My Car Quest

April 24, 2024

Is This Spohn Convertible The Ugliest Car Anywhere?

by Mike Gulett –

From the My Car Quest archives (or the Wayback Machine if you prefer) comes this story originally from March 2013 about a very unusual car. When this was first published it generated some controversy as you can see from the original comments at the end.

I was reminded of this car when a Greek friend sent a link and I found some of my photos of this Spohn Convertible published by a Greek car publication that wrote this Spohn is a “very strange one in convertible” form.

What were they thinking?

What were they thinking? was the name of the class at the Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance where this Spohn was placed. When I saw this car in person I could not look away, it is so unattractive, especially from the front.

Spohn Convertible

Spohn Convertible

Built in 1957 this is a Spohn Convertible, it is one of the last Spohns built (that is a good thing in my opinion). Spohn was a coach builder from Ravensburg, Germany, who was credited with building bodies for the pre-war Bugatti, Mercedes-Benz and Maybach.

Spohn Convertible

After the war, Spohn purchased left over cars from the US military to use the chassis in the coach building business.

Each car built by Spohn was built to each buyers specifications. Less than 200 Spohns were made and no two are alike (also a good thing that there is not another like this one).

Spohn Convertible

This particular Spohn was built on a 1939 Ford chassis with a 1953 Cadillac 331 cid V8 engine and it has a 3-speed Ford transmission.

One of my harshest critics, in the Comments section, was Wayne Graefen who has published an interesting article on Undiscovered Classics about the history of Hermann Spohn, Coachbuilder. I had not read Wayne Graefen’s article before I originally wrote my article. It is an interesting and enlightening read.

When I saw this Spohn in 2013 my first reaction was not pleasant. I still do not like the style and as I said somewhere in the Comments that beauty is in the eye of the beholder and I believe the corollary that ugly is also in the eye of the beholder.

It is fine that we all do not agree on the beauty and style of cars. For example, I know there may be some people who think that the Ferrari 365 GTB Daytona is better looking that an Iso Grifo and that is okay – it is wrong, but okay.

Let us know what you think in the Comments.

Spohn Logo

Photos by Mike Gulett.

Is This Spohn Convertible The Ugliest Car Anywhere?
Article Name
Is This Spohn Convertible The Ugliest Car Anywhere?
This Spohn Convertible has to be the ugliest car at the Amelia Island Concours d'Elegance in 2013, or maybe anywhere.


  1. That could be the ugliest car in the world not just at Amelia Island!

  2. When I saw the first photo you put up, I immediately thought it was designed by H Simpson and Son, or a custom built parody of it.
    Certainly, you cannot fail to be noticed when driving it. Just a matter of whether the people seeing it go blind or find themselves in paroxisms of indeterminate emotions that leave them unable to drive, walk properly or otherwise precludes rational behaviour.
    I thought it wasn’t so much touched by the ugly stick as given a flogging with it.
    Perhaps it was Spohned on?
    That the rear is only wildly disturbing compared to the front may be a blessing, but,…….
    I’ve told my kids that if they don’t start behaving, I’ll find one of these in a barn and buy it for them (and hide all the keys to all the other cars).
    I am truly intrigued by cars such as these. Can’t drag my eyes away, just like train wrecks, dam bursts, or the lady with 20ft of toilet paper trailing from her skirt.
    Is it ‘on behalf’ embarrassment or morbid fascination?

    • John in Fargo says

      I was going to reply similarly, but this says it all! LOL!!

      I think the famous TV personality-owner is proudly standing to the upper-right of the photo. He devoted a good deal of one program to obtaining this car, which I thought might be tongue-in-cheek but probably not. He DOES have diverse automotive interests. As I recall, the car used a BMW 319 chassis – even more blasphemy!

  3. Yep, I said it was ugly and I meant it.

    • Hello Guys , as much as we love the same cars like iso’s, Bizza’s , Monteverdi’s etc I dont agree ..
      If this car had a much more stunning color like ice blue , different bigger wheels it would look already much more different !
      I can see myself driving around in it ( at night ) and scare the hell out of people.
      That is so nice about special body cars , there is always somebody who likes it !!

