Top 10 Forgotten Concept Cars
Richard Heseltine looks back at ten concept cars that time forgot
The 1987 Vision was the first concept car built with the ASC name being above the title rather than as a subcontractor to a ‘name’ brand. Making its debut at that year’s Geneva Motor Show, this brave new world was bodied in steel, save for its ‘flexible urethane wheel skirts’ and ‘unique electrically-controlled rear decklid spoiler that adjusts to varying driving requirements.’ The promotional bumf insisted that the Vision was: ‘a study in aerodynamics and contemporary styling, conducted by a company that is a world leader in the sunroof, convertible and speciality automobile industries'. The Vision was designed and developed by the Michigan-based company solely as a show and idea car.
AutoFact: The Vision featured a circular sunroof which rotated electrically.
Chevrolet Corvette Indy
This intriguing project was given the green light in late 1985, the idea being to build a dramatic flight of fantasy that would promote Chevrolet’s branding of the Indy racing engine built by Northampton’s Ilmor Engineering. It was originally intended to be a ‘quickie’ prototype and nothing more. The ‘car’ displayed at the following year’s North American International Auto Show developed from clay model to 1:1 scale show queen in just six weeks. It was a non-runner, the transversely-mounted twin-turbo 2.65-litre engine being in place for decorative purposes only. Two further variants on the theme were made subsequently, one of them functional.
AutoFact: GM followed through with the 1990 CERV III which was powered by a twin-turbo Lotus-built engine.
OSI Ford Mustang
Who, precisely, dreamed up the OSI Mustang is lost to history, but this Italian confection was clearly more than a mere re-bodying exercise. While retaining the donor car’s 271bhp V8, the wheelbase was shortened from 2473mm to 2400mm. OSI’s brave new world didn’t share even a passing resemblance to the car that bore it save for the badges. Riding on knock-off Borrani wire wheels, and bodied in glassfibre, the car’s signature feature was the fold-flat headlight arrangement which foretold the Porsche 928. Inside, there was the obligatory mahogany dash, alloy-spoked steering wheel and a mixture of burgundy leather and plaid trim.
AutoFact: The car was shown at the 1965 Turin Motor Show and has since disappeared.
These days, even the most basic forms of motorised transportation feature a raft of computational devices that monitor just about everything. It wasn’t always thus, although the Buick Questor foretold the future more than 30 years ago. First seen at the 1983 Chicago Auto Show, this brave new world featured fourteen computers and was operated by a ‘laser key’ which opened the driver’s door via an ‘invisible light beam’. Other niceties included a navigation system (a sort of forerunner to a SatNav) and a touch-screen command centre which allowed you to make calls on the move via a radiotelephone.
AutoFact: One feature that resolutely anchored it in the early ’80s was the cassette tape deck.
The 1960s witnessed its fair share of small concept cars; the sort of stuff that promised to foretell what urbanites would be driving decades down the line. The OSI City-Daf was one such contraption. Based on an abbreviated Daf Daffodil chassis, the car’s body was styled under studio chief Sergio Sartorelli, the signature feature being its unusual door arrangement. On the left-hand (driver’s) side, there was a single sliding door that employed using a rail-and-ball system similar to those used on commercial vehicles. On the right-hand side, however, was a normal passenger door and rear ‘suicide’ door.
AutoFact: The City-Daf was immortalised in toy form by Corgi.
American car buyers have never really taken three-wheelers to heart, which may explain why this intriguing curio is nowadays forgotten. The Runabout was one of three General Motors show cars built for the 1964 World’s Fair, the other being the GM-X and Firebird IV. It was intended to showcase design innovation, and this sleek trike wasn’t without interesting features. For starters, it didn’t have conventional doors. The windscreen formed part of a canopy that lifted up and forward, allowing passengers entry to the cabin. Not only that, the lower rear section of the outer body incorporated a shopping trolley.
AutoFact: In 1969, GM built the XP 511 Commuter Car which was intended for short urban journeys.
The 1960s saw the emergence of the car design competition, many promising to transform the winner’s rendering into a fully-functional, three-dimensional reality. The boxy device seen here was the result of one such contest. The Aruanda was designed by Brazilian architecture student Ari de Rocha in 1963, and built by Fissore in 1964, but it wasn’t seen publicly for another year. The São Paulista devised a ‘one-box’ machine which was notionally powered by either a petrol engine or a raft of batteries. In reality, basis for the car was a cut ’n’ shut Fiat 500 Giardinetta, complete with 499cc ‘twin’ out back.
AutoFact: Fissore unleashed the brilliantly-named Mongho 650 city car at the 1969 Turin Motor Show.
Pininfarina Cr 25
The 1970s wasn’t without its fair share of styling fads, the angular ‘origami’ look chief among them. Then there was the rise of the safety vehicle, with manufacturers vying to create the most crash-resistant concept vehicle. Oh, and let’s not forget the many aerodynamic styling studies. In many ways, this 1974 offering was an amalgam of all three prevailing trends. It was the first car to be developed in the Turin firm’s newly-built, full-size wind-tunnel and was reputedly powered by a Ferrari flat-12 unit. The Cr 25 also boasted a drag coefficient of just 0.256 and moving body flaps to aid braking.
AutoFact: Pinin’ claimed a top speed in excess of 200mph. It was a non-runner…
Designed in 1965, this boxy device wasn’t seen publicly until the 1968 New York International Auto Show. According to period PR bumf, this brave new world 'has provided a test bed for more than 50 innovations which might become Ford “better ideas” for the future.’ And by 'future', it was referring to the near-future. ‘Ford’s Car of the Seventies has a honeycomb construction steel platform and bonded body panels first seen on the Ford MkIV sports-prototype,’ it continued. ‘Occupants have unobstructed front visibility through a structural windshield that literally wraps around. It completely eliminates the front corner pillars’.
AutoFact: The Techna was equipped with an ‘odour detector’.
Ghia Lancia Fulvia HF1600 Competizione
This intriguing curio was allegedly conceived with motorsport in mind, except the legend surrounding this car is true in its generalities but ambiguous in its specifics. It was one of a raft of one-off Lancias to emerge from the Ghia styling house in the late ’60s as the firm’s most recent custodian Alejandro de Tomaso sought to entice Ford into helping him acquire the cash-strapped marque. The only jarring aspect was its signature feature – a movable rear spoiler. The centre rear deck lid could be raised on hydraulic arms to become an aerofoil-like rear wing that was adjustable for rake.
AutoFact: It was powered by a Group 4-spec 1584cc Lancia Corse V4 engine.
Pictures courtesy of Rota Archive