Concept cars can be dreams or disasters, though this list focuses on the latter. While some auto designers can clearly churn out the best of the best, others seem to be high on something whilst desperately trying to hold on to their jobs – thereby bringing out the very worst in concept car creation. Ever. The fact that their designs are approved on paper doubles the mistake. Then the car actually gets made and the initial mistake now stands trebled. And then the car is actually shown to the public and released on the Internet where it gets to stay forever – a mistake chain-reaction to like a million times over!
The only saving grace is that these concept cars never took off. And no one, other than the test drivers or the designers actually got to experience these disasters that were born from the unholy union of warped imaginations, too much Star Trek, and stale pizzas! Some of them seemed to have been styled for the devil, and some look so much like household appliances that you would not want to sit in them and be roasted, or toasted. Some were too expensive, and some portrayed technology that hadn’t even been born yet. Many claimed to be the cars of the future and obviously, sustainable fuel and zero emissions were high points about them. But till the time these designers do not come up with zero-emission cars that are affordable, sustainable and look like cars, these concept cars may not take off from ground zero at all! Do meet these concept cars, some of which stalled before production and some took off but fell flat on their faces, because they were bad!
25 The Aurora Safety Car Might Have Been Ahead Of Its Time
The 1957 Aurora Safety car was a looker for sure. We are still staring in shock at its front grille, that looks sturdy enough to scoop a jaywalker and carry him to the next beat constable. Unbelievably, that was the concept of the car according to Jalopnik – to scoop up pedestrians without injury. Except if anyone saw that monstrosity bearing down on them, they would have died of shock, minus any injury anyway! The bulbous windshield looked ugly but was made to make sure that the occupants did not smash their heads against it in case of a collision. What seemed very far-off at the time like collapsible steering column, shock-absorbing bumpers, and seat belts later became standard safety features in every car. But the Aurora is basically remembered for being one very ugly car.
24 The Hummer Clone That Failed: Fiat Oltre
If the name wasn’t weird enough, the Fiat Oltre was also a poor copy of the Hummer that debuted in 2005. And by poor, we mean poor.
Not enough power, hardly the best design, and bucket seats that can only incorporate five passengers.
Fiat clearly wanted to expand into the heavy vehicle category; it kind of failed because this car never made it to production. That’s the thing with car makers when they try and dip their feet into making cars that basically lie beyond their expertise and technical know-how. The car was not priced cheap either, though it was basically intended for military use, much like the Hummer. The bling rims didn’t make sense for a vehicle supposed to be used for missions and such and it clearly pales in comparison to the Humvee. For a 14-tonne vehicle, the engine was rather puny and most felt the vehicle looked too plasticky to actually exist.
23 A Car That Was Just Too Visible: Honda Unibox
If you ever dreamt of a nightmarish car that looked like a transparent box and let the world peek into what went on within the insides of your car, meet the Honda Unibox 2001. According to CarAndDriver, it was basically a tall van that was powered by a front-driven hybrid powertrain, the vehicle was built from polycarbonate panels that showed everything in it for the world to gawk at. And since it was a “transparent” car, the seats had a strange exoskeleton and the car came with navigation-enable shopping carts (we kid you not!) and a pair of foldable motorcycles stored in thick rear doors. Less of a car and more of a monstrosity, this did not go down well with the audience, and thankfully remained a concept.
22 Need A Car With A Hovercraft? Meet The Rinspeed X-Trem
So when a car is built on an extended Mercedes-Benz G-wagon chassis and is a two-seater MUV pickup truck, sans any doors – it is the Rinspeed X-Trem 1999. It did come with a functional crane (yep, you did read that right!) that basically loaded and unloaded a hovercraft that came with this “Car” as a rather nifty accessory. Frankly it looked and felt cartoonish, and would not have survived the market, so it didn’t get built much. None at all actually. To be honest, only one Rinspeed car ever made it to production, and it wasn’t the X-Trem. But they could have used this to make a more realistic Bumblebee in the Transformers franchise, no?
21 Is It A Shaving Blade? A Plane? No, It’s Peugeot Egochine
So frankly, it looks like a Gillette shaving blade but well, it’s not. It’s a car. It’s the 2012 Peugeot Egochine Concept Car. And even MotorAuthority does not know whether to call it retro, or techno. Or just really trying! Why is it retro? Look at its sculpted fenders and that old-school gangster hot rod grill and a dual tone paint scheme. Very mafioso. Why techno?
Well, look at its low center of gravity, and that aerodynamic body shape.