  4. This car was in the class “What Were They Thinking?” and I don’t think there is an answer to that question for this Spohn.

    • Just remember “even the little black beetle is beautiful in the eyes of its mother”.

      Try and buy one. And while you are waiting, understand their history.

    • Its 1952 and the American style customization of cars is in its infancy and designs are literally “all over creation”. Owner Laven is in Germany and longs for his ’39 Ford to be done in the new Sport Custom style which is popular. Laven loves his Sabre Jets which were painted with a reverse cant sabre stripe similarly to Harley Earl loving jet aircraft and sword sabres. It all came together as this car for this American patriot hero pilot. God bless him.

  5. Joe Davidson says

    I saw this car on the flight line at the 435TFS ,479 TFW George A F B.California in 1958. The OWNER was Col. GEORGE LAVEN Jr. who was the Commander of the 479 Tactical Fighter Wing .Col. Laven flew a F-100-C aircraft serial no. 54-076 from our 435 T F S ! I

    • Thank you for posting a bit of Spohn Custom history for us Joe. Thanks to Col Laven for his service and though you may have been a civilian employee on base, my hunch is you personally knew Col. Laven because you were also serving in our military. Thank you sir.

  6. Georg F. Simonis says

    As a stylist and german I have to utterly admit what has been said about the Spohn above – but please weigh that againts their 1932 IAA-exhibit Maybach Zeppelin – one of the most influential designs ever!
    I would really like to find out, who actually held the pencil of the drawings for the 1957 Spohn. If he is of german origin, you might at least draw the conclusion, how intensive his wish was to be liked by americans. Sometimes these exaggerated examples show us, how important it is, to be aware of ones own identity – and – how easily things turn out to be a ridiculous joke if you dont.
    always like Your input Mike, thankyou!

    • The designer in the case of all Spohn Custom cars (about 24 were built) was the owner of the car driven in (for this build, a ’39 Ford). This car’s original owner and therefor designer, was Col. George Laven, Jr. Laven would have verbalized, perhaps with photos at hand (of the Earl Le Sabre and others) what he wanted done. Josef Eiwanger, head of Spohn Karosserie, would have penciled out the request which was then cost estimated and okayed for build by owner Laven.

  7. I own a Spohn Custom. You have the story wrong on how the cars were sourced. You have the number built wrong. They were designed by the car owners and not by Spohn staff. With the exception of a very few that were similar to each other, there was huge variation in design. You demonstrate a lack of knowledge about Spohn’s coachbuilding history. I maintain a Facebook page called “Spohn Custom Enthusiasts”.
    Certainly Spohn’s postwar Custom owners were not designers when they asked Spohn to build their dream cars. But they were mostly USAF pilots and deserve our respect at least for the fact that many chose the most influential concept car in the world, Harley Earl’s GM Le Sabre as their choice for rear end styling.

    • Wayne Graefen,

      I do appreciate all comments on My Car Quest but I prefer a civil discussion and civil disagreements (so I deleted some of what you wrote). Everyone’s opinion is welcome as long as it does not come along with insults directed at other people.

      You entered your Facebook page URL incorrectly, I corrected it so that My Car Quest readers can visit your FB page if they desire.

      The original owner of this Spohn was identified by a My Car Quest reader which you then republished on your Facebook page without credit to My Car Quest.

      More people will read about Spohn cars here than in just about any other source for a long time and that is a good thing for all classic car fans, especially lovers of the Spohn marque. Google Spohn cars and you will see this article in the number two spot on the search results.

      I would be happy to read about the accurate story for Spohn cars from you. Send the story to me in an email.

  8. Thom Ollinger says

    This story highlights one of the pitfalls of being a custom builder of almost anything. There you are in your shop trying to pay the bills, and someone comes in and says “can you build this”. Out comes the napkin sketch (reference the Spinal Tap movie) and you see an idea from somebody with no design skills. You have a house payment coming up, what do you do? Because of this I once “tubbed out” a Chevy Astro van. And then the buyer complained the van had a bumpy ride. Hmmm, could it be the 2 foot wide tires on the back? Sometimes you build what the buyer wants just to pay the bills.

