For auto enthusiasts, few things are more fascinating than digging into the obscure corners of automotive history. Cars that start with the letter Q represent one such corner – while not necessarily well known, Q-named cars tell compelling stories of innovation, changing tastes, and the ever-evolving nature of the auto industry. In this article, we‘ll dive deep into the history of Q cars, uncovering fascinating facts, specs, and historical context along the way. Get ready for a journey through little-known Q-car lore!
An Overview of Q Cars Through History
The letter Q is certainly not the most popular starting letter for car model names, but a diverse array of vehicles bearing Q-names have left their mark on automotive history. Looking back through the decades, Q cars have pioneered new technologies, demonstrated evolving design philosophies, and competed for market share across vehicle segments:
- 1910s-1920s – Early Q cars like the Quad and Queer helped introduce four-wheel drive systems and advanced transmissions to expand off-road capability. Experimental technologies were common.
- 1930s-1950s – Luxury Q cars arrived, like the star-studded 1938 Phantom Corsair prototype. Post-war models like the Kaiser Virginian reflected changing styles.
- 1960s-1970s – Performance Q cars emerged, like the Jaguar XK-E V12 shooting brake "The Quiet One." Quirky brands like DAF produced affordable models like the 44.
- 1980s-1990s – Japanese Q cars like the Quint, Q45, and Quantum reflected the rise of Asian auto manufacturers. Innovation was on display.
- 2000s-Today – Modern Q cars showcase cutting-edge luxury, performance, and tech, seen in models like the Audi Q5, Infiniti QX80, and Maserati Quattroporte.
Clearly, the automotive landscape has changed tremendously over the past century. But Q cars have been there all along, mirroring the changing tides. Now, let‘s look at some specific Q car models and brands that left their mark.
Five Notable Cars Starting with Q
While no Q cars achieved the mainstream popularity of legends like the Ford Mustang or Toyota Corolla, several pioneering Q-named cars made unique contributions across the auto industry:
The Futuristic Phantom Corsair
In 1938, a radical concept car dubbed the Phantom Corsair debuted at auto shows, far ahead of its time. Designed by Rust Heinz of the H.J. Heinz family, the Phantom Corsair featured a sleek, low-slung body with futuristic styling based on aircraft and boats. Under the hood was an experimental Lycoming V12 engine.
|Phantom Corsair Specs|
|Power Output||185 hp|
|0-60 mph||11 seconds|
The Phantom Corsair‘s futuristic look wowed crowds but couldn‘t attract a production partner. Just one prototype was built, cementing it as a truly unique concept car. Its aircraft-inspired styling and cutting-edge V12 predicted future exotic sports cars decades ahead of its time.
Maserati‘s Luxury Flagship Quattroporte
Maserati‘s legendary Quattroporte luxury sedan debuted in 1963, showcasing the best in Italian grand touring. Its name means "four doors" in Italian, reflecting that it was Maserati‘s sole four-door model for many years. The original Quattroporte was designed by famous coachbuilder Pietro Frua and hand-built by Carrozzeria Vignale, powered by a 4.1L V8.
Over six generations, the flagship Quattroporte maintained Maserati‘s tradition of combining luxury, comfort, and Ferrari-derived performance. Today‘s twin-turbo V6 model makes 580 horsepower, reaching 60 mph in just 4.0 seconds. The Quattroporte defined the Maserati brand values of exotic Italian styling and thrilling performance in a refined four-door package.
|Quattroporte Generation||Years Sold||Engine/Power|
|1st Gen||1963-1969||4.1L V8 / 256 hp|
|2nd Gen||1974-1990||4.9L V8 / 255 hp|
|3rd Gen||1993-2001||2.8L V6 / 335 hp|
|4th Gen||2003-2012||4.2L V8 / 395 hp|
|5th Gen||2013-2019||3.8L V6 / 523 hp|
|6th Gen||2020-Present||3.0L V6 / 580 hp|
DAF‘s Innovative 44 and 46 Models
While largely forgotten today, Dutch automaker DAF produced some innovative economy cars in the 1960s and 70s including the 44 and 46 models. Sold as the DAF 55 and 66 in the UK, the 44 featured continuously variable transmission (CVT) technology for the first time in a production car. The CVT provided smooth, seamless acceleration by progressively altering gear ratios rather than shifting.
