It goes without saying; 1950s technology was only as advanced as our science was at the time. Forced-induction wasn’t new but we were just starting to experiment with it. The end result tended to be an archaic approach to problem-solving; things like airplane engines addressed power deficiencies but did little for everyday practicality.
While we don’t see anything wrong with aviation powerplants installed in automobiles, there are better ways to amass unholy amounts of power beneath the hood. Besides, we’ve almost mastered the internal combustion engine as much as we’re ever going to. With widespread EV-proliferation right around the corner, the internal combustion engine is “on the glideslope” to its final destination. (A glideslope is the “theoretical” 3° line that aircraft typically “ride” into a destination airport on final approach.)
Gasoline is on a fast track to the same place we banished coal and steam power to and it’s only a matter of time before the last “piston-pounder” rolls off a production line. Anything we do to it now is, in a sense, just a “Last Caress” (Misfits fans know).
Although we’ve come to “expect” massive heaps of power from these razor-sharp prototypes (as we rightfully should), some of them don’t even come with an engine! Instead, they aim to serve as rolling test beds for new technology—and a platform to showcase it all! Luckily for us, most of these concepts do, in fact, come with engines. What they don’t come with is a 2019 release date, even though promises were made.
19 Volkswagen Aqua
If Volkswagen still reminds you of the sharp bite of excessive hydrocarbons wafting through your eco-friendly neighborhood school zones, that’s understandable. The “Dieselgate” scandal seems fresh in the minds of many ozone warriors. For those of you who are ready to finally look to the future, industrial design major Yuhan Zhang created this hovercraft Volkswagen prototype that promises to emit a much friendlier ejection into the atmosphere: water. The hovercraft concept features a hydrogen fuel cell used to drive the inflator fan while aft directional control is provided by an array of electric-driven thrusters. It’s a hovercraft, so you can take it just about anywhere, but don’t ever power down over a large body of water.
18 Lamborghini Terzo Millennio
Citing itself as “creators of dreams for the next generation,” Lamborghini seems to be more than comfortable taking the initiative to blow the ceiling off of what we’ve come to expect from even the most progressive (and technologically advanced) sports car makers. It’s an MIT collaboration that was described as a “thinking box,” rather than an actual production car. It’s powered by four traction motors, one located within each wheel. Those motors—powered by supercapacitor technology—allow for an instant (and generous) well of power from which the traction motors may tap. Given the fully-independent nature of the drive system, each wheel can be precisely accelerated (or slowed) on demand, effectively making this baby handle like a Formula 1 car.
17 Vision Mercedes Maybach 6 Cabriolet
It’s hard to imagine the hype that must have surrounded the automobile's various milestones throughout history. We can hardly imagine the glee that must have swelled up inside the heart of the man that could now sit in the cockpit of his Cadillac and crank the motor from the comfort of the driver’s seat. As exciting as it must have been to move away from crank-handle starting a century ago, we rarely get treated to contemporary examples of what “this” future has the potential to be. The Maybach 6 attempts to answer that question with an unparalleled design method that ejects a supremely ambitious beam of light into a bright future for the next generation of luxury cars.
16 Vision AMG Gran Turismo
This sensory-assaulting machine tickles feelings inside your body that you didn’t even know you had. From the underslung-style, aluminum spaceframe that seems to hang between the generously endowed footprint, to the liquid-smooth geometry that contours the carbon-fiber body around the unfinished machine, she’s truly wondrous to look at. It was conceptualized initially with a 585-horsepower, biturbo V-8, which never saw fruition. That. in tandem with the seven-speed automatic transmission, would have been more than enough to allow the 3,000-pound spaceframe anywhere it would have needed to go. Despite its stagnation since the digital 2013 Grand Turismo 6 debut, it pioneered the path for many other Vision concepts to follow, including the Maybach 6, Vision G-Code, Tokyo, and the Van; with all but the Maybach paling in comparison.
15 Mazda RX-9
Mazda is still vehemently on that rotary-comeback “kick” they’ve been on since they had to lay the legacy down in 2012. It was a minor setback, as they’ve been good with their inline motors, but they’ve nonetheless been plotting the return of the Wankel (rotary) engine for some time now. It’s obvious that they miss the high-revving, smooth-running, attractive power-to-weight ratio benefits offered by their coveted rotary, but we’re honestly more focused on the car. It looks as if you could stuff the longest V-8 you could find comfortably between the wheels, with even a little room to spare. (And so it should be.)
