Hand-crafted small batch cars stand out on the road

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If you want to drive an interesting car that not many people have, you could choose a Porsche 911, or a Chevy Corvette. Both are relatively low-volume cars. (KABC)

If you want to drive an interesting car that not many people have, you could choose a Porsche 911, or a Chevy Corvette. Both are relatively low-volume cars.

Or you could opt for something really unusual: a hand-crafted car built in very limited numbers. Like a Vanderhall Venice, made at a small factory in Provo, Utah. It's a three-wheeled cross between a car and a motorcycle, dubbed an "auto cycle" by Vanderhall. The open-air, high-performance fun of a bike, but with car features too. Side-by-side seating with seat belts, a heater, an automatic transmission, and an audio system that syncs via Bluetooth to your phone.

The turbocharged car engine under the hood comes via General Motors, sending 180 horsepower to the two front wheels. The Venice is a modern interpretation of a car from decades ago called the Morgan. (Morgan still exists today in its original form.) The fun starts at just under $30,000 and it's sold through various Vanderhall dealers around the U.S.

Going forward to more recent decades, how about an SUV that almost nobody has? It's called the East Coast Defender. Yes, Defender as in a vehicle Land Rover barely sold in the U.S. and doesn't currently sell anywhere anymore.

"They imported 525 for North America, and that includes Canada. So we're working from an extraordinarily small batch of North American-spec Defender 110s," said Jed Dours, Southern California sales manager for Florida-based East Coast Defenders.

After East Coast Defenders' transformation, there isn't much left of what Land Rover built. A modern Chevrolet V8 makes big power, Wilwood performance brakes do the stopping, all the electronics are upgraded, and on and on.

The driving experience is nearly like that of the Mercedes-Benz G-wagen: You sit high and look out through an upright windshield and over a stubby-looking hood and fenders. But the Mercedes G-class is almost common compared to this hand-made 4x4. And you'll pay for that exclusivity, with prices for a customer-spec East Coast Defender starting at around $190,000.

For some buyers, having a vehicle that's a combination of old style with modern technology is ideal. But for others, their idea of a perfect small-batch car is something that's exactly like interesting cars were many years ago.

For example, did you know that you can buy a brand new 1965 Cobra, just like Carroll Shelby built them back in the day? A company called Superformance builds the real flashback of raw American power, right down to the last detail. The rumble of the engine and the classic lines will strike a chord with enthusiasts, whether they remember those good old days or not.

"We're always surprised when we get a new buyer, and the guy is 27 years old! He wasn't even around when these cars were first done," said Lance Stander, CEO of Superformance.

The Superformance Cobra in turn-key ready-to-drive form starts at about $80,000.

Some people drink beer from large brewing companies, but others prefer craft brews. Most coffee drinkers are fine with off-the shelf blends, but connoisseurs seek out small batches of specialty roasted beans.

And while a car off a dealer's lot is fine for most people, for some, a car crafted in small batches by hand is something special to savor.
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