Concept cars are vehicle prototypes that have been constructed to showcase new design concepts and technologies. Often they are displayed in the world’s largest motor shows in order the gauge the opinion of the press and the public alike before refining them for possible production. They’re are enigmas, as you just never know what you’re going to get. In some cases, you get the most amazing pieces of machinery you’ve ever seen, but oftentimes, you are stuck looking at a real-life version of “The Homer.” And while former are truly amazing and well worthy of their iconic status and, in some instances, exorbitant sticker, the latter are often hidden away or even crushed in order to stop reminding people how bad a car can actually get given the opportunity.
This time we’re digging deep and bringing you this here list of 15 concept cars that can be rightfully considered some of the most important concepts of all time and 15 that have failed spectacularly. Although not all of them have made production, every single one of them has had some kind of an impact on the automotive industry during its 15 minutes of fame (or infamy, for that matter). Some of them have influenced iconic cars while others have practically revolutionized the market, whether by introducing the radical new styling or technology to move the car industry forward. Others… Well, the less said, the better, I guess.
In no particular order, here they are.
The Best Concept Cars
15. BMW GINA – 2008
GINA is an acronym for “Geometry and functions In ‘N’ Adaptions” which is not the best of acronyms the Bavarians have come up with over the years, I’ll admit. However, when it comes to GINA’s styling, you’ll agree this concept’s something else. Apart from looking amazing, there’s one more fact that makes the BMW GINA stand out from the crowd. The material used for this car is modified Spandex, which is resistant to water and much more durable than other materials used in the automobile industry. This also means that the frame is adjustable which allows the driver to change the shape of the car. The reason for the GINA concept was to allow designers to step outside their comfort zones and explore totally new avenues in car design.
14. Chrysler ME Four-Twelve – 2004
When Daimler and Chrysler got married in 1998, it was evident that latter of the two would need to catch up to the former in terms of technology. With that in mind, a small team of engineers under the helm of SRT chief Dan Knott set out on creating a concept that would elevate Chrysler in status in an instance. The Chrysler ME Four-Twelve was a truly beautiful mid-engined supercar that was designed to eventually go into production, though only one functioning example was ever built. It was powered by a Mercedes-sourced 6.0L V12 engine with four turbochargers which developed 850 horsepower and gave the ME a 0 to 100 mph acceleration time of 6.2 seconds and a 0 to 60 mph acceleration time of an amazing 2.9 seconds. Furthermore, the estimated top speed was 248 mph. These figures are still more than respectable today and they would have made the Four-Twelve the fastest production car in the world back then. Just imagine where the Chrysler brand could have been had the ME made production! It is said that the reason it never made it to production was the high development cost and to this day, it remains one of the biggest what if’s in the 21st century auto industry.
13. Buick Y-Job – 1938
The Y-Job is arguably one of the most important concepts of all time, being the first concept car ever made, and all. Although it never made production, its influence is everlasting. Its waterfall grille still adorns modern Buicks today. Furthermore, most of Buick models used the Y-Job’s styling cues until the fifties. At the time, the Y-Job featured contemporary equipment like hidden headlamps, power windows and power top that went completely out of sight below the car’s tonneau. It didn’t make production, but that doesn’t mean it didn’t move around either. It was driven by none other than GM design chief Harley Earl. He loved it so much that he only replaced it when an even more radical LeSabre concept came out in 1951.
12. Ferrari 512S Modulo – 1970
Considered by many as “the ultimate wedge car,” the Modulo was fully designed by Pinnifarina. The car premiered at the Geneva Motor Show in 1970 and was met with universal acclaim as both the public and the car critics were impressed with its futuristic design. Too futuristic even, which resulted in Modulo never becoming a mass-production car. The only Modulo ever produced is today owned by a famous car collector, James Glickenhaus. He is putting an effort to restore this beast to its original condition, making it capable of producing a top speed of 200 mph and accelerating from zero to sixty in just over 3 seconds.
