New car shows, like the Detroit and Chicago Autoshows, are great. You get to see all the shiny new upcoming models of several automakers, all under one roof, before they hit the show room floor. If your in the market for a new car, you get to see all the bells and whistles available on the model of your choice, new styling, advancements in safety and which company can afford the best looking booth models.
You’ve come to see the sensible, new four door that would be good for commuting back and fourth to work. Maybe, your checking out what’s new in the mini van or SUV world for your growing family. (We would suggest the Cadillac CTS-V wagon. Makes perfect sense). But then, like the foolish Trout, you see something shiny that lures you in. On the revolving podium, behind a velvet ropes, you see something calling to you. The Concept Car! The concept car is usually the automaker just being a jerk. They basically say, “Hey look what we can do! What’s that? Are we going to let you buy one? Oh, of course not! We just wanted you to know how awesome we COULD be.”
Hugely powerful engines, cranking out quadruple digit numbers. Dramatically swooping styling, meant to mirror the elegance of a snow drift. Interiors draped in luxurious textiles, stitched in anti-gravity booths so as not to unnecessarily stretch the material. Dash boards lit to reflect it’s Tron like heritage. Oh, how we love you concept car.
So we at Kronospark, would like to doff our hats to the jerks of the auto world and present a simple list of our favorite concept cars that, much to our dismay, never went anywhere.
1970’s Chevrolet Aerovette
The Chevy Aerovette really could have changed the lagacy of the Corvette. With a transverselly and mid-mounted V8 engine, the Aerovette could have been a true apples to apples competitor to Ferrari and Lamborghini. After scrapping the project due to cost issues, Chevrolet’s general manager, John Delorean, decided to bring the project back to life for the 1970 New York Autoshow, after hearing Fords plan to sell DeTomaso Pantera‘s through Lincoln-Mercury dealerships.
Later concepts attempted to use 4 rotor engines and Wankel power but ultimately decided on a 400 cu. in. Chevy V8. With the always irresistible gull-wing door configuration, the Aerovette was actually approved for production in 1980. After a few key players backing the project retired, the project was pulled for economical reasons and the decision to go in the front mounted engine configuration, of today’s corvettes.
2001 Volkswagen Microbus
The new Volkswagen Beetle is ugly. There, we said it. The one before it was ugly too. We’re not saying the original Beetle was a looker but it had a certain panache. It was a quirky little fella. So when VW decided to redesign it, they failed miserably. Certainly not in terms of sales but when a rim option is a daisy, you need to look in the mirror and ask yourself what the hell your doing in the car business.
In 2001, the Microbus was designed to replicate the original Type 2 microbus. Open and airy like its ancient predecessor, the Microbus concept inspired the same get out and see the world feel as the original. Now with a more powerful 3.2 liter V6, the new Microbus now had sufficient power to travel up steep mountains in a forward gear, as apposed to reversing up like its poorly geared dad.
Canceling plans to truly make this bus in 2005, Volkswagen decided that Chrysler would make a version for North America. Because of that decision, we are now lucky enough to look at the Volkswagen Routan……..yawn.
2005 Ford Shelby GR-1
Often companies draw inspiration from past successes for newer “concept” cars. The 2005 Ford Shelby GR-1 pulls heavily from the iconic Shelby Daytona. The Daytona, by no means, was a production car either. At a whopping 6 built, the Daytona was specifically built to compete against the dominant Ferrari in the FIA GT class. It did just that pulling off multiple wins in 1964 and 65.
In our opinion, the GR-1 could have been a true homage to the Daytona. With a 6.4 liter V-10 supplying the rear wheels with 605 hp and 501 lb ft of torque, the GR-1 one would have been a ripper. Although the weight was estimated at around 3900 lbs, we’d still be willing to give the skinny pedal a stomp and worry about the braking part later. Sadly, although it shared many parts with the Ford GT, making it a feasible vehicle for production, the car never made it past the running prototype stage.
2008 Toyota A-BAT
The world loves a good pick-up truck. Unfortunately, it seems as though the entire world knows that a small pick-up will do almost anything you ask of it. Everyone, but America. We believe you need a 2 ton pick up, with 4 wheel drive and huge mud tires, to tow a small trailer, with a riding mower, for your lawn business. We need the good ol’ days of the Nissan Hard Body.
Enter the Toyota A-BAT (Advanced Breakthrough Aero Truck). At the diminutive size of a RAV4, the A-BAT certainly would have filled the long lost small truck category. Also, sharing the gas-electric hybrid motor from the Prius, the A-BAT would have been much more Earth friendly than its V8 and diesel powered brethren. And with under bed storage and a mid gate that allows a through way from interior to exterior, like the Chevy Avalanche, the A-BAT would have the room for the magic 4’x8′ capacity that most potential truckers look for.
