The incredible flights of fancy that shone brightly but briefly
Concept cars are the jewels of the world’s motor shows. These stunning one-offs preview potential styles and technologies that may eventually appear in future production cars. However, the machines themselves are rarely ever seen again – and they certainly never go on sale to the public.
Here are 20 of the best.
1969 Mercedes-Benz C111
A trio of gullwing-doored C-111s used first a 350bhp mid-mounted rotary engine and then two world speed record-winning diesels. They didn’t make production – and neither did a later C-112 gull-wing that appeared in 1992, despite deposits initially being taken.
1992 Citroen Citela
Modular Citela all-electric city car came in pick-up, convertible or hatch form. It boasted a 130-mile range, 69mph top speed and a battery pack with a claimed lifecycle of 625,000 miles or at least 10 years.
1995 Mazda RX-01
With its non-turbo rotary engine, the RX-01 was intended to replace the RX-7. It was smaller and lighter, and meant to be an affordable sports car – but Mazda ended up making the even cheaper MX-5 instead.
1999 Bentley Hunaudieres
Named after a part of the Le Mans racetrack, the mid-engined Bentley Hunaudieres stalled at concept stage. However, a more powerful version of its 623bhp 8.0-litre W16 engine went on to appear in the Bugatti Veyron.
1998 Plymouth Pronto Spyder
The Pronto Spyder arrived in the same year as Audi launched its TT, and it had a fashionable mid-mounted 225bhp four-cylinder turbo. Three years later, the entire Plymouth brand went under.
1999 Seat Formula
Despite its interesting Lotus Elise-alike bodywork and 240bhp 2.0-litre engine mounted behind the driver, Formula had fairly workaday underpinnings. The Spanish brand decided it was too radical for the period.
2001 VW Microbus
Volkswagen’s first homage to its own Type 2 camper van started as long ago as 2001, with this Microbus. Production rumours started two years later; let’s see if they finally come to fruition with the arrival of the recent ID Buzz.
2003 Cadillac Sixteen
The Sixteen concept had two V8s bolted together to make a 1000bhp/1000lb ft V16 – but then, Cadillac had first started building V16-engined cars way back in 1930.
2003 Lancia Fulvietta
Would Lancia’s fortunes have been improved if the brand had put this very pretty Fulvietta into production? Its conventional 1.7-litre petrol Fiat underpinnings made it very buildable.
2003 Mercury Messenger
Land Rover design guru Gerry McGovern styled up this Messenger concept, which featured a 302bhp 4.6-litre four-cam Mustang V8. It was auctioned off for $52,250 just before Ford closed the Mercury label.
2004 Chevrolet Nomad
The premium Nomad was a nod to the original mid-1950s Chevrolet estate – but GM bosses then decided it was too upmarket for the blue-collar label brand.
2005 Chrysler Firepower
The 425bhp 6.1-litre Hemi V8-powered Firepower was based on the Dodge Viper’s platform, but Chrysler pulled it before it reached production.
2005 Ford Shelby GR-1
Butch lines and chrome bodywork hid a 605bhp 6.4-litre V10 engine fed to the rear wheels via a six-speed manual gearbox. Its performance matched the muscular styling.
2005 Holden Efijy
Classic custom car styling hinted at the Efify’s supercharged 645bhp Corvette V8, air-suspension and 3000-watt sound system. Its doors popped open when the driver approached, too.
2009 Infiniti Essence
The Essence introduced Nissan’s new sub-brand to Europe. It combined curvy lines and a long bonnet, which hid a 434bhp 3.7-litre petrol V6 teamed with a 156bhp electric motor.
2009 Dodge Zeo
Electric family car arrived eight years ago with 268bhp, a 250-mile range and a claimed 0-60mph time of 5.7 seconds.
2010 Jaguar C-X75
Global economic problems were blamed for this James Bond movie star not making it into limited production.
2010 Kia Pop
With its 67bhp rear-mounted electric motor, this cheery city car from 2010 could quite happily sit in a Kia showroom today.
2010 Renault Dezir
The beautiful electric Dezir was a true one-off for Renault, but the company developed its performance arm into Alpine, which has a more retro feel.