14 Mercedes-AMG Project ONE
This is what happens when you let a certain pedigree of European engineers loose with Formula 1 technology; this is the machine they build when allowed build it to their liking. Oddly, in one way, shape, or form, they always try to bring automotive power to the people. First, it was with a serviceable automobile for the everyman. Today, it’s a near one-to-one crossover of Formula 1 technology in a production road car that's set to redefine the driving experience as we know it. By we, I mean only the exclusive 275 buyers that already have locked in their orders. Mercedes isn’t going to up production, either. If you don’t already have one, you never will.
13 Peugeot Onyx
Many concepts are released into an eternal state of engineless purgatory; one where we are left to only ever imagine what they might have sounded like. Unfortunately, if they actually do make it into a fully-operational prototype, it’s usually not the stellar machine we had imagined in the brochure. But the Peugeot Onyx might just change your mind about operational prototypes; it’s so sophisticated, you need to manually warm the fluids and components before starting it! This includes the gearbox and drivetrain, as well as the engine fluids. It takes about an hour. Once you’re all warmed up, the Onyx sources oil-burning torque from its 908 Le Mans car's diesel that gives you anything but a prototypical ride. If 600 horsepower wasn’t enough, they supplemented it with an additional 80 via electric motors.
12 Austin Martin DBC
It’s been hailed as the UK's "sports car we’ve been waiting for.” Although you’ll be hard-pressed to argue against the stellar aesthetics; just one quick look at the wide stance impresses you with an inferred handling ability that knows no traction limits. The centralized canopy almost hints at the possibility of a front-engine design (almost). Hallmark details can be picked out from the largely unfamiliar geography of the DBC’s exterior paneling, but the overall package is stunning, whether it registers Austin Martin in every curve or not. The type of powerplant that could have powered it is long since irrelevant. Aston Martin builds Grand Touring cars, and Grand Tourers keep their engines in the front.
11 Corvette Stingray Concept
It would only make sense that the first generation Stingray concept was, in part, designed by one of the youngest General Motors designers at the time. His keen insight into the younger generation helped him craft the car in a way that only a younger mind could possibly get. Although we never saw the SS Corvette—a project that died before it lived—we got another shot at the stingray. It’s called the Corvette Centennial, and it’s going to be 10 years old this February. It was an “internal” company design challenge and offers a slew of decade-old technology that puts this car at the top of its game in 2009. Still, it would have been fun to see what the second generation Stingray would have evolved into, had it been given the chance.
10 Mazda Furai
Many of the best, most prominent, and groundbreaking concepts are near a decade old by now and their influence can be seen occasionally in fleeting design cues on production models of the same make. Perhaps, you’ve seen some of these styling cues around before. Here, you can almost see traces of the Mazda 3’s forward features, as the headlamps circumnavigate the grille. They might as well get their money’s worth from it, this prototype was burned up during a Top Gear testing session before we ever really knew what it was; and the curtains were just silently pulled over the project as if it had never existed. It wasn’t until years later than the truth was slowly uncovered.
9 Toyota Supra Concept
While some of these cars featured here are far-off obscurities that we know aren’t ever going to solidify into anything more than an engineless spaceframe, others are on the cusp of reality with an exhaust note so crisp you can actually hear it! Such is the case with the long-awaited new Supra—we’ve been teased about it longer than we can remember. People are getting antsy. Toyota Europe released a blurred video of what is “claimed” to be the legendary inline making smooth, crisp, high speed passes at night. The video leaves you with a clear expectation of what to expect next: “SEE IT AT DETROIT. 01-14-19.” Only a matter of days, now…
8 Honda EV Sport
This is Honda’s take on performance electric, and we have to say, we really kind of dig it. It’s projected to be a 350-hp “performance” coupe with a refreshing new twist to electric propulsion. Finally! We’re starting to get away from the bulkiness and gracelessness that the Prius, Leaf, and EV-1 tried to force onto us. With momentum gaining in the EV field, it was only a matter of time before we started to see something worth writing home about. We’ll probably have to wait longer than we want for this puppy to hit the streets—it likely won’t be in 2019, if at all.
