It is sometimes the case that vehicles and aircraft that were historically rare, introduced later or prototypes or never passed the drawing board stage are shown as used in a particular setting. This may be in an alternate history, but is invariably motivated by the Rule of Cool. May sometimes be an accusation of Just Plane Wrong or Artistic License – Ships. Could also be an Improbably Cool Car, but those aren't necessarily rare. May also be a form of Product Placement as well, in which case you'd have to accuse the vehicle producers. Compare Rare Guns, which is the same trope applied to firearms. See Zeppelins from Another World for the zeppelin version of this.
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- An Australian ad for the Yellow Pages telephone directory shows Tommy Dysart having great troubles caused by the rarity of his vehicle: a Goggomobil (Not the Dart!) He solves this by calling around various auto technicians in the Yellow Pages, the unusual nature of the microcar causing difficulty finding one who's even heard of it; his having to spell the name for one leading to the ads' memorable line: "G-O-G-G-O..."
Anime and Manga
- Subverted with Mako Sato and Sayuki's Impact Blue Sileighty in Initial D. The Sileighty is pretty common among drifters, but most of them, like Mako Sato's Sileighty, aren't genuine units, but the user-modified cars using components from the original Silvias and 180SXes. However, there were genuine, factory-made versions of Sileighty in which Nissan commissioned Kids Heart to make, and only 500 were produced. Since the genuine Sileighty units were made in 1998, sometime after Impact Blue made a debut in the manga, it's safe to assume that the Impact Blue Sileighty was not a genuine Sileighty which made the latter's way into Gran Turismo series.
- Area 88 pulls this off on multiple occasions. The specific instances depend on whether it's the anime, manga, or OVA. In all cases, it's thanks to the base quartermaster McCoy, who has boasted he can get anyone what they want so long as they have the money.
- Shin Kazama in particular has a thing for planes that are hard to come by. His first plane seen in the manga and OVA is an F-8 Crusader — which, by the 1970s (the time frame in which Area 88 takes place), few nations owned combat-ready examples of. The 2003 remake actually used this as a plot point; the Crusader that another one-shot character was flying was getting so old that it wasn't really safe to fly anymore, which ends up costing said character his life, and it's implied that Shin's aircraft would have the same problem before long.
- Shin's third plane (or fifth if you count the times he flew a Kfir and Eagle) in the manga, the Saab 35 Draken, has McCoy go into detail about the difficulty of procuring one for Shin. As he explains, the Draken was already out of production. He bought two scrapped Finnish Drakens and salvaged their airframes to build a new plane, then bought an afterburner from a used parts company in Germany, and a new engine from the Netherlands. It was actually easier for McCoy to procure Mickey's F-14 than it was the Draken.
- Shin's third plane in the OVA, the F-20 Tigershark, was an advanced variant of the F-5E Tiger II (his second plane, incidentally) that never made it into production, so short of McCoy procuring the one of the three prototypes that didn't crash, or the half-finished fourth, there's no realistic way he should have had one at a mercenary air base in a middle-of-nowhere Middle Eastern country. Rebuilding an F-5E into an F-20 would be an even less plausible explanation; it was an adaptation of the F-5 design, not a conversion of existing airframes.
- Mickey's iconic F-14 is a borderline example, since it was predominantly used by the United States Navy, and the only country it was exported to was Iran until the Iranian Revolution overthrew the US-friendly government. This actually got used as the justification for McCoy procuring one; through some underhanded dealing, he managed to procure one of the Iranian F-14s caught in the embargo ("But it's all legal on paper!" as he says in the manga).
- Black Lagoon The Second Barrage finale has Revy and Rock on the oval-pistoned Honda NR. Only 300 were made, in 1992, and they were priced at $50, 000.
