Concept Cars We Never Got to Enjoy

a trio of images showing concept cars from VW, Mazda, and Mercedes

Not every vehicle that makes its way to an auto showroom floor is destined for consumers. Sometimes automakers want to try out particular design elements or show off future features that aren’t quite ready for mass market. Other times, it seems like they are stretching their capabilities as far as possible just to show off what they can make.

These concept cars represent just that. Conceptual designs for future cars or ways for car makers to show off their might. Some are innovative and cute, like the Ford 021C. It was simply an exercise in creating a unique design with a comfortable exterior without having to be production practical. Others are performance powerhouses, like the Cadillac Sixteen. This impressive concept car features a massive V16 engine and plenty of luxury features to go along with it. Further Cadillac vehicles strive, at least in spirit, to be descendants of this flagship example.

Other concept cars were nearly production ready, but for one reason or another (mostly the Great Recession) production plans were abandoned or later determined to not be cost effective. These 30 concept cars range from the incredibly outlandish to the most spartanly practical, and everything else in between!

30. 1938 Buick Y-Job

a man sitting in the 1938 buick y-job in a driveway

(image via Wikipedia)

The 1938 Buick Y-Job is considered the first concept car by an automaker. While it was never introduced as a production car, Buick’s actual production models used its design influence into the 1950s and beyond. Today’s cars still feature a waterfall front grille.

29. 1954 Ford Gyron

a black and white image of the 1954 ford gyron concept car

(image via Facebook)

No, this isn’t a prop from the Jetsons. The Ford Gyron was a concept that only featured two wheels (like a motorcycle). The entire vehicle stood upright thanks to gyroscopes, hence the name.

28. 1958 Ford X2000

a 1958 ford x2000

(image via Facebook)

While it obviously took styling cues from rocket designs, the rear “turbo boosters” weren’t functional. They were only ornamental. The bubble cabin compartment was a particular feature of cars during this time frame, but the odd U-shaped front was something particularly out-of-this-world.

27. 1961 Chrysler Turboflite

two images of the 1961 chrysler turboflite with the canopy open and closed

(image via Facebook)

The 1961 Chrysler Turboflite was a joint venture between the American automaker and an Italian design firm. The particularly outlandish feature of this concept car was that the entire cabin roof had to be lifted for passengers entering the cabin.

26. 1967 Dodge Deora

a 1967 dodge deora at an auto show

(image via Facebook)

How do you describe the 1967 Dodge Deora? Our first thought was “banana boat.” This concept truck is definitely one-of-a-kind. We still haven’t seen anything like it, though an El Camino comes closest. You may remember it as a popular Hot Wheels model, also.

25. 1969 Chevrolet Astro III

a 1969 chevrolet astro iii concept car

(image via Facebook)

The 1969 Chevrolet Astro III has the distinction of being the lowest concept car ever produced by General Motors. It only stands 3 feet tall. While it may look like a three-wheeled vehicle, the rocket-shaped design hides two side-by-side wheels in the front.

24. 1977 Pontiac Kammback

a 1977 pontiac kammback with the cargo area open

(image via Facebook)

The 1977 Pontiac Kammback features a fairly typical station wagon design, but it also has unique clamshell rear window openings to allow access to the cargo area. But this is no ordinary station wagon. The entire concept is based upon the Firebird Trans Am.

23. 1988 GMC Truck Centaur

a 1988 gmc truck centaur

(image via Facebook)

The 1988 GMC Truck Centaur took its name from the mythological half-man half-horse because of its half-truck half-car design. Thanks to the styling and side “gills,” the entire vehicle has a fish-like appearance. The gills, however, aren’t simply stylistic; they are the exhaust.

22. 1995 Chrysler Atlantic

a 1995 chrysler atlantic

(image via Facebook)

The 1995 Chrysler Atlantic is a retro-inspired concept car that looks more at home to the rocket-styled concepts of the 1950s and 60s. The interior even features Art Deco styling and gauges.

21. 1997 Volkswagen W12

a 1997 Volkswagen W12

(image via Facebook)

You may recognize the 1997 Volkswagen W12 concept from numerous video games such as Gran Turismo and the Test Drive series. While it is one of Volkswagen’s most popular designs (having 3 distinct concepts in 97, 98, and 2001), the W12 has never made it to production.

20. 1999 Chevrolet Nomad concept

1999 Chevrolet Nomad concept

(image via Facebook)

Chevrolet’s Nomad concepts actually brought back a discontinued nameplate used from 1955-1972. The 1999 concept car brought the station wagon design to the present and merged it with “crossover” tendencies. A further updated concept was made in 2004.

19. 1999 Ford 021C

1999 Ford 021C

(image via Facebook)

The 1999 Ford 021C was produced solely as a styling exercise, and we think they knocked it out of the park! While it was never intended for production, we can see ourselves driving around quaint European villages in this cute mini. It’s said that the car’s name was taken from the corresponding Pantone orange color used for the exterior.

18. 2003 Cadillac Sixteen

a 2003 Cadillac Sixteen

(image via Facebook)

Ever since Cadillac unveiled the Sixteen concept in 2003, it has been praised for its design as the ultimate flagship vehicle. Having a massive V16 engine, however, it will probably never see full production.

17. 2003 Subaru B9 Scrambler

a 2003 Subaru B9 Scrambler

(image via Facebook)

The 2003 Subaru B9 Scrambler is a gas-electric hybrid two-seater. Just don’t get caught in the rain because this concept car doesn’t have a roof. Though lane departure warnings are popular options on cars now, the B9 Scrambler featured the warning system way back in 2003.