7 Nissan IDX
With the release of the Nissan IDX concept in 2013, it became clear that foreign automakers were listening to the USA's general public almost more so than our own manufacturers. You don’t have to look far or wide to find a performance-inspired coupe from each major maker. Interestingly, many of these cars are specifically aimed at the “gamer nation” crowd, with that age now entering the car-consuming market. Nissan’s IDX concept is a derivative of the NISMO pedigree but was actually crafted to resemble a driving simulator inside. Amidst nothing but lavish praise and accolades for the IDX concept, there’s only one thing left to say: “Take my money!”
6 Ford F-250 Super Chief
Here’s something that would have long-since “done you in” had you been holding your breath waiting. The Ford F-250 Super Chief debuted in 2006, looking as robust as a tank and as streamlined as a Boeing. It looked awesome then, it looks awesome now—and 13 years later, we’re still waiting for it. You may actually remember seeing this thing when it came out. It was a big deal for about 15 seconds until we realized it wasn’t doing anything exciting. And as cool as it would be to see the Super Chief hit the market and flip the truck game upside down, the day for this truck has already come and gone.
5 Peugeot E-Legend
The E-Legend may be a little ahead of its time—with its autonomous capabilities—but it’s hardly a “concept” design. The styling takes heavy cues from a 1970s-era Peugeot 504, a car that was selected for a retro makeover for no other reason than “It [happened] to be 50 years old this year.” Those words came from Gilles Vidal, the Peugeot design chief, talking about his E-Legend. If coincidence is the only reason that brought a randomly selected model like this back to a life that looks as good as that, we can only be hopeful that this “retro” trend keeps pulling hard. But where’s the production model, folks? Are we the only ones who want one?
4 Infinity Prototype 9
The name suggests there are others in the sequence; a sequence of the highest exclusivity. The uncanny stance afforded by the open-wheel design places the body almost as low as the profile of the wheels themselves—the underbelly of the hull sits mere inches from the ground at any given time. Admittedly, it’s nothing like you’ve ever seen, although it does inspire iconic images of the Le Mans cars of yesteryear with an accurate, yet contemporary, modern twist. It’s what you’d get if you were an engineer from Japan with a passion for fast planes and an affinity for the Mercedes W25 racecar—and you wanted both of those things together, in one machine.
3 Mazda Vision Coupe
The unveiling of the proverbial “concept” car denotes any particular manufacturer’s new design preference. It’s their exclamation to the world of their resolute intent to slice through the next generation of automobile design with the same vigorous tenacity in which they chiseled out the concept. But while most manufacturers ball up the best of what they can muster, slam it into a one-time styling powerhouse, and never talk about it again, Mazda puts persistent follow-through into their concepts. The aggressive design language is assertive and confident and Mazda us usually good about transitioning healthy proportions of their concept rhetoric over to production models. Just because it won’t necessarily hit the streets doesn’t mean it’s not already a hit.
2 Ford Bronco
Here’s something we’ve been waiting for probably more than most of the other cars here—that’s because this is one we’re actually supposed to get. Ford released teasers about the all-new Bronco a while ago but as we edge closer to the “release date,” Ford seems to expertly drop just the right amount of press to keep us hooked without getting our hopes up. We do know it's supposed to be here in 2020 (if only we had a dime for every time something was “supposed” to be). They also say its supposed to feature a full-frame construction, not a unibody one. Will Ford deliver the off-road machine of our dreams? They sound like they intend to…but you won’t find out this year.
1 Nissan GT-R50
With a price tag of almost $1 million more than a factory GT-R, one could reasonably ask about the GT-R50, “What’s the big deal?” Well, we had the same questions for Nissan; upon our quest for answers, we found that the million-dollar price hike was only referencing the “base” GT-R50. If you want to custom-color the exterior or start adding bells and whistles, the price just climbs from there. Aesthetics aside, however, we really are concerned more with performance—and we want a 600-plus horsepower V-6 (at least)! Since Nissan is protective about preserving the symbolism of their performance flagships, the simple features of the smooth profile and the aggressive stance suggest we’re in for one of the greatest treasurers Nissan has offered in a long time (if you can afford it).
Sources: Diseno, Lamborghini, Power Electronics, General Motors, Motor 1, AMG, Top Gear, and Toyota Europe.