If you’ve ever stepped foot in a Motor Show you will have probably glimpsed an exotic looking vehicle – all curved chrome and glass – and then spent subsequent years wondering why you’d never seen one pass you in the street
Concept cars are produced by manufacturers for a number of reasons; to trial new technology, to demonstrate a new approach, or often just to create a buzz at motor-shows and get people talking about their brand.
As such their purpose is often served in their initial appearance and so they are never seen again beyond the initial flash of camera-bulbs and scribble of press pads.
Here we pick out ten classic concepts that never quite made it to production, starting with five vehicles from the 20th Century.
GM Firebird II
A child of the Jet age, inspired by the designs of aircraft of the time, the GM Firebird II was unveiled at the 1956 Motorama auto show.
The Mark II Firebird was more
Designed by Harley Earl and built in 1959 the Cadillac Cyclone was purveyed as a ‘dream car’ and it too nodded to the 50s fascination with the jet age and space travel.
The bodywork featured two rocket-style tubes on either side with tail fins on each and a bubble canopy to allow access.
The vehicle also featured radar sensor crash avoidance system, although as it never went on production it’s safe to say the Cyclone avoided crashes very effectively.
The flat angular Ferrari Modulo was unveiled at the 1970 Geneva Motor Show.
The Modulo was just three feet high and with no doors, the driver entered via the vehicle’s canopy roof which slid forward to allow access. Although constructed as a fully working vehicle, the low bodywork meant that it was neither practical nor road-legal to use and no doubt difficult to secure car insurance for too.
The Slingshot was catapulted into the public domain at the 1988 Los Angeles Auto Show and proclaimed to be a “lifestyle-oriented vehicle purposely targeted at the young people of the 1990s”.
Some of the Plymouth’s features, such as keyless entry, have caught on, but the twin tyres and aircraft-style canopy opening didn’t feature in our 1990s lifestyles as much as was projected.
Also launched in 1988 the Lincoln Machete was both an experiment in more fluid flowing vehicle design and an indication that manufacturers were running out of names.
As with the Plymouth Slingshot, the Machete did pave the way for some 21st-century vehicle features, in this case, the replacement of rear-view mirrors with television cameras and monitors in the dashboard.
Unveiled in 2001 at the Paris Motor Show was the Citroen Osmose, a big chunky city car that looked like it had rolled straight out of a child’s play pen.
The key theory behind the Osmose was blurring the lines between private and public transport so on the side was a panel within which you could display your destination, should any pedestrians wish to flag you down and secure a lift.
Also created in 2001, this time for the 2001 Tokyo Motor Show in collaboration with Sony, the Toyota Pod resembled a cable car gone rogue and actually had a mind of its own. Not in the ‘Herbie’ sense sadly, but the Pod did have an artificial intelligence system which could apparently judge the mood of the driver based on driving style and offer advice on how to improve your mood.
Hailed as a ‘car of the future’, that future is seemingly yet to arrive.
Sharing its name with the Czech word for beer, the Pivo moved like someone who’d had their fill in a Prague hostelry with a cabin that rotated 360 degrees on a fixed chassis, eliminating the need for reversing.
Unveiled at the 2005 Tokyo Motor Show the Pivo also had an
Nils by name nil in terms of the number that have rolled off the production-line. The VW Nils was touted round the Motor Show circuit in 2011 as an electric micro-car designed for commuting and minimum mobility in urban areas.
That said as a single-seat vehicle with wing doors and free-standing wheels The Nils isn’t exactly one for the car-pooling
We can’t look at concepts without mentioning the Fun-vii unveiled in Tokyo in 2011 and described by Toyota’s President Akio Toyoda as a smart-phone on wheels.
The interior colour scheme of the Fun-vii could be changed and altered to suit your mood, whilst the exterior of the car was actually a huge display screen able to show any image or message.
The Fun-vii was even designed to be capable of driving itself.