A concept vehicle or show vehicle is a car made to showcase new styling and/or new technology. They are often shown at motor shows to gauge customer reaction to new and radical designs which may or may not be mass-produced. General Motors designer Harley Earl is generally credited with inventing the concept car, and did much to popularize it through its traveling Motorama shows of the 1950s.
Concept cars never go into production directly. In modern times all would have to undergo many changes before the design is finalized for the sake of practicality, safety, the meeting the burden of regulatory compliance, and cost. A "production-intent" vehicle, as opposed to a concept vehicle, serves this purpose. They are also known as prototype cars, but should not be confused with prototype race cars such as the Le Mans Prototype.
Concept cars are often radical in engine or design. Some use non-traditional, exotic, or expensive materials, ranging from paper to carbon fiber to refined alloys. Others have unique layouts, such as gullwing doors, 3 or 5 (or more) wheels, or special abilities not usually found on cars. Because of these often impractical or unprofitable leanings, many concept cars never get past scale models, or even drawings in computer design. Other more traditional concepts can be developed into fully drivable (operational) vehicles with a working drivetrain and accessories. The state of most concept cars lies somewhere in between and does not represent the final product. A very small proportion of concept cars are functional to any useful extent, some cannot move safely at anything above 10 mph.
If drivable, the drivetrain is often borrowed from a production vehicle from the same company, or may have defects and imperfections in design. They can also be quite refined, such as General Motors' Cadillac Sixteen concept.
After a concept car's useful life is over, the cars are usually destroyed. Some survive, however, either in a company's museum or hidden away in storage. One unused but operational concept car that languished for years in the North Hollywood, California shop of car customizer George Barris, Ford Motor Company's "Lincoln Futura" from 1954, received a new lease on life as the Batmobile in the Batman series that debuted in 1966 on the ABC Television Network.
In the United States, the term "dream car" (a common US name for concept cars until the 1970s) is often used historically to refer to concept automobiles of the 1950s and 1960s.
Notable concept cars
|Buick Y-Job||Designed in the late 1930s by the famous General Motors designer Harley Earl. Considered by most to be the first concept car. Inspired many other Buick vehicles, including the Buick Blackhawk Concept.|
|Aston Martin Atom||Designed in 1939 by Claude Hill. Fully functional and still in road-worthy condition, it was adopted by Aston Martin owner David Brown into a racing car that won outright at the 1948 Spa 24 Hours and became the basis for the DB1.|
|General Motors Le Sabre||Built by Harley Earl in 1951, it helped introduce 12 volt electrics and the aluminum 215 ci V8 to GM. This nameplate was transferred over to be a production vehicle.|
|Cadillac Cyclone||Built in 1959, it is one of Harley Earl's last designs. Its futuristic styling was heavily influenced by 1950's aviation and rocketry.|
|Chevrolet Corvair Monza GT||1962 mid-engined experimental prototype.|
|Chevrolet Corvette Mako Shark||Previewed the design of the 1968–1982 production Corvette.|
|Ferrari Modulo||Designed by Paolo Martin of the Italian carozzeria Pininfarina, unveiled at the 1970 Geneva Motor Show.|
|Chevrolet Volt||One of the first plug-in hybrid electric vehicle concept cars. This vehicle was launched with limited availability in certain states in early 2011, with availability in all of the United States, as well as parts of Europe by the end of 2012. The production car is the successor to the failed GM EV-1, originally leased through Saturn dealerships.|
|Ford Nucleon||A nuclear-powered car.|
|Ford SYNus||Reflects the modern obsession with safety.|
|General Motors Firebird||A series of gas turbine-powered cars. Pontiac adopted this nameplate based on the Chevrolet Camaro. The nameplate was retired in 2002, along with the Chevrolet Camaro, which was revived in 2010.|
|Holden Efijy||Based around the Holden FJ, named the United States concept car of the year for 2007.|
|MIT Car||The Massachusetts Institute of Technology concept car with Frank Gehry.|
|Phantom Corsair||A 1930s concept car, developed by Rust Heinz.|
|Pontiac Bonneville Special||Pontiac's first 2-seater sportscar that debuted at the 1954 Motorama. This nameplate carried over to a Pontiac sports car of the 1950s.|
|Pontiac Club de Mer||Pontiac's all stainless steel sportscar that debuted at the 1956 Motorama.|
|Porsche 989||Porsche's first 4-door car, a predecessor of the Porsche Panamera.|
|Rolls-Royce 1EX||The first in a series of 'experimental models', the 1EX was built by Rolls Royce in 1919 on a 40/50 h.p. chassis to test and develop their cars. Individual EX models were produced for over 40 years ending with the 45EX in 1958.The Ghost name Rolls Royce Ghost was adopted in 2011 as a production vehicle. 1EX was also used for the concept version of this Rolls-Royce vehicle. |
|Volvo YCC||The first car designed entirely by women.|
|Lancia Megagamma||The prototype for the modern MPV (minivan).|
|Alfa Romeo BAT cars||1950s aerodynamic studies by Bertone.|
|Chrysler ME Four-Twelve||Had an estimated top speed of 248 mph (399 km/h).|
|Mercedes-Benz F700||Its Pre-Scan feature allows you to not feel any bumps and humps on the road. This design will lead to the development of the next-generation Mercedes-Benz A-Class, Mercedes-Benz B-Class, and Mercedes-Benz C-Class.|
|BMW GINA||A fabric-skinned shape-shifting sports car. This platform (aside from the body material and changing shape) was adopted in 2012 for the BMW i3 and BMW i8 Electric Vehicles.|
- Auto show
- Car design
- Future car technologies
- Pre-production car
- Production vehicle
- Product lifecycle management
- Serial production
- Show car
- Edsall, Larry (2006). Concept Cars. White Star. ISBN 88-544-0469-1.
- Chrysler "Jolts" PHEV Race; PHEV Ads; V2Green Acquired, Sep 24, 2008, CalCars (California Cars Initiative)
- Cadillac Sixteen, by Nick Hull, Detroit Auto Show 2003 Highlights, Car Design News, Inc.
- "Bold Holden wins top US award". News Limited. 2007-06-22. Retrieved 2007-07-15.
- Concept Car w/ GM & Frank O. Gehry
- Mosher, David (07.10.2004). "Australian International Motor Show – Rolls-Royce Speech". Maybach. Retrieved 21 May 2011.
- Tumminelli, Paolo (2004). Car Design. teNeues. p. 66. ISBN 3-8238-4561-6.
- "30 Years of ItalDesign". Jack Yan & Associates. 1998. Retrieved 2008-01-03.
- "The Chrysler ME Four Twelve". allpar.com. Retrieved 2011-12-13.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Concept vehicles.|
- Concept cars at HowStuffWorks
- Old Concept Cars
- Concept Cars & Car Design Information
- Information on over 250 concept cars
- Comparison of concept car and production version
- Concept Cars Index
- Car Concepts
- Concept Car
- Concept Cars at www.allcarindex.com - The index of concept cars is dedicated for the showcars and concept automobiles