Concept cars came back - with a vengeance - after World War II when America entered a golden age of prosperity and rising expectations. Nothing said "New!" like the annual GM Motorama shows, where the public caught a glimpse of radical new designs and often bizarre trends like soaring tailfins, glass bubble-tops and chrome, well, everywhere! Today, concept cars are like fixtures of the automotive world, showcasing new ideas, designs and features, but most of them never make it to the street. What if they did?
Let's look at eleven of the most exciting modern day concept cars and, as we admire their lithe lines and futuristic features, dream a little...
11. Ford Airstream concept
Anyone old enough to remember Airstream trailers? This striking new Ford concept isn't anything like them, don't worry! A fixture of the 2007 auto show scene, the Airstream concept previews the crossover vehicle of the future. Look beneath the Airstream's awesome appearance and you'll find a new plug-in hydrogen hybrid fuel cell called HySeries Drive that provides continuous electric power without the need for fossil fuels.
10. Toyota i-Real concept
The i-Real takes "personal transportation" to the next level while blurring the line between car and scooter. Not those Razor Scooters beloved by teens, I mean those electric rolling chairs beloved by oldsters. As the Baby Boom morphs into the Elderly Explosion, a vehicle like the I-Real could find itself in great demand. It looks cool, is controlled by joysticks and it's a Toyota - sounds like a sure winner!
9. Nissan NV200 concept
The Nissan NV200 concept is the neatest thing since sliced bread - it even features a unique pull-out storage module that slides out from the rear doors like a loaf of bread from a plastic bag. In effect, the NV200 turns storage inside out... or is that outside in? Any way - you say it, Nissan's designers have offered a new option that could be just the thing for certain niche professions. Pictured below, is a concept fit for ocean photographers.
8. Mazda Ryuga concept
It's not often that design and engineering complement each other without compromise, and the Mazda Ryuga concept is an exquisite expression of creative cooperation! With its flowing lines, gullwing (more like bat-wing) doors and retro-futuristic interior, the Ryuga is simply stunning any way you look at it. Are there any practical reasons for bringing the Ryuga from concept to concrete? Maybe not... but humanity's desire to make dreams come true has to be respected. Zoom zoom? Yes please!
7. Acura NSX Advanced Sports Car concept
The Acura NSX was Honda's interpretation of a Ferrari-esque supercar, and it sold in modest numbers from 1990 to 2005 without much in the way of appearance or engineering changes. That was then, this is now... the Acura NSX Advanced Sports Car Concept picks up where the old NSX left off - in fact, Honda's CEO announced the new NSX's development program within days of the previous model's last production day. Though only a concept car at the moment, the Acura NSX Advanced Sports Car Concept should hit the streets later this year. Features include a Formula One-inspired V10 motor and the SH-AWD (Super Handling All Wheel Drive) system currently used in the Acura RL. Here's hoping Honda follows through on their promises!
6. Toyota FT-HS Hybrid Sports Car concept
Hybrids... they're the queens of the green, clean fuel-sippin' scene. They're NOT mean drivin' machines, however, but all that may change if Toyota has anything to do with it - and they do. The FT-HS Hybrid Sports Car concept is not your grandmother's Prius though it's still powered by a hybrid motor. The difference is, the motor in the FT-HS can push the sleek 2-door coupe to 60 mph in 4 seconds flat! If the rumors are true, the FT-HS is the forthcoming replacement for the Toyota Supra.
5. Lexus LF-A concept
As hot as the Toyota concept cars may be, some of the ideas bubbling out of Lexus are even hotter! That's how it should be, since Lexus is Toyota's premier brand and has a lofty image to uphold. With the LF-A concept, that image is set to fly even higher. This concept is "on track" to be produced as a 2009 model and let's just hope the track has no obstacles. Is the LF-A going to be the next - or rather the first - Lexus supercar? A mid-engine layout with perfect weight distribution, rear-mounted radiators and a top speed of over 200 mph answers that question emphatically - YES!
4. McLaren M Eleven B concept
How do you improve upon the best? That was the question put to students of the Istituto Europeo di Design's Transport Design course, who were asked to design an updated version of McLaren's legendary supercar, the F1. Hailed as one of the finest iterations of the supercar class ten years ago, the F1 is still relatively unmatched in virtually every category. Students at the Turin, Italy based school were asked to design the next-gen McLaren supercar, using a mid-engine format, a 200 mph top speed and the ultimate in road-going performance. The winner of the competition was the M Eleven B. Will it be built? As long as there are those who demand the very best, the M Eleven B will find a market at any price.
3. Maybach Excelero concept
Maybach is Mercedes-Benz's icing on the automotive cake and the Excelero, of which only a single concept has been made, is the crèm de la crème. The Excelero certainly looks formidable, and it's got the power to back it up - though it's hard to imagine this car ever backing up! But I digress... a twin-turbo, 5.9 litre V12 engine puts out an awe-inspiring 700 hp. Can the tires take it? Who cares - if you're in the Excelero's target market, tires are not your concern.
2. Toyota Volta concept
Toyota seems intent on banishing the hybrid car's meek image for good - and the Volta hybrid sportscar concept is very, very good indeed! The Volta takes the basic hybrid engine blueprint and squeezes every bit of potential out of it. The result? A 435-mile cruising range and an, er, electric 0-60 mph time of 4 seconds flat! Most enticing, the Volta features a unique drive-by-wire control system that allows any of the three - yes, three - front seat occupants to assume control of the vehicle just by having said controls moved in front of them. Memo to Toyota... make the Volta, please!!
1. GMC Denali XT concept
Oil crisis, what oil crisis? If the radically styled GMC Denali XT concept could talk, that's what it would likely say - and it would find a lot of ears ready to listen! Should this beautiful brute actually make it into production, an entire fleet of Hummers, Excursions and Suburbans is going to look really old, really fast. Best of all, though the Denali XT concept looks like a fuel-hog, it really isn't - and that's notwithstanding the 326 horsepower, 4.9 litre V8 ensconced beneath its sculptured hood. Flex-fuel capability, direct fuel injection and GM's proven Active Fuel Management system delivers twice the fuel economy of a standard setup. The Denali XT concept is one mean, green machine!
These eleven exceptional concept cars prove beyond a doubt that the auto industry is thriving under the combined pressures of competition, regulation and market saturation. It takes a lot to get yourself noticed in this type of environment, and the world's creative designers, engineers and marketers know it - and are doing something about it. Hey, they've got my attention... and if they bring these classy concepts into mass production, they just might get my order!