Concept Cars That Should Have Made Production
Concept cars are a great way for manufacturers to test public reaction to ideas, without risking the massive investment needed to start production. If new styling cues go unnoticed at a major show, that’s probably the last you’ll see of it. If the press and public rave over it, there’s a good chance it will make production. Sometimes. Here are a few concept cars that should have become street cars.
This 1999 concept was a radical departure from GM’s mediocre cars of the late 1990s. Unlike the 2004 production GTO, this car featured styling based on the famous ’68-’69 GTO. It was cool and retro, before retro performance (SSR, Mustang, Challenger) showed up. The profile and rear still look modern, and almost look Cadillac-ish. The hood tach and scoops are right on, and the massive retro inspired wheels are perfect. While that front end would never make production due to potholes, it was certainly better than the production GTO. GM cheaped-out, put a different nose and badges on a Holden Monaro, and no one bought it. Ten years after this concept car didn’t make it, Pontiac got the axe.
No, not that 2015 Continental with its confusing mix of Bentley and Jaguar design ethos. The Continental that should have been built debuted back in 2002. It featured modern styling with a few nice retro elements, a freakin’ V12 under the hood, and suicide doors. It came about at the right time, as just one year later, Chrysler launched the 300C, bringing back big performance luxury to American manufacturers, and making a boat-load of money. The Continental would have outperformed the 300C, and earned more street cred with those sweet doors and outstanding interior. Instead of releasing exactly the car Lincoln needed, they sat by and watched Cadillac eat their lunch for the next decade.
Caddy has been on a renaissance for the past decade and a half, but they aren’t quite deserving of their tagline, “The Standard of the World.” The 2003 Sixteen, could have changed that. While Cadillac makes some gorgeous concept cars, like the Ciel, Cien, and Elmiraj, the Sixteen sits above them all, and above anything from any other luxury manufacturer. The reason why is due to the engine. A 13.6 liter V16 sits under that huge center hinged hood, making 1,000 horsepower, and 1,000 lb/ft. The interior is equally extravagant, looking like a modern version of what Gatsby would drive. While some styling elements made it into Caddy’s lineup, the Sixteen never made it to production, and it’s too bad. This is the car that would have caused migraines in top Bentley and Rolls execs.
Mazda makes some great concepts, and tends to mesh them with their solid racing past. Easily the most notable of these concept cars is the 2008 Furai. This car was an LMP racecar chassis with a sexy futuristic body wrapped around an overpowered rotary engine. While it was never pushed for production, it could have been a flyweight alternative to the Corvette, or a much more modern Lotus Elise. With 450 hp in a car well under 2,000 lbs, and Madza’s chassis tuning, it must have been a great ride. We’ll never know, as at a press event, Top Gear accidently burned it to the ground.
Back in 2001, VW was riding high off the success of the retro New Beetle. The Microbus could have continued the sales success with a people mover with far more capability than the Beetle. The Microbus was a modern twist on the classic “hippy van”, and offered features like 3-row seating, 20” wheels, and the classic charm and character you remember. With a 231 hp v6 driving the front wheels, the Microbus was pretty much ready for production as-is. However, this was the DaimlerChrysler era, so good decisions were in short supply. Instead, we got the dreadful Routan.
Lamborghini pretty much only makes badass cars, but their concept cars go off the deep end of crazy. The 2013 Egoista debuted for Lambo’s 50th anniversary, and it’s one sweet birthday present. A 5.2 liter v10 sitting behind the driver blasts out 600 horsepower, and overall look as if a seriously angry Megatron was forced to transform into a Hotwheels car. The best thing about it is the jet fighter inspired single seat cockpit, complete with canopy that tilts forward. The Gallardo-based concept could have easily hit production, but it wasn’t meant to be. Call me selfish (its name in Italian), I don’t care; I would drive this all day. Unfortunately, I can’t, as it sits parked in a museum.
Oldsmobile Alero Alpha
Yeah, sure, the Olds Alero did make production in 1999, but what we were able to drive was a watered down version of this 1997 concept car. The Alero Alpha had design cues that would make production, but looked far sexier. It was as if a second gen Mitsubishi Eclipse got it on with a modern BMW M6, and had a child with hints of Aston Martin. The Coke bottle styling, aggressive stance, and front 18”, rear 19” wheels were worlds apart from the production Alero, which ended up being a slightly more expensive Pontiac Grand Am. No wonder Olds died.
Continuing the trend of concept cars with horribly misspelled names, the Efijy is a throwback to when style was king. It was built to remind Aussies of the Holden FJ, but in North America it tends to look like a ‘40s Buick with a Mercury rear. It’s a killer look, and it’s nicely complimented by the modern drivetrain. A modified Corvette chassis sits under that pretty bodywork, and with a supercharged 6-liter v8 producing well north of 600 hp, the Efijy is comparable to the ZR1. This is retro done right. The Efijy is everything the SSR should have been.