Concept cars often make up the evolution of a car’s life. For instance, there were more than half a dozen Mustang concepts, each with their own intricacies, that ended up compiling to make the first Mustangs that we ever saw. But some of the Mustang concepts were even cooler looking than the finished product!
The same can be said about many concept cars. Many of them never saw the light of day because of spending cuts, research and development issues, because they weren't good for the company at the time, or other bureaucratic shenanigans. It’s a shame because there are so many concept cars that deserve to see the light of day, but never will because their time has passed.
Here are 20 such concept cars, that are cooler than the actual vehicles that were manufactured in their image.
20 1958 Chevrolet Corvette XP-700
Corvettes just have the coolest concepts, especially during the ‘50s. The XP-700 from 1958 is arguably the coolest looking old ‘Vette ever assembled. The “XP 700 Dream Car,” as it was called, ultimately led to the tamer designs of the ’61 and ’62 Corvette. The dual headlights and fender treatment, rocker panel trim, and Sting Ray style rear all evolved from this car, so it partly became true.
19 2019 Porsche 917 Living Legend
Here’s another supercar that is eagerly awaited by everyone—yes the 917 modern concept might still be made. This “Living Legend” is aptly named as a modern tribute to the Le Mans-winning racecar (in 1970), to mark the 50th anniversary of the original 917 from 1969. Instead of the bulbous body of the old car, it has a sleek, flattened body with a low and long look that seems like a natural progression of the styling on the Porsche 918.
18 1991 Audi Avus
Audi has been designing some killer cars and supercars for a while now, but way back in the early ‘90s, they failed to make one of their coolest: the Avus. This aluminum-constructed, W12-engined Audi would’ve been an amazing build, but the 1990s recession killed the machine before it could ever hit production. It was inspired by the Auto Union’s streamliners of the 1930s.
17 1974 Ford Mustang Sportiva II
In 1974, Ford took their Mustang pony car in a completely different direction, but they should have taken it in the Sportiva II Concept direction. This second-generation Mustang was built from a pre-production 1974 model. The targa-roof concept two-seater looks worlds above what the actual, standard Mustang II ended up looking like, and we wish this was the way they all looked starting in ’74.
16 2003 Cadillac Sixteen
Back in 2003, Cadillac nearly created the most expensive, luxurious car of all time. The Cadillac Sixteen was designed to life Cadillac from its design and sales hell. It was complete with 24-inch tires, an all-glass roof, invisible B-pillars, real crystal for both interior and exterior décor, gull-wing doors, and a super rare 13.6-liter V16 engine that produced 1000 hp and 1000 lb-ft of torque. Its starting price was going to be just under $10 million, which is even higher than the one-off Maybach Exelero.
15 2015 Bugatti Vision Gran Turismo
Here is another one of the coolest looking cars of all time that never got made: the 2015 Bugatti Vision Gran Turismo concept. This single-seater was manufactured in France for the 2015 Frankfurt Auto Show. With its incredibly futuristic looks and video-game-like qualities, it influenced the Bugatti Chiron’s design language. The color scheme was based off the 1937 Le Mans-winning Bugatti Type 57G Tank racer. Only one exists, owned by Chairman of Tillys, Hezy Shaked, and the price is estimated to be from $5.1- to $18-million.
14 2006 Ford Mustang Giugiaro
Ford stunned audiences at the 2006 Los Angeles Auto Show when they unveiled this sharp-edged concept designed by Fabrizio Giugiaro, an Italian designer with a unique vision. This pony car of the future had smooth, aggressive lines, a tweaked body panel that accentuated the hood, brawny fenders, scissor doors, a glass roof. The interior was retro-inspired with circular gauges and a T-shaped gearshift. Alas, all we got was the regular old 2006 Mustang.
13 1938 Buick Y-Job
The 1938 Buick Y-Job is one of the earliest examples of a true concept car (behind Henry Leland’s Osceola) that made it into production, but no further than that. It was built under GM’s first design director, Harley Earl, with styling cues that foreshadowed future GM vehicles. It had a modern style (now futuristic, really), with integrated fenders, hidden headlamps, and no running boards. The stubby tail fins would later appear on the iconic 1948 Cadillacs, and the grille design was passed on to other Buick models.
12 2006 Saab Aero-X
Saab’s 2006 Aero-X concept was wildly ambitious and utterly cool. It featured a retractable canopy and doors for exit and entry, as well as a 400-hp twin-turbo V6 engine. It ended up influencing production cars like the 9-3 and 9-5, but this futuristic model (especially for the mid-2000s) looks worlds better than anything that Saab actually put out before going under in 2012.
11 1969 Chevrolet Astro III
Leave it to the ‘60s to come up with some insane concepts, such as the ’69 Chevy Astro III. At the time, NASA’s space program was envied around the world, having reached the moon, and the space age was all the rage. This gas-turbine-powered two-seater foreshadowed alternative powertrains and advanced automotive technology. The wide-set wheels and narrow-track front foresaw the DeltaWing Racer by four decades, as did the cantilevered forward-opening canopy.
