Rarely are we lucky enough to see a concept car retain all its fantasy as it moves from paper to car shows to the road. Regardless of whether car companies listen to our pleading and bring their original concepts to reality, concept cars present an opportunity to see the difference between what designers and engineers really can do, and what they really want to do. These 17 should be celebrated above all.
Such a beautiful collaboration between American and Italian firms, it’s a shame only 25 were built.
Designer: Ghia and Virgil Exner
Debut: Paris Motor Show, 1952
General Motors Firebird III
The Firebird III was the brainchild of Harley Earl, the father of the concept car. It helped set the tone for concept cars in the Jet Age of the ’50s — kerosene-burning jet engine and all.
Designer: Harley Earl
Debut: Motorama, 1958
More often than not, if a concept car is brightly colored and wedge-shaped, it’s from Italy. But Australia should be commended for the Hurricane, not only in terms of its aesthetics, but for the futuristic digital interfaces as well.
Designer: Holden Design
Debut: Melbourne Auto Show, 1969
Lancia Stratos Zero
Speaking of Italian wedges — the Stratos Zero stood as one of the forebears of the iconic “Italian wedge” design. It was also the predecessor to the wildly successful Lancia Stratos Rally Car.
Debut: Turin Motor Show, 1970
Ford proposed for the GT90 to have a 253 mph top speed and 720 horsepower 6.0–liter quad-turbo V12. It’s a shame they didn’t follow through. The GT90 would’ve pushed the supercar game ahead by an entire decade.
Debut: Detroit Auto Show, 1995
If Cadillac ever wants to get serious about competing with true luxury brands, this car is the key.
Designer: Niki Smart
Debut: Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, 2011
And if the Ciel is the ideal luxury Cadillac, the Cien is clearly the performance counterpart. But with a dose of optimistic speculation, we may not be far off from seeing a mid-engined Caddy.
Designer: Simon Cox
Debut: Detroit Auto Show, 2002
Lamborghini Asterion LP1 910-4
We all know a Lamborghini SUV is on the way, but a much lower, more forward-thinking version of the 910 horsepower hybrid Asterion would be… appreciated.
Designer: Filippo Perini
Debut: Paris Motor Show, 2014
Astro II XP-880
Not many car designs can work with multiple engine layouts (see: the Porsche 911 and Panamera). This concept is the reason we’ve all been pining for a mid-engine Corvette since 1968.
Designer: Bill Mitchell
Debut: Detroit Auto Show, 1968
Alfa Romeo Carabo
Audacity and simplicity never worked together so well.
Debut: Paris Motor Show, 1968
Lamborghini Countach LP500 Prototype
Not only was the The LP500 Prototype one of the pioneers of the Italian wedge, it also began to push the boundaries on the cab-forward design to help accommodate a larger, mid-mounted engine.
Debut: Geneva Motor Show, 1971
Alfa Romeo 33/2 Coupé Speciale
More than a handful of concept cars used the Alfa P33 as a base, but Pininfarina’s Coupé Speciale easily did it best.
Debut: Paris Motor Show, 1969
Pontiac Banshee I
John DeLorean’s Banshee I design was seen as too aggressive for any Pontiac model. And GM wouldn’t let its sub-brand outshine the mighty Corvette, so the Banshee I essentially became the C3 Corvette.
Designer: John Z. DeLorean
Debut: Was scheduled for the 1964 New York Auto Show, but debut was canceled.
206 Dino Berlinetta Competizione
Concept cars that actually run are rare. Rarer still are concept cars based on race-proven chassis. So the 206 Dino Berlinetta Competizione is tantalizingly close to reality.
Debut: Frankfurt Auto Show, 1967
Nardi Raggio Azzurro I
Double-bubble windshield aside, the Azzuro I’s design was relatively reserved. It was built using lightweight alloys and combination of race proven mechanicals and would have made one elegant and capable road car.
Designer: Giovanni Michelotti
Debut: Turin Auto Show, 1955
Bentley EXP 10 Speed 6 Concept
The EXP 10 does a damn fine job of harking back to Bentley’s illustrious past despite being a distinctly modern (and stunning) sports car. It’s a good thing then Bentley has said it will go to production sometime between 2018 and 2020.
Debut:Geneva Motor Show, 2015
Pontiac Club De Mer
If it weren’t for America’s insatiable appetite for big-bore land yachts in the ’50s and ’60s, a competent little roadster with a powerful engine like the Club De Mer would have been one for the history books.
Designer: Harley Earl
Debut: General Motors Motorama, 1956