To be honest, I’d hate to be the test driver for this, except it does have a very long crumple zone, so the driver should be safe. Technically! It still looks like a shaving blade to me though so no; I’d not want this in my driveway!
20 Regina Q-Concept: When Your Fishbowl & Car Are The Same
Basically designed to be an ergonomically-designed space-saver thing that was hung between being a car and bike, the Regina Q-concept was just 2.5m long.
According to Car Magazine, this was an electric car and the range was around 6 miles or so.
The makers of the car claimed that the cabin was configurable as per personal needs – while the standard design was a bike-like seating for two adults, you could put in two child seats at the back instead of an adult pew. Apparently, it could also be reconfigured into a delivery van with a cargo bay out at the back, though not sure if space would have been enough for it to be a functional delivery “truck”. No takers went for this and so it remained a concept, reminiscent of a fishbowl…
19 Want A Car That Swims? Try The Tang Hua Detroit Fish
To begin with, while a car that can turn into a submarine of sorts looks great in spy movies with a comic or cartoonish twist, it would be very strange to have an actual car brought to life. But if something has been imagined, someone will always end up making it and in that unfortunate turn of events came the Tang Hua Detroit Fish. According to Jalopnik, Tang Hua wanted "environmentalists" like George Bush to buy this car for his ranch to support its rather clean energy and to give it a marketing push. Why anyone would want a car that could be “driven” in water is anyone’s guess, given Detroit’s not-so-clean waterways.
18 At Home With The Fifth Element: Peugeot Moovie
The Peugeot Moovie was the result of a car-designing contest that Peugeot came out with in 2005 and was won by Andre Costa, a Portuguese car designer. The Moovie was intended to be an agile and tiny concept car that was also eco-friendly and took some three months to make – from the digital design to the actual unveiling. According to Concept Carz, the Moovie was pretty well designed.
The doors housed the rear wheels and opened to allow access to the passenger compartment but also reduced the energy consumption because of the large wheel dimensions.
Two spheres located in the front also allowed for intense agility. No wonder Costa won the trophy, though of course, the car remained a concept – perhaps because we aren’t ready for such tiny and futuristic models yet.
17 Chrysler Turboflite: The Car That Should Have Been Able To Fly
Unlike many other ambitiously amphibious projects, the Chrysler Turboflite was never meant to fly but it did borrow its designing from aircrafts in general. It was introduced in 1961 and at the time, the American dream was all about going to space. It had a smaller and more aerodynamically-designed front to reduce drag and the entire roof opened canopy-style for easy entry and exit.
According to Hemming, the rear-end wing was an adaptation from aircraft wings and was used to help the driver instantly brake whilst driving at high speeds since it added drag to the car.
Very futuristic but had it been made, perhaps the number of automobile accidents would have risen spectacularly!
16 Sbarro Autobau: The Original Transformer of 2010
Strangely enough, the Sbarro Autobau of 2010 was a tribute by Sbarro to Swiss racing driver Fredy Lienhard. Unfortunately, all the people who saw the car were thinking of how butt-ugly it was. It looks like a beast, and the rather clamshell-like opening it had to let in the passengers felt like no one would ever be coming out of it. The front of the car is very reminiscent of a Cylon Raider from Battleship Galactica but far more frightening. And if the beginning of the car is bad, the end is hellish – a gigantic overhang that Jalopnik feels would fail to clear any incline over four degrees. We are very glad this remained a concept, having this drive up behind us would probably send us screaming for mommy.
15 Kia KCV-II: Far Too Much Styling, Too Little Vehicle
The 2002 Kia KCV-II looks like a car with a little too much on its mind and too little space to actually carry it off. Aimed at the youth, it was supposed to provide the driver with a sporty experience coupled with the ease of a small car but as far as the styling is concerned, it tried to put in too much all at once.
Designed to be a city car as well as a light off-road vehicle, the car never really picked up though it did have some good technology in it.
The Kia KCV-II debuted an unitary-construction platform with flexible body architecture capable of supporting a number of body styles, according to Car Styling. Plus it also boasted of added technology like advanced airbags, tire pressure sensors, active headrests and emergency brake assist.
14 When Your Bank Vault Doubles Up As A Car: Ford SYNus
It looks like a giant but is basically the size of a Mini Cooper, and on the same frame as that of a Ford Fiesta. When it debuted in 2005, journalists and critics called this car all sorts of names like hideous to hilarious. Why? Because while the car is maneuverable enough given its size, and can deflect the worst of traffic, it can also deflect any stray bullets headed your way. The car is bulletproof and well, looks unmistakably like a vault on wheels.
