Welcome to the world of automotive wonders where imagination meets the drawing board, but not always the road! We’re diving into the quirky, the unusual, and the downright fantastical realm of concept cars. These 12 vehicles are the epitome of creative bravery in the automotive world, pushing boundaries that many deemed too far-fetched for reality.
Dymaxion – 1933
Buckminster Fuller’s Dymaxion, a brainchild from 1933, was an audacious leap in automotive design. Initially envisioned as a flying automobile or drivable plane with jet engines and inflatable wings, the Dymaxion ended up as a three-wheeled terrestrial vehicle. Its design was akin to a ground-bound zeppelin, featuring a rear wheel that swiveled like an airplane’s tail wheel.
Despite its innovative concept, the Dymaxion suffered from stability issues, notably a dangerous wobble in the rear wheel. The addition of a stabilizer fin in the third prototype did little to mitigate its instability in crosswinds. Tragically, a fatal accident, under mysterious circumstances, marred its public image.
Phantom Corsair – 1938
The Phantom Corsair, a creation of 1938, is a marvel of automotive history. It was powered by a 4.7-litre straight-eight engine, necessitating two Lincoln radiators to manage its minimal cooling. Heinz, its creator, boasted of its 190bhp power output and a top speed of 120mph, though these claims were never verified. The car’s interior was as futuristic as its exterior, featuring aeronautical instruments and a switch panel mounted on the roof. Innovations like push-button automatic doors, ‘thermostatic’ temperature control, green-tinted safety glass, hydraulic bumpers, and cork/rubber cockpit insulation set the Phantom Corsair apart.
Alfa Romeo BAT 5 – 1953
The Alfa Romeo BAT 5, unveiled at the 1953 Turin Auto Show, broke the mold with its futuristic design. Built on a standard Alfa Romeo 1900 chassis, it featured extensively modified bodywork to optimize aerodynamics and reduce drag. Under its hood lay a powerful 1.9-liter twin-cam inline-four engine, delivering an impressive 117 horsepower. This engine enabled the BAT 5 to achieve a top speed of 124 mph, combined with a smooth and precise 4-speed manual transmission.
Toyota CX-80 Concept – 1979
The Toyota CX-80 Concept, presented at the 1979 Tokyo Motor Show, envisioned the future of city cars. It aimed to be light, spacious, and efficient – qualities it achieved through bold and innovative design choices. The CX-80 was a testament to Toyota’s forward-thinking approach, showcasing a blend of practicality and futuristic aesthetics. Its conception as a vision of urban mobility highlights the ever-evolving landscape of automotive design and the constant pursuit of efficiency and innovation.
Lincoln Futura – 1955
The Lincoln Futura, a brainchild of designer William M. Schmidt, made waves in the auto show circuits of 1955. It was a concept car ahead of its time, boasting features like push-button transmission controls, a robust 300-horsepower V-8 engine, and a striking double-dome canopy roof. The Futura’s groundbreaking design and technological advancements exemplify the era’s optimistic view of the future, blending luxury with innovation in a package that still captures imaginations today.
Ford La Tosca Concept – 1955
Ford’s La Tosca Concept of 1955 was a beacon of futuristic design. It stood out with its unique canted fins and a wide, commanding presence. Inspired by modern aircraft, the La Tosca featured a plexiglass roof canopy and backup lights resembling jet tubes. These elements, combined with its innovative design, made the La Tosca a symbol of the era’s fascination with jet-age styling and the possibilities of tomorrow’s automobiles.
Bisiluro Damolnar – 1955
The Bisiluro Damolnar, crafted in 1955 by Carlo Mollino and Enrico Nardi, was an extraordinary experiment in automotive design. Aimed to compete at Le Mans, this ultra-light, aerodynamic car was an anomaly. Its asymmetrical design, absence of a passenger seat, and left-hand side engine placement were unique. Weighing just 450kg and powered by a 737 cc Gianni engine producing 62hp, the Bisiluro Damolnar was a bold statement in car design, embodying the spirit of innovation and the relentless pursuit of performance.
Honda Fuya-Jo Concept Car – 1999
The Honda Fuya-Jo, presented at the 1999 Tokyo Motor Show, was a daring concept aimed at the youth and clubbing market. Its name, meaning “Sleepless City,” and its design, a high yet short silhouette with semi-standing seats, created a skateboard-like impression for both the driver and passengers. The Fuya-Jo’s unique exterior was designed to turn heads and embody the essence of nocturnal fun, showcasing Honda’s willingness to explore unconventional designs and concepts.
Aurora Safety Car – 1957
The Aurora, designed and built in 1957 by Father Alfred Juliano, was a pioneering vehicle in passenger safety. This car, the first to be touted as the world’s safest, featured a wooden frame, fiberglass body, shatter-proof plastic windows, and a removable roof with metal shades. It was equipped with safety innovations like seat belts, a roll cage, shock-absorbing bumpers, a padded dashboard, crumple zones, and a telescopic steering wheel. The Aurora was a trailblazer in emphasizing the importance of passenger safety in automotive design.
Ford X2000 – 1958
The Ford X2000 of 1958 was a powerhouse, equipped with a 352 cu. in. V8 engine producing 220bhp, paired with an automatic transmission. Its independent front suspension and rear suspension with semi-elliptic leaf springs were advanced for its time. The X2000 represented Ford’s ambition to push the boundaries of automotive design and engineering, showcasing a blend of power and innovation that was ahead of its era.
Frisky Family Three – 1959
The 1959 Frisky Family Three was a unique three-wheeled vehicle, powered by a smaller Villiers 9E engine. Its design, including a MacPherson strut front suspension, made it qualify for lower vehicle excise duty and drivable with a motorcycle license. With a top speed of 80 km/h, the Frisky Family Three was a blend of practicality and quirkiness, offering a glimpse into an alternate path for personal transportation.
Plymouth XNR – 1960
The Plymouth XNR, developed in 1960 by Chrysler and designed by Virgil Exner, was a daring concept. Known as the XNR 500, this asymmetric open roadster was proposed as a sporty addition to Plymouth’s lineup and a competitor to the Chevrolet Corvette. Its unique design elements and sporting aspirations showcased Chrysler’s willingness to experiment with bold and unconventional automotive designs.