Automobiles are typically limited by regulations, market trends, and the restrictions of the segment in which they are designed to compete. Concept vehicles allow designers to sidestep these limitations and build what they really want to see on the road. And as with most haute couture shows, concept cars often they are somewhat crazy creations that give us an idea of what goes through the mind of a designer.
From a time until now, automakers have become lazy in this area and lately concept cars are often much closer to some production model that is already on the way, although – that is – equipped with cameras instead of mirrors, large wheels, and door handles. It’s a shame, but fortunately some brands still know what strings to pull to mesmerize us as we walk the halls of the world’s biggest car shows.
Volvo Venus Bilo (1933)
The 1938 Buick Y-Job is commonly known as the automotive industry’s first concept car, although this is inaccurate: this credit goes to the Volvo Venus Bilo that was built in 1933 to test the public’s reaction to a more streamlined look. It was the new design elements like a full-width chassis, headlights built into the front fenders, and a curved grille that helped him stand out from any other car on Swedish roads at the time. The Venus Bilo never reached production, but it influenced the PV36 Carioca released in 1935.
You won’t find it in the company’s official museum as it somehow ended up in the hands of the owner of a junkyard in Denmark who turned it into a van and used it as a work vehicle. Most historians agree that it was destroyed before the late 1950s.
BMW Turbo (1972)
BMW’s hometown of Munich, Germany hosted the 1972 Olympics, an ideal occasion to promote the house’s burgeoning line of sports coupes and sedans. The Turbo was built specifically to attract attention during the summer games.
Although resembling a Ferrari, this sleek BMW coupe shared quite a few components with the company’s 2002. It was mounted on a 2002 chassis modified to use a mid-mounted engine and received an evolution of the 2002 four-cylinder. The performance was impressive enough to worry Italians, but BMW never approved the Turbo in its production and ended his days as a mere prototype. The 1978 M1, meanwhile, took a different spin on the idea of a BMW supercar while channeling many of the Turbo’s design cues.
Chevrolet AeroVette (1976)
You’ve probably heard that the eighth-generation Chevrolet Corvette has a mid-engine – it would be the first time Chevrolet put a V8 behind the passengers in a production car – but the company experimented with this design on numerous occasions.
The 1973 Corvette 4-Rotor was an experimental coupe powered by a mid-mount, double-rotating Wankel engine. Chevrolet engineers had the same problems with rotary technology as many other companies: the engine burned an astonishing amount of fuel and was not exactly reliable. The car was equipped with a V8 engine and was renamed the AeroVette in 1976 and was almost approved for production, but the idea of a mid-engine Corvette was completely abandoned before the late 1980s, although it resurfaced in 1986.
Volvo Tundra (1979)
Before Volvo embarked on a renaissance in car design, the brand was known for building safe, reliable, and solid cars, with design that we can describe as risk-free. The manufacturer attempted to change this image in 1979 by asking Italian design firm Bertone to design a family car for a broader target audience. The sketches were transformed into the Tundra concept, a two-door sedan with a fastback-type rear. Volvo decided not to continue with the project but Tundra inspired the Citroën BX presented in 1982.
Subaru F-624 Estremo (1987)
The 2000 family sedan came to life through the Subaru F-624 Estremo concept. Hidden under this exterior design was a Variable Continuous Transmission (CVT), four-wheel drive system with front / rear torque division, four-wheel steering and a rear-view camera. The long, wide front compartment housed a twin-turbocharged six-cylinder engine. The F-624 Estremo did not go beyond the concept stage but many of its technological features reached the Subaru range during the 1990s.
Chrysler Atlantic (1995)
The Chrysler Atlantic caught everyone by surprise when it leaked in 1995; At the time, Chrysler was producing sedans based on the LH platform with a front cabin design, so no one could suspect the development of the Atlantic. This car took the form of a sleek retro-inspired coupe that paid tribute to the Bugatti Atlantique; It used a 360 horsepower V8 engine but never passed the conceptual stage, which didn’t stop it from becoming Chrysler’s benchmark car for a few years during the 1990s.
Bentley Hunaudières (1999)
When the Volkswagen Group acquired Bentley in 1998, executives from both companies made it clear that they are preparing big changes for the British brand. The Hunaudières concept illustrates one of the directions the company could take: It was an eye-catching, low-power coupe powered by an 8.0-liter, 16-cylinder engine that offered 623 horsepower.
The Hunaudières never went beyond the salons because it was considered too extreme a design. Its exterior inspired the first-generation Continental GT, and the idea of a W16-powered supercar returned to the Volkswagen Group when Bugatti introduced the Veyron, one of the fastest cars in the world.
Lincoln Continental (2002)
Lincoln anticipated what could have been a spectacular return with the 2002 Continental Concept. With long, flat fenders, a tall chassis, and suicidal rear doors, it captured the essence of the 1960s Continental and gave it a modern twist. From a design point of view, it had nothing to envy the usual suspects in Germany in the luxury sedan segment. The Continental Concept never went into production and RM Auctions sold it in 2002.
Lincoln introduced another Continental concept in March 2015 and this time if it ended up in a production model it returned the model to the market after a long hiatus.