10 1954 Chevrolet Corvette Detachable Hardtop Prototype
One of the classiest Corvettes that never was—the 1954 Detachable Hardtop prototype should have been made. The ‘Vette has always evolved through its concepts, even the ones that weren’t made. It had a prototype fiberglass top, roll-up windows, a waller windshield and frame assembly, and a waffle pattern upholstery inside. Only two of these hardtops were built, but based on how awesome this thing looks, it’s clear that a whole lot more should have been made.
9 1956 Chevrolet Corvette Impala XP-101
There was a time that the Corvette and Impala were one car, and it honestly looks cooler than both of the actual cars made. The Corvette Impala XP-101 embodied what a five-passenger sports car could look like. The fiberglass show car was designed by Bob Cadaret (who worked on the 1956 Corvette design), and had a 225-hp Super Turbo-Fire V8 engine, “Powerglide” transmission, a tinted panoramic wraparound windshield, dual exhaust pipes, and much, much more.
8 2011 Volkswagen Bulli
Back in 2001, VW created a Microbus concept that had people smiling. It was a smaller, modern version of their infamous Type II. They introduced a second bus concept in 2011, known as the Bulli, which came with some serious digitization and all-electric power. It was thought to be the minibus of the future, but now it seems that it won’t happen until at least 2022. At least it might still happen, though!
7 2002 Lincoln Continental
The 2002 Lincoln Continental concept car is one bad mother, in the best possible way. Few cars have aged as well as the 1961-63 Lincoln Continental, but when this was unveiled at the 2002 LA Auto Show, it proved that someone at Lincoln still had good taste and design skills. Unfortunately, the production Continental was canceled by Ford, and this amazingly sleek, classy concept was trashed before it could ever get off the ground.
6 2005 Ford-Shelby GR-1
Another amazing concept car combined the talents of Ford and Shelby, once again, to create the GR-1. This was unveiled after the Ford GT went out of production in 2006, and it was inspired by the 1964 Shelby Daytona coupe. This highly polished, aluminum body came with a naked finish that looked utterly awesome, and a 6.4-liter, 605-hp V10 engine. The 2013 Shelby GT-500 is an amazing car, but it’s not this supercar-like GR-1.
5 2016 Mercedes-Maybach 6
Mercedes and Maybach have combined to create some pretty amazing cars, but nothing quite as spectacular as this one-off concept simply called the “6.” It was unveiled at the 2016 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, and is a 2+2 coupe that featured an all-electric powertrain and a 200-mile range. Its quoted electric output was 738 hp, with a limited top speed of 155 mph and a 0-62 mph time of under 4 seconds. It had gull-wing doors, of course.
4 2019 Lamborghini Huracan Sterrato
Now, this Lambo could still get made, but it’s unlikely. The Huracan Sterrato is a one-off supercar concept that boasted an all-wheel-drive system and a powerful engine for off-roading mastery. The underpin of the Sterrato concept was the Huracan Evo, and it even had the same 640-hp, naturally aspirated 5.2-liter V10. It was calibrated for off-roading using predictive logic, four-wheel drive and steering, and torque vectoring, thanks to LDVI (Lamborghini Dinamica Veicolo Integrata). It will be, hopefully, the first off-roading supercar.
3 2019 Ferrari F40 Modern Redesign
The Ferrari F40 is one of the most iconic and influential Ferrari ever built, and the last one that Enzo Ferrari personally worked on. Built to celebrate Ferrari’s 40th anniversary in 1987, it was the world’s fastest street-legal car at the time, and remained so for years. The modern redesign concept is a brilliant homage to that F40, built with modern composite materials, designed by artist Samir Sadikhov. An F40 in the 21st century? Yes, please.
2 2004 Chrysler ME Four-Twelve
This is easily the coolest car that Chrysler has made this century. Its name stands for the Mid-Engine with Four turbochargers on a Twelve-cylinder engine. Two of these supercars were built, with a carbon-fiber and aluminum honeycomb body and a 6.0-liter Mercedes-Benz M120 V12 engine that output an astounding 850 hp. It had a 2.9-second 0-60 mph time and an estimated top speed of 248 mph, which would have made it the fastest road-going car in the world, at the time.
1 2010 Lotus Eterne
This sleek car was almost produced by Lotus, but it reached a standstill in manufacturing, unfortunately. The Lotus Eterne was unveiled to great fanfare at the 2010 Paris Motor Show. The four-door sedan had an amazingly awesome look, a 5.0-liter supercharged V8 engine, and looks arguably cooler than the Elise or Esprit (but maybe not as cool as the Evora).
References: jalopnik.com, motor1.com, popularmechanics.com, roadandtrack.com