As the saying goes, hindsight is always 20/20. When looking into the past, it becomes so apparent why many things succeed or fail. However, when reflecting on the past, sometimes things can be found which feel out of time, reflecting future trends before anyone else. In the car world, this phenomena happens all the time. When looking back at all the cars that have come and gone, many stand out for being ahead of the curve in their technology and design. The 10 cars assembled here are those cars that were special for how they looked to the future, being way ahead of their own times.
10 Audi A2
Audi has a long history of producing great cars that are beloved by a devoted fan base. However, a car in the German car manufacturer's catalog that is often overlooked is the revolutionary A2. Nowadays, fuel efficiency is very important to the car-buying public, with Audi turning some of their cars electric.
However, back in the late ’90s, Audi made brand new steps toward efficiency with the A2. The A2 is known for its aluminum body, which was durable yet extremely light. This, paired with a tuned engine, made the A2 one of the most efficient cars of its time, predicting the market shift toward a fuel-conscious car buying populous.
9 Sebring-Vanguard Citicar
It is always sad to see when great and interesting cars are lost to the sands of time. Most of the time, the classics by the big name brand manufacturers are remembered, while the more inventive and smaller brand cars are swept under the rug.
However, with the Internet, these forgotten treasures are able to be found and given the appreciation they always deserved. One car that is often overlooked is the Sebring-Vanguard Citicar. During the 1970s gas crisis, many looked for alternatives to petrol. Enter the Citicar, the biggest selling electric car until Tesla came around. Though this little thing was slow, it paved the way for the electric dominated car market of today.
8 Aston Martin Lagonda
The Lagonda brand, bought by Aston Martin in the 1940s, has off and on appeared on the luxury market. While there have been multiple iterations of cars called the Lagonda, the one that matters in this context is the 1976 model. This model was extremely forward-thinking with its use of touch screen controls and plasma displays. While these controls are commonplace now, they were completely unheard of in the mid-70s. It wouldn't be until two decades later when this technology finally started getting fully integrated into cars, and many drivers could not imagine driving without plasma displays and touch screen controls. It is because of this want to include the most cutting edge technology available that the Lagonda is often remembered as a car way ahead of its own time.
7 Porsche 959
Some cars are seen as ahead of their time because of their use of technology or design, signaling where trends will go. However, many cars are ahead of their time because they push the boundaries of automotive technology forward. This is most certainly the case for the Porsche 959, which during its run from 1986 to 1993 was the fastest street-legal production sports car.
The 959 topped out at just under 200-miles per hour, unheard of in the mid-1980s, especially for cars meant to be driven on the street. With its twin-turbocharged engine and aerodynamic design, the 959 set the standard for modern sports cars, showing how to achieve such amazing speeds while maintaining comfort and style.
6 AMC Eagle
Looking back at them, AMC was a bizarre car company. The American Motors Corporation was only around from 1954 to 1988, and produced a variety of consumer and commercial vehicles; from public transit buses, to Pacers, to Jeep Cherokees, to the ever weird Gremlin. However, AMC had a futuristic breakthrough with the AMC Eagle, considered by many to be the true first crossover. While the Eagle was not popular in its heyday of the early ’80s, its innovations can still be felt to this day. The Eagle advertised itself on being able to comfortably move many through the toughest weather conditions. This, in turn, created the modern concept of the crossover; or, a vehicle that drives like a normal car, yet can handle snow, rain and go off-road.
5 Chrysler Turbine Car
Many cars of the 20th century dreamed of a future runoff atomic energy, with flying, jet-engine cars. While the ’50s and ’60s optimism for the future may not have come true, some ideas from the atomic age were ahead of their time. One of the most bizarre is the Chrysler Turbine Car, built from 1963 to 1964. The turbine engine used in this car was extremely ahead of its time, able to run multiple types of fuels, required less maintenance, and was much lighter than a standard engine. While these advancements have not been the wave of the future, car manufacturers are still trying to use turbine engines to power cars, with the Chrysler Turbine Car trailblazing the ways over 50 years ago.
4 GM EV1
Although it is sad to admit, it can be quite obvious why some cars are considered classic or groundbreaking while others fade from memory. Some cars just come out at the wrong time, or cannot quite make the impact they need to. One of these cars is the GM EV1, produced from 1996-1999. The EV1 made history being the first electric car to be produced by a major car brand, with just over 1,000 units created.
During its limited run, the EV1 was only on lease to potential buyers, with GM discovering that selling the car would be at a loss. After the lease period, and to the chagrin of EV1 drivers, almost every model was collected and destroyed, explaining why the EV1 is rarely heard about. Now almost every car manufacturer makes an all-electric vehicle of some kind, however, the EV1 was a necessary step to get the industry to where it is now.
3 Toyota Prius
In the 21st century, many Americans have started to care about the climate, and how it is changing. Decades of scientific research have pointed to humanity as the cause, with an over-dependence on fossil fuels being where most of humanity's carbon footprint has come from. As the world tries to figure what can be done, the automotive industry has slowly been turning to electric vehicles. Though not the first electric car by any shot, the Toyota Prius broke new ground by normalizing the notion of an electric car. Electric cars before Prius were either extremely underpowered or too expensive to mass-produce. However, the Prius changed everything by being a mass-produced electric car by a massive car company, which was affordable and capable of driving anywhere. Although there would still be electric vehicles without it, the Prius convinced the public that electric cars are just as capable as gasoline ones.
2 Toyota RAV4
Being ahead of one's time does not always mean being the first. Many cars advance technology, yet they do not reach an audience or cannot make enough of a dent in the car-buying market. However, it sometimes takes a car with more funding behind it to truly change things. This is most certainly the case for the Toyota RAV4, which set the stage for the modern crossover vehicle. With the RAV4, Toyota was aiming at a market that wanted the benefits of an SUV, but in a smaller, more eco-friendly body. While the RAV4 was not the first to offer this kind of vehicle, it was the first to catch the public's eye, becoming a quite successful make for Toyota. If fact, RAV4s are still being produced to this day, displaying how Toyota cultivated (at the time) mostly untapped market.
1 Baker Electric Car
It is always amazing to find a piece of technology that predicts the future, especially if said technology is 100+ years old. In the early 1900s, Baker Electrics produced a few models of completely electric cars. These cars were noteworthy not only due to their power source but also that they were built for racing. However, during a 1902 race, a Baker Electric car flew off the road and into a crowd of pedestrians, killing two. It is speculated that this incident dampened public interest in electric vehicles, being stigmatized as unsafe. However, in today's exceedingly the electric car-dominated world, one can't help but see the Baker Electric Car as the forefather to all electric powered cars that have come in the 100+ years since its invention.