Popular Mechanics has another countdown (or “countup,” since it starts at number one), 11 concept cars we should have been able to buy, starting with what some consider the first concept car:
1938 Buick Y Job
Built under the direction of General Motors’ first design director, Harley Earl, the Y-Job was never intended for production but instead foreshadowed the styling and engineering cues Earl and his team hoped to use on future GM vehicles. In its day, the Y-Job earned praise for its modern style that included integrated fenders, hidden headlamps, and no running boards. The positive reaction helped several of its design cues to make it into production, including the stubby tail fins that would appear on the iconic 1948 Cadillacs and the grille design that continues to influence Buick design.Although the Y-Job didn’t make production, it remains an example of the good a concept car can do for a company and the industry. We can’t help but wonder what would have happened, though, if Buick put the Y-Job into production. The company would have been in an even better position postwar.
Yes, this car has everything you want from a dream car. Two seats? Check. Convertible? Check. Hidden headlights? Check. Fender skirts? Check. Practical? Who cares?
1967 Dodge Deora Concept
The very first run of Hot Wheels included a golden-colored futuristic pickup called the Deora. While the truck looked like a fanciful rendering by a toy-car designer, it was, in fact, a scale model of a real vehicle.
Built in Detroit by the famous Alexander brothers (Mike and Larry, who also helped Chili Catealo with the famous Little Deuce Coupe), the Deora was based on a Dodge A100 cab-over van, and powered by a 101-hp 170-cubic-inch Slant-6 engine. Dodge promoted the Deora as a futuristic pickup concept. We’re still waiting.
1973 Chevrolet AeroVette Concept
… In 1969, Zora Arkus-Duntov (the father of the Corvette) built the experimental XP-882, a midengine Corvette concept. Unfortunately, John DeLorean, then Chevrolet’s general manager, put the project on hold. To blunt the media impact of Ford’s introduction of the midengine Pantera, DeLorean authorized a refurbishment of the XP-882 in 1972. The car emerged as the XP-895, with its transverse V-8 replaced by a four-rotor Wankel engine producing 420 hp.
While GM scrapped its rotary development program in 1973, the idea of a midengine Corvette was well received. Nevertheless, the Corvette remained front-engine/rear-drive for cost reasons. Had the midengine XP concept made production, then Corvette today would be perceived as a more apt competitor to Ferrari and Porsche.
If the Corvette is not “perceived as a more apt competitor to Ferrari and Porsche,” it’s because of the Corvette’s build quality and GM’s comparatively cheap interiors more than where the engine sits. Given the Corvette’s low sales volume (even though it’s very profitable), had this been, as Motor Trend magazine predicted more than once, the post-C3 Corvette, which would have been considerably more expensive than post-C3 Corvettes have been (with not merely the company’s only mid-engine design, but gull-wing doors), GM might not be building Corvettes anymore.
2002 Lincoln Continental Concept
Few cars have aged as gracefully as the 1961–63 Lincoln Continental. The sedan’s clean, restrained lines became an icon of modern design and defined Lincoln style for decades.
The 2002 Lincoln Continental Concept that debuted at the Los Angeles Auto Show in January 2002 proved that somebody at Lincoln still knew something about style and heritage. Clean lines? Check. Suicide doors? Check. Immediately recognizable as a Lincoln but not egregiously retro? Check.
But in the two weeks that separated the car’s L.A. show debut and the Detroit Auto Show, Ford Motor Company announced the results of one of its many restructuring plans: The production Continental was canceled, making the concept a PR nightmare.
Which is too bad.
2005 Ford-Shelby GR-1 Concept
The fantastic Ford GT went out of production in 2006, leaving Ford without a genuine supercar in its portfolio. The GR-1 could have been that car. A 6.4-liter, 605-hp V-10 powers the sinewy silver coupe that was inspired by the 1964 Shelby Daytona coupe. The highly polished aluminum body heralds its naked finish proudly.
Back in the day, Ford’s design chief J. Mays opined that the company could afford to build the GR-1 thanks to its extensive use of Ford GT parts. But no such luck—the car never went into production.
I’ve written about this car, or a car like it, before. The GT was much more expensive than the Corvette, but wasn’t seen as a Ferrari/Porsche competitor. If this were built near Corvette prices, I think it would sell. Or would have sold.
2003 Cadillac Sixteen
Designed to spearhead Cadillac’s phoenixlike rise from the design and sales abyss, the Sixteen evokes Cadillac’s heritage in a modern manner with 24-inch tires, super-luxurious cabin for four, an all-glass roof, invisible B-pillars, and extensive use of real crystal for both interior and exterior decor. Under its gullwing hood purrs a V-16 engine displacing 13.6 liters and producing an incredible 1000 horsepower and 1000 lb-ft of torque.
Caddy never produced the bombastic Sixteen, but much like the 1938 Buick Y-Job inspired vehicles that followed it, you can see the Sixteen’s influence all over the current crop of Cadillacs. Maybe we’ll see such a car from Cadillac someday, though in the current fuel-conscious climate that engine would come down in size dramatically.
One reader pointed out that the Sixteen and its 1000 horsepower nevertheless got 21 mpg, because, another reader pointed out, it was designed with cylinder deactivation, running on four cylinders until the driver put his or her foot in it. If Cadillac is ever interested in a Rolls–Royce or Bentley competitor, this would be it.