- Cowboy Bebop: "Wild Horses" involves the Space Shuttle Columbia, which at the time was one of only four.note The space shuttles require ridiculous amounts of upkeep, so the idea that one would still be in working order so far in the future is a fair strain on believability. But never underestimate the power of an obsessed geek (see also: TV Tropes).note
- Batou in Ghost in the Shell drives a Lancia Stratos Stradale. Fewer than five hundred were produced.
- Lockon Stratos in Mobile Suit Gundam 00 (who presumably took the last name of his alias from the Lancia Stratos) drives the even rarer Lancia Rally 037 (just over 200 produced). Given that the series takes place in 2307 AD, it's amazing that one even still exists, let alone that one of the protagonists got his hands on it.
- Lupin III drives a Mercedes-Benz SSK throughout the series; less than forty were made, and most found nowadays are replicas using components from the original vehicles. Hilariously, it often becomes a Chronically Crashed Car, which might explain why the other car usually associated with Lupin is the far more common Fiat 500.
- From Gunsmith Cats, Rally Vincent's 1967 Shelby GT500 qualifies, since it has the 425 horsepower 427 engine, installed in an unknown but very small number of the total production. With a total production of just over 2000 cars, it probably also qualifies just from being a GT500.
- The titular characters of Sinister Dexter drive an Edsel in a futuristic setting (it's handwaved as being a replica).
- Played with in Sin City, almost every car seen is a vintage model that is at least thirty years old. In at least one example, a character mentions how "cherry" a vintage car is, despite them being very popular around town.
- "Cherry" in car-guy terms means a particularly well-preserved or well-customized example. Rarity has nothing to do with it - a late model Civic can be "cherry".
- But played straight in A Dame to Kill For, where Damien Lord owns a Tucker 48, which is stolen by Marv and used as the getaway car (abandoning Dwight's Mustang in the process). So far, this is the only Tucker to appear, though.
- WarGames has twenty-six "Typhoon" submarines seen leaving Severomorsk. In real life, only six were completed, and only two or three of those existed when that film was made.
- The fourth Die Hard film features the F-35 in 2006. Scheduled entry into service is 2012. Or rather, it was 2012.
- Bumblebee's second altmode in the 2007 Transformers movie is a concept car. In fact, the one used in the film is a reproduction of a concept car. The new Camaro based on that concept car wasn't released until the 2010 model year.
- The DeLorean from the Back to the Future series doesn't entirely count: while it was rare, only one appears in the movie itself, and in reality, about 9,000 of them were produced until two years before the film takes place. Expensive, yes (sticker price was $26.5k in 1981, about $57k today, which interestingly is almost exactly what the original sticker price would be today, adjusted for inflation, and the exact price of the reproductions made from original and remanufactured stock), but not exactly rare (about 6,500 still exist). On the other hand, George Barris' Supervan (from the movie with the same title) is one of a kind and appears in Back to the Future 2 as a traffic car.
- The Bio Pic Tucker The Manand His Dream has 21 of the 49 (of a total of 51 produced) remaining Tucker automobiles in it. Four reproductions were made from mid-'70s Ford LTDs, and the one crashed during testing was a modified 1951 Studebaker.
- Austin Powers: Austin had his own customized Boeing 747 in 1967 already.
- The titular car in The Wraith is based on the Dodge M4S prototype / Turbo Interceptor. No more than four exist today. The film crew actually was allowed to borrow a real one, but that was only used for close-up shots where the car was standing still. The actual driving sequences were done with a different car with a replica of the outer chassis on it.
- Captain America: The First Avenger features Hydra operatives using jet-propelled helicopters or Focke-Wulf Triebflügeljäger (Powered-wings Interceptors, as they were known) which were an actual Nazi design that was scrapped due to being incredibly difficult to control and land properly.
- In the same movie, Hydra used the Horten H.XVIII long range bomber (designed to attack America and actually used to try and do it), of which were built a few prototypes, and the ginormous Landkreuzer P.1000 Ratte super-heavy tank (a never built tank that should have massed about 1000 metric tons, scrapped due the impracticality of such a monster). It's implied that all of Hydra's special wunderwaffen were powered by the Tesseract, and that without it they would have failed as in real life.