The US market wasn’t able to get over its size though since the only B-grade car in the US is the Mini, and it is not a vault and nor can it deflect bullets.
So, it remained a concept car. To be honest, it would have come in handy if you lived in that part of town!
13 Lexus LF-SA: Too Tiny A Car To Carry The Futuristic Design
So this may just work because most who see it, love it or hate it with strong intensity. To some, it’s the perfect dream small car, and to some, it’s some sort of alien life-form trying to take over the Earth. It was brought forward in 2015, to mark Lexus’s 25th anniversary and seems a tad strange to anyone who looks at it. According to Car and Driver, there was no mention of the powertrain of the car when it was released and that disappointed the people who liked the design, and made the other half heave a sigh of relief. If you didn’t know what powered the car and by how much, then you couldn’t really like it all that much!
12 When Your SUV Has An Identity Crisis: Scion Hako
So when the name of a car means a box, you can expect it to be boxy. Thus the Scion Hako, which looks like a very orange box on wheels. Also, the design is supposed to be American vintage which is where they lost me. The Hako does remind me of a bento box but there is nothing American or vintage about it. It is ugly though. According to Jalopnik, the inside is still better with a trackball mount on the steering and video screens everywhere for people to stop watching the road, and go off it instead. According to Scion’s press release, “To complete the package, the rear bumper has an integrated fog and back up light on the left and exhaust on the right.”. Strange, right?
11 Cadillac Cimarron PPG: A Poetic Monster With Too Much Baggage
So the Cadillac Cimarron was the one vehicle that nearly single-handedly destroyed Cadillac’s then popular image by being the most overpriced thing around, luxury be damned.
Cadillac product director John Howell displays a picture of the horridly unsuccessful Cimarron on his wall with the caption ‘Lest we Forget', according to Car and Driver.
This car did make its way to production and sold some 132,559 during the 8 model years. In 1988 the Cimarron died a rather inconsequential death after being tagged as the Cadvalier! The idea was to launch a compact Cadillac – but Cadillac buyers did not like the small size or the over-priced tag and so the car managed to sell only one-third of its availability, even on good days.
10 Mercedes-Benz Vision Tokyo: The Car With A Baleen Grille
The Mercedes-Benz Vision Tokyo basically promises you a whale of a time, even when you are stuck in badly congested traffic in cities like Tokyo. First, you don’t have to drive the car, it drives itself. Secondly, the inside will feel more like a futuristic limo with round-seating than traditional seating of cars. The perforated leather seats let LED light stream in while the windows let in the light but keep out prying eyes. According to Mashable, the car runs on a hydrogen cell fuel couple with a battery for a range of 600+ miles. Self-driven cars that look like whales. Now, what is the world coming to, and in which car?
9 Sbarro Assystem City Car: A Car That Looks Like A Shoe
This car reminds me of the old man who lived in a shoe. Or wait, maybe the bump-and-go cars in arcades. The wheels are not set the way you’d expect them to – in fact are aligned with the car’s rather strange and elongated muzzle in a diamond shape. So to turn the car, the first and last wheel turn and the car turns itself. The windshield is not a windshield, but a screen where cameras mounted on the outside show you a crystal clear picture of where you are at. So yes, pretty arcade again. According to Sbarro, it weighs only 700kg and the battery is in the middle of the car. The thing is, Franco Sbarro may as well have designed the future with this car, but finding takers will prove to be an uphill battle.
8 The Toyota P.O.D: In Case Apple Wasn’t Enough Pod For You
The 2001 Toyota P.O.D. was made as a collaboration between Toyota and Sony, but to me, it looks like a toaster on wheels and instead of people getting in and out, I can visualize bread slices. But that’s just me. Seriously speaking, the car is basically an innovation where Sony showcased its DSRC (Dedicated Short Range Communication) system that would have allowed drivers to communicate directly with others around them, according to Car and Driver. Considering today’s road rage, Sony would have to install a cuss-word warning sensor as well.
The car also boasted of being able to detect objects beyond visual range, followed by a warning to the driver to make driving safer.
Of course, the P.O.D. never got launched but in 2018, Toyota will showcase the e-palette – a car that could be the next Uber, Amazon delivery service or Food Truck.
7 The Jetson’s Car Is Alive: Studebaker-Packard Astral
Is it just me or does the Studebaker-Packard Astral look like the flying car from the yesteryear, futuristic cartoon flick, The Jetsons? Brought out in 1957, we don’t think there was ever a working model to this. Why? Well, which car have you heard of that is atomically powered, gyroscopically balanced on one wheel, could hover at low altitudes over water and land, and had a protective curtain of energy that made collisions impossible. That is how Jalopnik describes it and basically, it is still nigh well impossible to make it so in 1957, it was just a very vague dream of the future that still hasn’t arrived.