The 46 added another first – a belt-driven variant on the CVT that gripped conical pulleys with a steel belt. This "Variomatic" transmission increased efficiency. With front-wheel drive, independent suspension, unibody construction, and functional styling, DAF‘s 44 and 46 showcased European innovation in affordable packages despite limited success.
Honda‘s Fun and Funky Quint
The Honda Quint is largely forgotten today but was an interesting Japanese economy car of the early 1980s. Marketed as a sporty hatchback counterpart to the Civic, the Quint came in three- and five-door versions with boxy, angular styling. It was offered with Honda‘s perky 1.3L or 1.5L four-cylinder engines, sending power through a five-speed manual or three-speed automatic.
|Honda Quint Specs|
|Configuration||FWD 3-/5-door hatchback|
|Engine||1.3L / 1.5L I4|
|Power Output||71 hp / 84 hp|
|Transmission||5MT / 3AT|
The Quint reflected Japanese car culture in the ‘80s, which embraced funky economy cars with pop-up headlights, eager powerplants, and lightweight maneuverability. Though never an icon like the contemporary Civic or Corolla, the Quint holds an important place in Honda‘s history. Just 5,000 to 6,000 Quints were produced annually, making it rare today.
Infiniti Flagship – The QX80 SUV
At the opposite end of the spectrum from the Quint, we have Infiniti‘s current flagship SUV, the QX80. Originally introduced as the QX56 in 2004, it was updated as the QX80 in 2013 following a major refresh. Under the hood lies a massive 5.6L V8 producing 400 horsepower, enabling it to tow a hefty 8,500+ pounds.
|Infiniti QX80 Specs|
|Power Output||400 hp / 413 lb-ft torque|
|Towing Capacity||8,500+ lbs|
|Seating Capacity||Up to 8|
With seating for up to eight, the QX80 competes with heavyweights like the Cadillac Escalade and Lincoln Navigator as a luxury mega-SUV. Its huge presence and capability as a passenger and cargo hauler cement it as the flagship of the Infiniti SUV lineup. More than 250,000 have been sold globally since its debut.
Three Q Car Manufacturers
Beyond specific models, some niche automakers starting with Q made brief-but-interesting impacts:
Qvale was a short-lived Italian sports car maker founded by racer and businessman Bruce Qvale. In 1999, Qvale acquired the rights to the De Tomaso Biguá, renamed it Mangusta, and began limited production powered by a Ford V8. Just 284 sleek, futuristic Mangustas were built before slowing sales prompted the company‘s demise in 2002.
Quant is a Swiss electric vehicle startup focused on advanced flow cell battery technology. Flow cells use liquid electrolytes instead of solid electrodes, potentially improving performance and storage. Quant has showcased several EV concept cars but its exotic battery tech remains experimental. The company aims to revolutionize EVs but hasn‘t yet achieved meaningful breakthroughs.
Chinese automaker Qoros was founded in 2007 as a joint venture between Chery and Israel Corporation with the goal of producing globally-competitive vehicles engineered to Western standards. Qoros‘ first model was the Qoros 3 sedan introduced in 2013, which won praise for its design and quality but sold poorly. In 2016, Chery bought out Israel Corp‘s stake and Qoros remains in flux today.
The Ongoing Legacy of Q Cars
While Q may not be top-of-mind when we think of automotive icons, it‘s been an integral part of car culture for over a century. Q cars have showcased radical technologies, paved new segments, demonstrated evolving priorities across eras, and highlighted innovations from global rising powers.
Looking ahead, the legacy of Q cars will likely continue as electric brands like Quant explore technologies that could reshape transportation. Maserati‘s Quattroporte maintains Italian luxury traditions while the QX80 carries the SUV flagship torch for Infiniti. Niche models may remain hidden gems cherished by enthusiasts, just as the Phantom Corsair concept still awes today.
For those passionate about automotive history, Q cars provide a window into the ever-changing state of the art. Their stories reflect the ambitions, innovations, and imaginations that have fueled the auto industry through the decades. So while Q cars may fly under the radar, they deserve recognition for their unique place in furthering the frontiers of transportation.