- The Queen of England from Cars 2 is actually based on a very old and very rare British luxury car, which only nine of which exist (one of them is actually owned by the real HM The Queen.)
- Rockabilly Zombie Weekend features a Mercury Marauder X-100, of which less than 9000 were produced. The car was loaned by the producer/scriptwriter of Cassadaga, Bruce Wood.
- The stealth boat in the James Bond film Tomorrow Never Dies is modeled after Sea Shadow, a prototype stealth boat made for the U.S. Navy in 1984.
- The canceled X-33 spaceplane features in Dan Brown's Angels & Demons. On which he most emphatically did no research, which is proven when he referred to it as the Boeing X-33. It was never built but it was designed and slated to be built by Lockheed, which is Boeing's arch rival, and was the prototype for the VentureStar. Both of these vehicles would have been unmanned to save the excessive weight that a life-support system would have added.
- Red Storm Rising featured an "F-19 Ghostrider" stealth fighter that almost certainly inspired the MicroProse video game mentioned below. Interestingly, the authors managed to extrapolate enough from the rumours and educated guesswork that were circulating about the USAF's stealth aircraft at the time to get pretty close to the real F-117's capabilities - other than being armed with air-to-air missiles, which in its first in-novel deployment it uses to shoot down a Soviet AWACS, the Ghostrider is used for the exact same sorts of missions the F-117 undertook in reality.
Live Action TV
- The Batmobile from the 1960s TV series Batman was a 1957 Lincoln Futura concept car.
- The new red KITT in Knight Rider 2000 was planned to be the Pontiac Banshee IV, but they couldn't secure it and ended up having to use a custom Mitsubishi 3000GT (Dodge Stealth) instead.
- Viper had a large number of Dodge concept cars in it. As the show was basically an hour long Dodge Viper commercial, this isn't entirely unexpected.
- On Top Gear, the presenters occasionally get prototypes or limited edition models to test.
- The rarest thus far was a black Ferrari FXX, already one of only 30 in the world, custom-built for Michael Schumacher, who is also the only one allowed to drive it.
- Clarkson did a test of the Pagani Zonda Tricolore, which, at the time the review was recorded, was the only one in the world. Even now, only 3 exist.
- During a retrospect on Ferrari's GTO line of cars, Clarkson introduced the 250 GTO; one of only 39 built and is currently the world's most valuable car. He remarked that the BBC - who have previously footed the bill for letting Top Gear acquire a quite respectable space-lift capability - couldn't afford the insurance for Clarkson to even get in it.
- They also had a prototype diesel Vauxhall/Opel Astra hatchback in their lot during the tractor challenge, which had an encounter with a flatbed:
Hammond: How many of these were there?
May: None. Since you did that.
- May was allowed to drive the six wheeled 2004 Ford Thunderbird used in the live-action Thunderbirds film (sponsored by Ford) through a small village.
- Technically, every Morris Marina. Out of over 807,000 made, only 745 are still on the road in the UK (well, 741; they burned one and dropped pianos on three others* ). It is officially the most scrapped car in British history over the past thirty years.
- In series 21 Hammond drives the Mercedes G63 6x6, a prototype six wheeled civilian model of an Australian military vehicle; at the time of recording only two existed.
- Top Gear (US) has Adam being allowed to drive the Ford GT40, a whole six feet. He's not allowed to drive more than that. He ended up taking a near-perfect reproduction to town, though.
- Lizard Lick Towing has two Sterling Bullets, badge-engineered Dodge Ram 4500s made for barely a year (2008) before being discontinued due to the Daimler-Chrysler split.
- New Orleans' Bait Car is a Kia Borrego, another one-year-only model. How effective can a bait car be if it's the only one like it in town?
- Nash Bridges 1971 Hemi 'Cuda. One of 11 built and 7 sold to the American public, a car as rare as a Bugatti Royale. Also a bit expensive for the setting.