  9. Ugly? I think that is a rather harsh word for this car.

    Spohn was certainly a risk taker and not playing to the average aesthetic, but consider the times when this was being built. The design ideas are within the parameters of a boyhood fantasy of a super car or Flash Gordon comic interpretation.

    The front of the car is a visual interpretation of the speed streaked photos and animated exaggerations of moving forms. So blurred and agitated is the speed of the car that it appears to be exceeding it’s own skin, duplicating the frontal features – the lower part being the actual front end, but the upper being the G-forced facial expression as the shape distorts backward on the car.

    The rest of the car design is quite “normal” borrowing themes from GM’s LeSabre show car and other customs of the period.

    While I personally don’t find the front end of this car attractive, I also would not wish certain important works of contemporary art in my home, even though they remain part of the historic lineage and risks that artisans take all the time to push the envelope of their craft.

    Consider this – Mike publishes this blog daily and this one is generating of the most active responses to it. Why? Because as an artist, Spohn has done his job – to invigorate the public and roust them to awaken their voice.

    • Raffi,

      You are right this post is generating a lot of interest which is good for all car lovers especially lovers of the Spohn marque.

      I do believe that beauty is in the eye of the beholder and the corollary that ugly is also in the eye of the beholder.

  10. Ciaran Payne says

    About the UGLIEST car I have ever seen, although it has some semblance, in places, to the DAIMLER DART SP 250, on STEROIDS!!!!

  11. Hi Gang..

    I’m glad to see all the comments and couldn’t agree more with Raffi. In my neck of the woods – Forgotten Fiberglass – you should see the designs we’ve found. Actually…we have one that we’ll be sharing soon that makes any Spohn look tame. Bob Gurr inspired and gullwing doors to boot. Whew!

    There seem to be so many cars out there that were designed “quietly” – that when produced made a mark on the public that sounded like a church mouse. The Spohn designs were a result of a risk – one that Spohn took in allowing the owners who commissioned the work to participate in the design. The results seem to me to be akin to “folk art” for cars – a category that within the art world garners more respect with each passing year.

    Wayne is right on the mark with Spohn’s history. We have shared quite a bit of Spohn custom history on our website and you can click on the following link that shares 10 articles on Spohn:

    And what makes this more interesting to me is that Spohn was only one coachbuilder outside America building custom cars for Americans. Another was DM Nacional in Mexico:

    And if you scoot back to the 40s a company in Holland (Gatso/Gatford) was building cars with American power and (at the very least) publicizing them in America too. Click on the following link:

    So…you’re right. Spohn made cars that were ugly – and so did many companies – and so did many people. And this still happens. But the history that they were part of is remarkable which makes each of the very few Spohns found as of today spectacular. At least to me 🙂

    But wait until I find and bring home my first DM Nacional or Gatso/Gatford. Now then we’ll have something to talk about….*wink*

    Keep up the good work Mike and “My Car Quest” gang…

    Geoff Hacker
    Forgotten Fiberglass/Undiscovered Classics

  12. Johnny F. Andresen says
  13. Eddie Medero says

    Ok the car is not a corvette or nothing similar but I have seen uglier cars driving around. Go take a pick on any dealership and you’ll see some ugly new cars. They all look the same so it is kind of refreshing to see something different

  14. So ugly it hurts to look at! I was really surprised when Wayne Carrini of “Chasing Classic Cars” made such a big deal over this car. I love his show and have much respect for him but this thing regardless of it’s history is just plain awful.

  15. The owner of that car is Dale Wexler of the Wheels Through Time Museum. Wayne Carini and Dale were bidding on that car at the auction in Glenview, IL. When Wayne saw that he was bidding against Dale he let Dale have the car. They are good friends. I saw the car when I visited the museum last year.