6 When You Want A Patio On Wheels: Suzuki Mobile Terrace
According to Car Design News, the Suzuki Mobile Terrace was four meters long, offered a six-seat capsule and was basically designed to give people a place for casual gathering when you wanted to let the outdoors in.
The car has no discernible front or rear and the sides are symmetrical – the idea perhaps was to create an orb-like structure that maximized the contact with nature.
Driving it was cool, but the vehicle is like an extended picnic place that once parked at the right spot, would open up on every side and let the great outdoors in. There is plenty technology in it for people to enjoy as well, as the seats could rearrange around a 22-inch touchscreen so letting in the worlds of gaming and the internet.
5 Just One Very Ugly Car: Volkswagen Concept T
So Volkswagen tried to marry an SUV with a sports car, and in doing so gave birth to the really ugly lovechild, the Concept T. You couldn’t fault the car on the power though.
According to Car Styling, it came equipped with a 241 horsepower V-6 front-mounted transverse engine which could make the car accelerate to 62.5 mph in 6.9 seconds.
The top speed is electronically limited to 144 mph though so there is only so much in this one for the speed devil in you. It did have an automatic gearbox with manual shift option (Tiptronic) with a permanent all-wheel drive but it was the excessive styling the turned everyone off. Wing doors, T-bar roof, headlights that "float" in the bumper and extremely wide, upwardly arching fenders made it not a very nice car to look at. It looks like a scorpion on the sand.
4 Mercedes-Benz Vision SLA Concept: Too Much On The Outside
According to Car and Driver, the Mercedes Vision SLA was the result of a design study of a roadster based on the European market A-Class minivan. We feel the study went a bit wrong. So the SLA is small and light, made out of aluminum and plastic to keep the weight down and also had 19-inch wheels. For the European and Asian markets, that sounds fine but American may not quite agree on a Mercedes that’s chipmunk sized! For a car this small, there is yet again too many design elements in it so it ends up looking like a toy version of the real thing, and better suited to the flashy but unsavory elements of the society. Also, how safe is a car made of plastic?
3 Honda Fuya-Jo: When You Want A Double-Decker-ish Car
When the Honda envisaged the Fuya-Jo, it clearly was designing a car for those addicted to the night among other things and was perhaps thought off by someone in a “high” moment as well. So apparently the height of the vehicle allowed its inebriated occupants to carry on the party, by standing and dancing in the car while hopping from one destination to the other. In fact, once you get in the car, it’s like you never left disco behind since the dashboard has been designed to look like a DJs desk with the steering wheel looking like a turntable of some sort. Honda PR called it a "short yet tall 4-seater that induces the same kind of experience as riding skateboards or roller blades, or dancing in clubs.” Obviously, it had a powerful sound system. But no one wanted it, thankfully.
2 Buick Cielo: Too Classic A Car For The 90s
When the Buick Cielo Concept was launched in 1999, the classic convertible came years too late. By now everyone wanted a sleek car and not a convertible with a 1960s hangover.
According to Concept Carz, the Cielo came from years of styling upped to a contemporary look with the interiors being open, simple and clean.
Most of the controls and gauges were hidden from view until needed to add to the subtlety of the design. With a keyless ignition, the Cielo was definitely at par with the technology of the times with voice-activated systems to open and close doors and operate the uniquely designed convertible top. But the car never made it to production and we think it came too late in the day to garner actual interest.
1 Nissan Pivo: A Rotating Car? Too Much Movement!
Guaranteed motion sickness for sure. First introduced in 2005, Top Gear says that the Pivo had an electric base which would have been interesting but for Nissan’s continuous spiel about the 360-degree rotating cabin. So basically according to Nissan, with the Pivo, you never have to reverse anymore. And since the cabin was almost all glass, you could also have the pleasure of people staring at you and your car with varied emotions of shock, horror, and hilarity. The high point was the high-performance compact lithium-ion battery with the company’s ‘Super Motor’, resulting in zero emissions. But even with the Pivo 2 that looked even more insane than the original design, all Nissan wanted to talk about was the rotating cabin and the innovative shape that to us seems claustrophobia-inducing, and just too strange to be a car.
Sources: Motor Hub, Car and Driver, Car Magazine, Net Atlas, Jalopnik, Top Gear