- In Best Motoring, several rare European cars were driven, including the McLaren F1 and the RUF CTR "Yellowbird".
- Silent Hunter III allows you to command the Type XXI U-boat (if you survive long enough) In reality, only two vessels saw action in World War II, neither of which sank a single enemy ship.note
- World of Tanks IS this trope. The tanks range from extensively used (M4 Sherman, T-34), to somewhat obscure (KV heavy tank, T-28), to rare (M2 medium, Pzkpfw II Luchs), to tanks that only had a few prototypes made (Maus superheavy-one made, T1 Heavy). Every tank in this game existed in some way shape or form, even if only in blueprints (E-50)...except for some tanks that are completely fictional. For example: Waffenträger auf E 100, which is completely fictional, though its separate components (E-100 and the 150mm autoloading AA gun) does exist. For more information, check these links out. For convenience, this Google Doc made by forum users compiles information on how rare each vehicle is.
- The tank descriptions in the game do honestly mention that many of them never got off the drawing board. Since the Pershing is classified as a medium tank, there isn't a single American heavy tank that was ever used in combat during World War II.
- The Japanese Heavy line takes this Up to Eleven. Imperial Japan never had the materials nor the Industrial capacity necessary to manufacture Heavy Tanks in any sort of appreciable numbers. This didn't stop WarGaming from introducing a Heavy Tank Branch in the Japanese Tech Tree for Patch 9.10 since they've somehow managed to find a sufficient amount of data and blueprints on their VERY obscure projects.
- World Of Warplanes is following suit, with, for instance, the XF5U "Flying Flapjack" and the Me.P.1102
- Company of Heroes has the Pershing tank available to allied forces in Normandy in June 1944. Historically, it did not see action until February 1945.
- Its expansion pack "Opposing Fronts" features a Tiger Recovery Vehicle, of which exactly ONE was ever used in real life, and experts debate if it even had the power required to tow a tank.
- There's also the Henschel Hs-129 B3 attack aircraft, of which only 25 were ever produced; the player can call a bunch of them every ten seconds if there's enough resources stockpiled.
- Secret Weapons Of The Luftwaffe had the Horten Ho-IX (Also known as the Go-229), of which exactly one glider and one powered prototype was made, as a playable fighter, and added the P-80 Shooting Star (which did not see combat in WWII) in an expansion.
- The 1946 expansion of the IL-2 Sturmovik series has a number of these, justifying it with alternate history of Germany ending WWII favourably in 1944 and resuming the war against the USSR in 1946.
- The 1996 flight sim Advanced Tactical Fighters included several aircraft that were not yet operational in the late 1990s setting of the campaigns, like the Rafale (first deployed in 2002), F-22 (achieved initial operational capability in 2005), Eurofighter (got RAF multi-role clearance in 2008) and X-32 (Boeing's loser to the Lockheed F-35 for the JSF), as well as fighter versions of the X-29 and X-31 technology demonstrators, which were never intended to see combat and only saw two built each.
- Ace Combat absolutely loves this trope. In no particular order, you can fly in the F-15 S/MTD (a NASA technology demonstrator, one built), the Grumman X-29A (same, but two built), the YA-10B (only one prototype was ever built), the MiG 1.44 (same), the Su-35 (only fifteen built), the Su-37 (only two converted from the previous, one of which crashed), the Su-47 (only one built), the S-32 (an earlier version of the same aircraft, never progressed beyond blueprints), the YF-22 (two built; the F-22 based on it was still in development when the first game came out), the YF-23 (same), the F-16 XL (same), the McDonnell Douglas X-36 (the XFA-36A, same), the Eurofighter Typhoon (under development when Electrosphere was released), the FB-22 Strike Raptor (a cancelled proposal) and the F-4X Phantom (same). Entire squadrons of the above aircraft have turned up on numerous occasions. In addition, four games have featured the XB-70 Valkyrie (two prototypes) and three Iowa-class battleships (four built) turned up in the space of two games.