  16. Robert Newman says

    While I may not like this design, it has one thing modern cars do not have, a personality! So often I am driving around the UK and see a car and I have to read the name to work out who made it, or see a line of any number of cars and they are all identical, car design died when the idiots of this world came out with the SUV that is an ugly car, especially when you get stuck behind some old fart in a kia oldage (they miss-call it a sportage – it has nothing to do with sport) trundling along at half the speed limit because he is worried it will fall over.
    When I look at some of the great and not so great cars of the past all have faults but also beauty, ok apart from the Austin allegro which was slow dumpy and a poo colour, but American cars had a great engine sound, looks to die for and were slow and poorly built, German cars personality of a prison guard engineering like a Swiss watch, Italian sharp stylish and as reliable as a politicians promise, British some stylish sometimes luxurious and a real eclectic mix, French spent too much time on the strong cheese and totally weird, and sweedish safe

  17. It’s been said, be curious instead of cynical. This particular true in this case, as the backstory and details offer a lot of context that answers a lot of questions. Thanks for re-sharing….

    And, as “Steve” notes, the late Dale Walksler who was lost to cancer in February 2021 had only one non-American made vehicle in his Wheels Through Time Museum: the BMW powered, 1949 Spohn bodied Veritas and several other interesting American-made automobiles and all with interesting backstories, as well as an amazing collection of American motorcycles in a carefully curated series of period-correct looking exhibits throughout the unassuming steel warehouse in Maggie Valley.

    Dale’s son Matt is now the steward of the renamed, “Dale’s Wheels Through Time” where you can still see the unrestored 1949 Veritas, I just can’t recall if it still has its Zebra skin interior. Dale’s personal history is one worth reading about as well.

    Rabbit Holes are aptly named, as heading down one often times yields a wealth of previously unknown or perhaps mis-understood information.

  18. Mark P Livingood says

    BTW, the 1987 XF58 Ice Princess ‘might’ actually be even a bit more controversial than the ’57 Spohn….

    Now owned and a part of the 300+ vehicle collection of Klairmont Kollections in Chicago, the car is was finished in 1987 and uses parts from a 1950 Studebaker and a 1960 Cadillac, powered by an 8.2 litre Cadillac V8. It features golden seats, retro gauges and red carpeting and was created by Richard Fletcher

  19. Robert Newman says

    Paint the ice princess in pink and it would be a great candidate to be on thunderbirds carrying lady penelope!

    Can I make a case for the ugliest car ever being the Austin Allegro Van Den Plas! Yes a mainstream car in the UK as the Allegro, but when designed it was supposed to be a sporty car with a fuel injection 4 cylinder boxer engine andrear wheel drive, like the Porsche 911 or if I remember correctly the subaru impreza, however once the design was submitted to the geniuses at British Leyland management, if you don’t understand how bad they were they looked at this low sporty coupe and apparently said “We don’t need a new engine for this we can use the inline 4 cylinder engine from the Morris minor (well known as a sports car) they then got rid of the fuel injection for the carburettor of the minor and the frontwheeldriveoftheminor, by this time the bonnet (hood if you don’t speak English) had to be raised up by about 30cm, so it was either have a funny front end higher than the windscreen or raise the whole shape to a dumpy lump. I think in one year they made hundreds of thousands of these, despite all the strikes, etc. But only managed the export 68, I have to admit surprise that they found 68 people who had either escaped long enough or were deranged enough to buy one outside the UK.

    Then one day some executive at BL saw people buying executive saloons from BMW and Mercedes and came up with the idea of putting a luxury grill on the front and plastic folding trays on the back of the front seats so the executive could do paperwork on his way to work while his chauffeur drove the car, its a pretty piss poor company executive who would hire a chauffeur for an Allegro van den Plas! To quote James May when he did a piece on the Allegro and the van den Plas “its a car that actually looks embarrassed”

  20. great

  21. The Spohn story continues. I will be picking this car up on Wednesday to replace a stunning Duesenberg dual-cowl leaving our atrium (Antique Automobile Club of America’s National Headquarters & Library in Hershey, PA). The mind blowing difference between the two cars is going to be a lot of fun but we are all about history and it will be great to show the car off. 99% of the people coming to our building will have never seen this car in person.

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