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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.

Examples of Rare Vehicles include:

Anime and Manga

  • 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.
    • Shin Kazama'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 Kazama'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 one of the three prototypes (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.
    • 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).
  • Cowboy Bebop: "Wild Horses" involves the Space Shuttle Columbia, which at the time was one of only four. 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. [1] (See also: TV Tropes.)
  • Batou in Ghost in the Shell drives a Lancia Stratos Stradale. Fewer than 500 were produced.

Comic Books

  • 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 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".


  • War Games 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.
  • 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.
  • Back to The Future: The deLorean from the 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), 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 Biopic Tucker: The Man and His Dream has 21 of the 49 (of a total of 51 produced) remaining Tucker automobiles in it.
  • Austin Powers: Austin had his own customized Boeing 747 in 1967 already.
  • The titular car in The Wraith is based on the Dodge M 4 S prototype / Turbo Interceptor. No more than four exist today.
  • 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.
  • 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 canceled X-33 spaceplane features in Dan Brown's Angels & Demons. On which he most emphatically Did Not Do the 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.

Live Action TV

  • The Batmobile from the 1960s TV series Batman was a 1957 Lincoln Futura concept car. Also, the new red KITT in Knight Rider 2000 was a mid-1990s Pontiac concept car.
    • Not according to The Other Wiki. It was planned to be a Pontiac Banshee, but they ended up having to use a custom Mitsubishi 3000GT (Dodge Stealth) instead.
  • Family Matters: Extraverted Nerd Urkel's Alleged Car could have been a Ford Pinto, rusty and dented examples of which inhabited every High School parking lot in the land circa 1990; but that just wasn't weird enough. Hence the Isetta.
  • 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.
    • They also had a prototype Vauxhall/Opel Astra hatchback in their lot during the tractor challege, which had an encounter with a flatbed:

 Hammond: How many of these were there?

May: None. Since you did that.


Video Games

  • 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, T1 Heavy.) Every tank in this game existed in some way shape or form or even only in blueprints (E-50.)
    • The tank descriptions in the game do honestly mention that many of them never got of the drawing board. Since the Perching is classified as a medium tank, there isn't a single American heavy tank that was ever used in combat.
  • 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, F-22, 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.
  • Ace Combat absolutely loves this trope. In no particular order, you can fly in the F-15 ACTIVE / F-15 S/MTD (a NASA technology demonstrator), the Grumman X-29A (same), 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 built, one of which crashed), the Su-47 (only one built), the S-32 (a different designation of the same aircraft), the YF-23 (two built), the F-16 XL (same), the McDonnell Douglas X-36 (the XFA-36A, same), the Eurofighter Typhoon II (under development when Electrosphere was released), the FB-22 Strike Raptor (a cancelled proposal) and the F4-X Phantom (same). Entire squadrons of the above aircraft have turned up on numerous occasions. In addition, two games have featured the XB-70 Valkyrie (two prototypes) and three Iowa-class battleships turned up in the space of two games.
  • Airforce Delta Series 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-18, two built), the X-32 (prototype competitor to the F-35, one built), the Yak-141 (Russian answer to the F-35C, two built) and others.
  • The game Mafia 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). In fact, the Nike One 2028 was specially designed from scratch for the game!
  • The Need for Speed series features the following:
    • 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.
    • 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 afformentioned Nazca C2).
  • In Forza Motorsport 2, it is possible (and, judging from the leaderboards, a regular occurrence) to have an online race where all eight players drive a Ferrari F50 GT. In real life, only three were ever built.
  • 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 WW 2, 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 WW 2 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 none are known conclusively to have seen combat, 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, "acknowledged" by Quale on CNN, MicroProse released a sequel featuring both 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.
  1. The person who owned the Columbia is the person who hand built Spike's ship, the Swordfish.