- In the game's defence, it is an Alternate Universe with completely different geography, history and political circumstances to the modern day. Of course, this begs the question of why they're using the exact same aircraft as our world.
- The Air Force Delta games have fun with this one. In addition to many of the above Ace Combat-featured aircraft, it also features Chinese variants of Russian fighters and plenty of prototypes including the YF-17 (prototype of the F/A-18, two built), the X-32 (prototype competitor to the F-35, one built), the Yak-141 (Russian equivalent to the F-35B, two built) and others.
- Being based on Ace Combat, Tom Clancy's HAWX also goes for these, including most of the same sort as in Ace Combat, but unique cases include the MiG-33 Super Fulcrum (proposed export variant of the MiG-29 that was never actually exported), the A-12 and YF-12 (one- and two-seater prototypes for the SR-71, 15 built between both designs), the Mirage 4000 (proposed upgrade of the Mirage 2000, one built), the F-18 HARV (another NASA tech demonstrator, one built), the Su-39 (upgraded Su-25, only eight built at the time of the game's release), and the RF-15 Peak Eagle (proposed reconnaissance version of the F-15).
- Mafia: The City of Lost Heaven featured a number of unusual vehicles in freeplay mode, including one futuristic-looking automobile that was based on a 1938 concept car.
- The computer game Heatseeker features a large number of Yak-141 "Freestyle" supersonic VTOL aircraft. These only got to flight testing stage before the collapse of the USSR led to the project's cancellation.
- The Gran Turismo games feature soooo, soooo many concept cars, including the Cadillac Cien, the Dodge Concept Car, the 2003 Viper prototype (in 2001), the 2004 Pontiac Solstice (released in 2006), and the futuristic-looking-for-1935 Auto Union Streamline racing car. Then there are all the touring racers, stock cars, and Le Mans prototypes that are one-of-a-kind by definition (including a racing minivan — the Renault Espace F1). In fact, the Nike One 2028 was specially designed from scratch for the game!
- Project Gotham Racing: The fourth installment contains 130 cars and bikes including the F50 GT, McLaren F1 LM, and especially many old cars from even the 1950s.
- The Need for Speed series features the following:
- Half of II's cars never made it past the prototype/concept stage. The Ford GT90, Indigo and Mustang Mach III, BMW (Italdesign) Nazca C2, Lamborghini (Italdesign) Cala, the list goes on.
- The Jaguar XJR-15 in III, which also includes the Italdesign (Alfa Romeo) Scighera (which was only in the PC version, the PSX version used the aforementioned Nazca C2).
- Need for Speed: Carbon was released in 2006 and features the 2008 Dodge Challenger and Chevrolet Camaro, and what became the Audi R8. All three were listed as concept cars though.
- All over the place in Hot Pursuit 2010. Among vehicles available are the McLaren F1 (106 produced), the Aston Martin One-77 (77 produced), the Lamborghini Reventon (twenty-one produced), and the Pagani Zonda Cinque (five produced). The McLaren, Aston Martin, and Pagani are also available as police cars.
- Need for Speed: Most Wanted 2012 has the McLaren F1 LM SP1 which is the prototype for the LM model, the Lamborghini Aventador J (two produced) and the one-of-a-kind BWM M3 GTR (E46), which was also featured in Most Wanted 2005, all available as DLC, among others.
- In Forza Motorsport, it is possible (and, judging from the leaderboards, a regular occurrence) to have an online race where all sixteen players drive a Ferrari F50 GT. In real life, only three were ever built. Forza 4 includes several one-off prototype cars like the Lamborghini Miura Concept and the Nissan R390.