For unknown reasons, the little truck that could have, never did.
2006 Volkswagen GX3
Although, possibly unconventional for most people looking to buy a car, I feel like the GX3 could have been a real competitor for Lotus 7 knock-off companies like Caterham and Brunton. With a slightly more interesting take, the GX3 was an open top, 3 wheeler, which confused some people into thinking it would be more of a motorcycle concept than a concept car. With a transversely mounted 1.6 liter motor, from a VW Lupo, the two-seater would have made around 125 hp giving it a better power to weight ratio than an M3 or an S2000.
With Lotus engineering, aggressive looks, a 0-62 time of 5.7 seconds and a meaty 315/30 R18 tire out back, the Volkswagen GX3 was projected to cost around $17,000! Where do we sign?! Volkswagen’s excuse for not producing the possible pint sized rocket? “We would not be able to sell the GX3 without costly and complex redesigns that would alienate VW’s target market”. For shame target market, for shame!
2010 Audi Quattro
Designed to celebrate the companies 30th anniversary of the original rally beast, the Audi quattro concept would have been a really good looking car. With a turbo charged 5 cylinder engine putting out 400 hp, the Quattro would have featured Audi’s newest 6 speed transmission and AWD system. 0-60mph in 3.9 seconds out of the Quattro AWD system is what made Audi, the company to beat back in the days of Group B.
Based on the platform of the RS5, the Audi Quattro concept was another very curious case of “why wouldn’t they make this”? After talk of a limited run of this beauty, the project was given the official ax this year.
1984 Dodge M4S
The M4S was one of those cars that you saw and knew would never be made. It looked like a movie car. And that it was. Featured in The Wraith, it looked more like a Le Mans style road racing car than anything. Splatter it with obnoxious sponsorship decals and let it rip. The kind folks at Cosworth massaged the 2.2 liter 4 popper and added twin Garret t25 turbo chargers to help the little guy reach an insane 500 hp and propelling it to a top speed of 194 mph.
The M4S was never intended for production but a boy can dream, can’t he? We would have to wait another 8 years before insanity rolled out of Dodges doors in the form of the Viper.
Another case of all the right ingredients to make a delicious car, just to be pushed to the way side. Mid-engine, fiberglass body, gullwing doors. Gullwing doors never fail! The C111 was a bit of a test mule throughout its years at Mercedes-Benz testing facilities. Testing new advancements in the company such as diesel engines, Wankel engines, turbo chargers, and new interior ideas. The car would eventually go onto break land speed records with a modified V8 in place of the earlier rotary motors the company began with.
Even with 700 deposits put down for future purchases of the car, Mercedes-Benz decided not to go thorough with the project. With stringent emissions laws in many of the countries targeted for sale and the oil crisis going on at the time, the C111 never had it’s time to shine.
2006 Prodrive P2
Prodrive is synonymous with performance in motor sports racing. Probably best known for their work with Subaru in the WRC, Prodrive also works with Aston Martin, Ford and MINI. In 2006 Prodrive pulled the old look what “we can do” when it developed the P2. The P2 was awesome as well as quirky. First the awesome. It was designed by Peter Stevens, the fine gentleman who gave us the McLaren F1 and Jaguar XJR-15. It had all of Prodrive’s fanciest drive line technologies of the time, with active center and rear diffs, an anti under steer system and anti lag system. So essentially, you could go around 180 degree turns at 400 mph (Kronospark estimated figure) and you’d be popping and spitting fire out of the tail pipe like a true rally car. And with all that cool stuff, it was still just an STI engine making 345 hp and even better, was based on the Subaru R1 platform. Arguably, Subaru’s dorkiest look cars.
Again, this was just the company showing what they could do if they could be bothered to make a production two-seater sports car. The company said if they did make the car it would probably sell for around $68,000. Pretty pricey for a Subaru but with it’s advanced drive line system and handling abilities, I bet you’d see a crap ton of clutch dumping young men, delivering pizzas, in very competent cars, to make that car payment each month.
This is when things in the car world just get silly. The GINA (Geometry and functions In ‘N’ Adaptations) is a BMW roadster wearing Spandex. Actually, its metallic textile fabric stretched over a skeleton of movable wires. Yes, a shape shifter. The doors open like butterfly wings (suck it gullwing doors), headlights open like eyelids, head rests grow like comforting tumors and the steering wheel moves towards the middle of the car, when getting in and out, so the driver can easily move into the drivers seat. (check out a video of the GINA in movement)
I don’t think it was money, emissions, lack of interested buyers or any other such excuse. I think once BMW heard the name was GINA (pronounced gee-na) and then saw how the hood “opened”, I think they realized people would pronounce it another way…..gross.
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