16. 2004 Buick Velite

a 2004 Buick Velite

(image via Facebook)

The 2004 Buick Velite was a roadster based on the Chevrolet Camaro platform. It’s sophisticated styling pushed Buick to a more luxury-minded aesthetic, and it featured an experimental twin-turbocharged V6 engine.

15. 2004 Chrysler ME Four-Twelve

a 2004 Chrysler ME Four-Twelve

(image via Facebook)

The 2004 Chrysler ME Four-Twelve derived its name from the mid-engine (ME) placement, as well as the 4 turbochargers and V12 engine. The racer had a lightweight carbon fiber body and a projected top speed of just under 250 miles per hour.

14. 2005 Maybach Exelero

a 2005 Maybach Exelero

(image via Facebook)

The 2005 Maybach Exelero is another racing-inspired concept that features a carbon fiber body and a 12-cylinder engine. The rear of the car features a sloping roofline that draws all the way down to the middle of the “trunk.”

13. 2005 Suzuki LC

a 2005 Suzuki LC

(image via Facebook)

The 2005 Suzuki LC is a cute little two-seater that looks like it just jumped off the screen of a cartoon show. It’s actually an updated redesign of Suzuki’s first automotive model (the Suzulight) after they had previously only been focused on motorcycles.

12. 2006 Mazda Nagare

a 2006 Mazda Nagare

(image via Facebook)

The 2006 Mazda Nagare (meaning “flow”) was an exercise in design, and Mazda is still taking design cues from the concept today. The Nagare features an incredibly steeply sloped roofline and large wheels. The corresponding wheel wells are molded into the car body.

11. 2006 Saab Aero-X

a 2006 Saab Aero-X

(image via Facebook)

The 2006 Saab Aero-X is a unique 1-door vehicle. The entire canopy roof rises up to let passengers into the cabin. Design elements of the front fascia were used on later Saab vehicles until GM shuttered the brand.

10. 2006 Spyker D8

a 2006 Spyker D8

(image via Facebook)

The 2006 Spyker D8 was originally unveiled as the D12, though it has since undergone a name change. The mid-size luxury crossover SUV seems like a perfect product for today’s crossover-loving market, but a production model still doesn’t exist. It’s not for lack of trying, however. A production model was timelined for 2014 but abandoned again.

9. 2008 Mitsubishi Concept-RA

a 2008 Mitsubishi Concept-RA

(image via Facebook)

The 2008 Mitsubishi Concept-RA was speculated to be the next production model of the Mitsubishi Eclipse. However, Mitsubishi discontinued that model in 2012. No production model of the Concept-RA has since been greenlit.

8. 2008 Toyota A-BAT

a 2008 Toyota A-BAT

(image via Facebook)

The 2008 Toyota A-BAT was the company’s stab at the mid-gate pickup (think of the Chevrolet Avalanche). A hybrid engine powered the vehicle, and the mid-gate (behind the 2nd-row passenger seats) opened to allow longer cargo to stretch beyond the truck bed into the cabin.

7. 2009 Bugatti 16C Galibier

a 2009 Bugatti 16C Galibier

(image via Facebook)

The 2009 Bugatti 16C Galibier is another super engine concept that featured an 8L twin-supercharged W16, hence the number in the name. The long hood has a bi-split hood that opens on the left and the right with a central hinge.

6. 2010 Audi quattro concept

a 2010 Audi quattro concept

(image via Facebook)

The 2010 Audi quattro concept honored the name of Audi’s rally car produced between 1980 and 1991. The modified 2.5L 5-cylinder TFSI engine was said to be capable of 402 hp and 354 lb-ft of torque. Its design sensibilities have since filtered down to other Audi vehicles.

5. 2010 Jaguar C-X75

a 2010 Jaguar C-X75

(image via Facebook)

The hybrid-electric 2010 Jaguar C-X75 was produced in partnership with a Formula One team. That probably explains why it was capable of a whopping 778 hp by its two diesel micro gas turbines. The 2015 James Bond film Spectre later featured the car in a few scenes.

4. 2012 Mercedes-Benz Ener-G-Force Highway Patrol Vehicle

a 2012 Mercedes-Benz Ener-G-Force Highway Patrol Vehicle

(image via Facebook)

The 2012 Mercedes-Benz Ener-G-Force Highway Patrol Vehicle was part of the 2012 LA Auto Show Design Challenge that asked entrants to design a law enforcement vehicle of the future. While purely an engineer in design expression, perhaps some of its chunky off-roading cues may find their way to future Mercedes models.

3. 2012 Tata AirPod

a 2012 Tata AirPod

(image via Facebook)

The 2012 Tata AirPod is truly a concept car since it’s powered by compressed air. It has a top speed of around 50 mph and should travel around 125 miles before needing another tank. While not feasible, the quirky styling certainly is friendly and inviting, evoking a people mover out of Disney World perhaps.

2. 2013 Nissan IDx

a 2013 Nissan IDx

(image via Facebook)

The 2013 Nissan IDx is a retro-inspired entry-level sports coupe concept that harkens to the future. The design does not have traditional side-view mirrors. Instead, rear-facing cameras sit in their spots. The not-quite sedan/not-quite wagon hasn’t made it to the production line, however, even though Nissan freed up space in its lineup by discontinuing the Quest, Xterra, and Cube.

1. 2014 Mini Superleggera Vision

a 2014 Mini Superleggera Vision

(image via Facebook)

The production-ready 2014 Mini Superleggera Vision concept gives the small car-maker a true convertible roadster offering. Utilizing trademark Mini styling, the Superleggera Vision looks almost like an open-mouthed whale shark searching the roads for krill. But don’t get too excited just yet; there’s no true production model.