- Microsoft's Combat Flight Simulator 3 has several rare warplanes: the Luftwaffe has the Go-229 and Do-335, the RAF receives the De Havilland Vampire (which historically entered service too late to see action in World War II), and the U.S. gets the P-80 and, most unusually, the Curtiss P-55 Ascender (of which only one prototype was made and flown; poor engine performance [the engine the plane was designed to use was unavailable, so a less powerful engine was installed] kept it at the experimental stage). Quite a few third-party add-ons exist that add even more rare planes to that particular game.
- This was the whole point of Battlefield 1942: Secret Weapons of WW2, introducing the German Ho IX (Go-229) jet fighter mentioned earlier on this page, the American XF-85 "Goblin" jet fighter that only had a single prototype built, and a German-designed jet pack.
- Any number of WW2 strategy games, turn-based and otherwise, feature the Jagdtiger. Only 28 were built, and only about a dozen saw action. A few go even further and feature the Sturmtiger, of which there were under a dozen and only documented uses are being two: Warsaw Uprising and Ardennes Offensive, or the Maus (one prototype, one technology demonstrator with a false turret), abandoned on the road when it ran out of gas 20km before reaching the front. The absolute king of this trope is Steel Panthers: World At War, which includes such obscure vehicles as the German "Dicker Max" panzerjager (two built, one destroyed by the time they were retired in 1943; even the Germans thought it was too advanced for the time) and the American "Super Pershing" (one built, fired its weapons in anger exactly once).
- There are several accuracy problems with the above numbers, with all of these weapons, except the Maus, were used a bit more than this suggests. The point still stands, though.
- During the heyday of MicroProse, the company's line of flight simulators was renowned for this:
- An entire simulator devoted to the Northrop/McDonnell Douglas YF-23 was released by MicroProse, presuming it would beat the Lockheed/Martin YF-22 in the ATF competition circa 1990. It didn't and the F-22 became the Raptor. Still, a stealth plane that did Mach-3 plus was pretty awesome.
- 'Prose also released a sim for the F-19 stealth fighter before its designation was known. Once the plane's existence and use in the Gulf War was...er, "acknowledged" by Quale on CNN, MicroProse released a sequel featuring both the Lockheed F-117 Nighthawk (and its official characteristics) and the F-19's speculated characteristics. The real plane featured only two air-to-ground hardpoints and had no air-to-air capabilities at all, but was almost completely invisible to the enemy's radar net and units, making for a very easy mission. The better armed, less hidden F-19 made for a more exciting game.
- Test Drive 4 had the Corvette ZL-1, only two of which were produced.
- RollerCoaster Tycoon has many types of roller coaster to build that are very rare or even unique in real life. The wooden Reverser Coaster is based on a single ride built in 1914 and long since demolished.
- In World in Conflict, the Soviet Union of 1989 has access to the Mi-28 Havoc attack helicopter. At the time, there were only two in the whole world, both prototypes. They would not be produced in significant numbers until the late 2000's.
- The Sikorsky Cypher surveillance drone, which is still in prototype stage, appears in Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter.
- The plot of Medal of Honor: Frontline revolves around capturing a Horten Ho-IX flying wing fighter/bomber prototype.
- The USA in Command & Conquer: Generals can build RAH-66 Comanches as their attack helicopter. Only two were ever built when it was canceled.
- The Brotherhood of Nod in the Tiberium-series games likewise seem to have access to the Comanche, as the first true boss battle of Command & Conquer: Renegade pits you against one. Its presence here could work as a demonstration of how fast the game verse's technology advanced thanks to Tiberium, though - the original game established that Nod's arsenal was primarily made up of designs that had been abandoned by modern militaries... but which were cutting-edge at the time of the game's release, like the F-22.
- Midnight Club 3 contains the 1999 Dodge Charger, a concept car that was never put into production and probably shouldn't be in the hands of street racers. What makes this notable is that the car had been retired before the game came out in 2005, and it remains its only video game appearance to date.
- Too many to list in Thomas And Friends. Actually, given that most of the characters are based on locomotives that are now obsolete, it would literally be quicker to name the vehicles that aren't rare nowadays.