from the factory with only a driver’s side mirror.

        1. Indeed: But the Testarossa is an unusual example in that;
          – the mirror was such an outlandish design feature that it looked really odd with only one,
          – the single high-mount mirror has become a keyword for originality amongst early spec Testarossae (probably due to the curse of ‘Ferrari Classiche’) …they are now proudly advertised as being ‘single mirror models’. Of course, it sounds sexier when you use the Italian ‘monospecchio’.

    1. Always loved the Picasso for looking like a 3 year olds car drawing. Pretty natural and organic design as that.

  6. Fiat Panda gen.1, not only asymmetrical but available with both left- and right-handed forms occurring (a ‘chiral pair’?):
    The ‘Pedia that is Wiki explains: “…the Panda 30, powered by a longitudinally-mounted air cooled 652 cc straight-two-cylinder engine …or the Panda 45, with a transversely-mounted water cooled 903 cc (FIAT 100 series) four-cylinder. As a consequence of the different drivetrain layout the 45 had the radiator grille to the right side, the 30 to the left.

      1. “…where do you find this stuff?”
        He finds most of it on his driveway.
        The rest he finds on Craigslist, and then very soon after on his driveway.

  7. It used to be common for combine harvesters to have the engine compartment located beside the operator station above the drive axle, which meant the operator was well to one side of the machine.
    Even on machines that had the engine moved to the rear, the designs sometimes persisted with an offset cab for awhile.

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