10 Best Concept Cars That Never Were
Car makers have long designed cars that stretched the boundaries of technology and novelty as part of their effort to develop new ideas and new designs. In many cases, manufacturers never intend these so-called concept cars to enter production. Instead, these cars test possibilities and inspire new designs as part of the effort to bring better cars into the marketplace. The following list includes some of the best concept cars that testified to the brilliance of their designers, but, regrettably, never became available for sale.
1. Mazda Furai
Named after the sound of the wind, the Mazda Furai included design elements intended to influence the direction of Mazda production vehicles. Designed with many of the traits associated with modern supercars, the Furai had a center-mounted engine, a low center of gravity and a rotary engine. Mazda used the chassis from its Courage 65 car used in the American LeMans racing series, but the rest of the car had significant updates, including headlamp assemblies designed to provide the necessary air pressure to prevent the front end from going airborne. The flex fuel capability of the rotary engine made this car capable of running on 100 percent ethanol fuel.
2. Maserati Birdcage
Designed to stimulate the human imagination, the Maserati Birdcage has a futuristic look that builds on the famous brand’s heritage. The Birdcage provides a look into the future powered by new technology from Motorola and aerodynamic design from Pininfarina in the form of a Maserati concept car that reinforces the legendary brand while putting Maserati engineering on display before the eyes of the whole world.
Central to its design, the transparent upper component of the primary cell gives the driver an unobstructed view of the surrounding world. The sensual lower component acts as an airfoil that keeps the car in contact with the road while providing the aerodynamics that enable extreme speed. Built-in cameras allow drivers to share their driving experiences with others, and a mobile router ensures continuous access to payment systems and other online resources.
3. BMW M1 Hommage
Hailed by many as the best-ever mid-engine supercar, the first M1 embodied the beauty of a Giugiaro design and the technology of BMW. Known as the first BMW supercar, the M1 featured a straight-six, 3.5-liter engine that delivered incredible speed and power. When BMW built the M1 Hommage, many enthusiasts expected the company to make the car available for sale. After testing the sporty road machine, BMW put the project on ice. The concepts of the M1 Hommage, however, were not wasted.
Automotive analysts point to the innovative designs used in the BMW i8 to show that the German automaker was serious about the concepts used in the M1 Hommage. Many enthusiasts became disillusioned with the i8 because they had hoped for a car that would compete with Audi’s R8 and the Porsche 911. Still, the technology and design elements developed for the M1 Hommage project promise to keep BMW on the cutting edge of engineering for many coming years.
4. Bertone Jaguar B99
Analysts have questioned the Tata Motors’ commitment to the Jaguar brand, but the Bertone Jaguar B99 proves that Jaguar continues playing a significant role in the sports and luxury car markets. Although the B99 project heralded a move toward a smaller Jaguar, the car also suggested that Jaguar would avoid competing with BMW or Mercedes with a high-volume luxury model.
The “B” designation of the B99 ascribes the car to the compact car segment, but the Bertone design gives the car an unmistakable Jaguar aura that keeps its European flair. Building on a relationship between Tata CEO Carl-Peter Forster and Lilli Bertone, the car was designed as a partnership that would measure public sentiment for the Italian-inspired design.
The new Bertone powertrain for this car makes it unique. With one diesel engine mounted on each of the car’s rear wheels, the car does not require a common drive shaft or transmission. A subsequent version of this concept car, the GT2, features a separate motor on each of its four wheels.
5. Ford GT90
People who think of Ford as a dull maker or mass-produced cars missed the Ford GT90, billed by some as the best-ever concept car. A favorite staple in racing video games, the car first appeared on-stage in Detroit in 1995. Like most concept cars, the GT90 had speed, power, and fabulous looks. It was a one-of-a-kind build that cost Ford about $3 million and half a year to create.
As a mid-engine supercar, the GT90 featured a 6 liter, V12 engine that produced 720 horsepower and 660-foot pounds of torque. T2 turbochargers from Garrett Systems gave the car the pulse it needed to achieve speeds up to 230 mph. The car drew its chassis, suspension and transmission from the Jaguar XJ220.
6. Citroën GT
Citroën developed its GT concept car as part of a greater effort to create aerodynamic designs, so this concept car never ran on its power. The car features an oversized rear end and a gradient paint job that fades from white to gray to achieve its impressive look in the Gran Turismo 5 video game. At one point, Citroën promised to build as many as six fully functional GT units for a sticker price of $1.8 million each. The company canceled the project, so the video game offers the only way to drive a Citroën GT.
7. Ferrari P4/5
A supercar designed by Pininfarina for Ferrari gave both companies a chance to restate their relationship after the dismal 612 Scaglietti project. The P4/5 project uses the last available Ferrari Enzo production model as its foundation. Pininfarina re-fitted the Enzo with its outer shell, giving the car better performance than the Enzo.
Although this car did little more than strengthen Pininfarina’s design credibility and its relationship with Ferrari, the one-of-a-kind design has intrigued many enthusiasts. The car disappeared, presumably into private ownership, after wowing the audiences of two car shows.
8. Lamborghini Estoque
Lamborghini often incorporates its concept car designs into production models, so industry watchers gave the Estoque a double-take when it debuted in 2008. Backed by rumors of a Lamborghini luxury sedan, the Estoque suggested the company was going to venture outside its traditional supercar realm. A Lamborghini automobile designed for the daily commute, based on the Estoque, will eventually come to market, according to a statement by Lamborghini CEO Stephan Winkelmann. For the first time, Lamborghini will make cars that have traditional front-hinged swinging doors.
9. Renault DeZir
Renault built its engineering credibility with the unveiling of the DeZir concept car. The “Z” stands for zero emissions so that the car could provide meaningful environmental solutions for a globe increasingly congested with automobiles.
DeZir relies on one electric engine to give it 148 horsepower and 167 pound-feet of torque. Thanks to body parts made from Kevlar, the car weighs just 1830 pounds. Unlike many electric vehicles, this one has some pizzazz: It goes from 0 mph to 60 mph in six seconds and boasts a top speed of 112 mph. This car has a range of fewer than 100 miles, however, but an innovative battery-swapping system could finally make electric vehicles viable.
10. Mercedes F400
Mercedes demonstrated its drive-by-wire technology, active camber control, active suspension, and other goodies when it brought its F400 concept car to Japan. The suspension improves the stability of the vehicle, making it safer and faster than traditional designs. A computer-optimized suspension adapts the car to its driving environment, giving drivers a uniform experience in almost any terrain. All four wheels can instantly tilt upon braking, drastically reducing the car’s stopping time.
Designed as a laboratory platform for Mercedes’ emerging chassis technologies, the F400 will not appear on showroom floors. Drivers will enjoy future Mercedes models perfected through the lessons learned from this concept car, for many coming years.
Although many concept cars demonstrate power and beauty, others hope to develop new technologies that make conventional automobiles easier, safer, and eco-friendlier. What do you think about these cars that never were?
Matthew Young is a freelance automotive journalist and blogger hailing from Boston. He is passionate about everything on 4 wheels and new, emerging tech in the industry. When Matthew is not busy writing about cars or awesome new technology, he usually spends time fiddling with his camera and learning a thing or two about photography. You can reach Matthew @mattbeardyoung.