11. Lamborghini Marzal – 1967
Speaking of wedge-shaped cars, the Lamborghini Marzal is their grandfather of sorts. If being the first wedge ever produced doesn’t justify its appearance on this here list, then I don’t know what does. And we have then 29 years old Marcello Gandini of Bertone to thank for it. You know, the designer of Miura, Countach, and Diablo among other things. Marzal was also introduced in Geneva, only three years prior to the aforementioned Modulo. It featured fully transparent gullwing doors and a louvered rear window. 175 horsepower from a 2.0L in-line six engine wasn’t all that much by Lamborghini’s standards, but that didn’t really matter for a one-off concept. Design would later be used in the Lamborghini Espada which was produced between 1968 and 1978, and was also designed by Gandini.
10. Porsche 695 and 901 – 1961 and 1963
The Porsche 911 is a quintessential sporting icon and one of the most famous cars ever produced. Like most cars, it started off as a concept, or rather two separate concepts which is just another one of the traits that make it so unique in the auto world. Porsche 695 (T7 prototype) was introduced in 1961, and one can see the resemblance between it and the production model (or a modern 911 for that matter) at first sight. Well, at least up front. Problem was the somehow unattractive rear end, and the German automaker resorted to making a whole new concept dubbed the Porsche 901. That was also the name the production model was supposed to be called, but Peugeot had the rights for using the three digit nomenclature with zero in the middle, so the Germans simply replaced zero with the next available number, and the rest is history. Peculiarly, they didn’t do it soon enough for the first 82 models sold which already wore the 901 badge.
09. Chevrolet Aerovette – 1976
Zora Arkus-Duntov’s mid-engined Corvette dream car stems from 1969 when the iconic constructor created two XP-882 concept cars with that coveted engine configuration. John DeLorean quickly killed off the project due to high production costs and impracticality. However, he was forced to reconsider his actions when Ford made their new move. Blue Oval started marketing DeTomaso Panteras which too, were mid-engined. DeLorean realized Chevy had to answer the challenge and he already had the perfect car. So he ordered one of the prototypes tidied up for the 1970 New York Auto Show.
The work continued, but under the new code name XP-895 and Bill Mitchell’s supervision. You might also remember that GM had developed their own rotary engine at the time. Needless to say, the XP-895 would get the four-rotor Wankel engine instead of its predecessor’s big-block V8. This is also the time when the Aerovette name first enters the fray. Duntov wanted additional body for the XP-895 chassis, and GM design team answered the call. Exactly who of them is responsible for the meticulous Aerovette, is not known. What is evident, however, is the fact that Aerovette had heavily influenced all future Corvettes.
Then came the oil embargo and GM killed off its rotary program. In the process, they also killed off the Aerovette that became known as the Four Rotor Car. After three years, however, Bill Mitchell again decided to brush the dust away from it. Aerovette would emerge yet again in 1976, but this time with a 400 cu in small-block Chevy V8 stuffed in its midsection. With drag coefficient of 0.325, the Aerovette was “the thing”. It was all over the mags of the time, and it finally got the green light for 1980 model year. By then, however, Duntov, Mitchell, DeLorean, and Cole were all retired or gone from GM. Mid-engined Aerovette simply wasn’t meant to be.
08. Pontiac Banshee – 1965
Dubbed the XP-833 project, the Pontiac Banshee became a series of prototype dream cars that were commissioned, but in reality, never stood a chance. Why? Because Chevrolet wouldn’t let them be. In mid sixties when Ford scored a grand slam home run with the Mustang and Shelby, the last thing Chevrolet needed was in-house competition. Especially for the only true American two-seat sports car of the time – the Corvette.
The XP-833 was approved by John DeLorean in 1963, and heavily influenced by Corvair Monza GT presented that very same year. Bill Collins, former staff engineer of Pontiac’s Advanced Engineering, immediately started working on it. It was his dream come true ever since 1958 when he first arrived at Pontiac. Two prototypes were initially constructed. First one was a silver hardtop with 165-horsepower Pontiac straight-six engine. It used a basic one-barrel Rochester carburetor instead of a four-barrel version from the Sprint package, hence the low output. The other one, however, was a white coupe stuffed with a much more potent 326 cu in V8. On question whether he and his team had plans on using the 421 cu in Large-Journal V8, Collins replied:
“You’re talking to the guy who did the original GTO… what do you think? But we didn’t want to scare the corporation off initially by showing off too much. We’d have worked our way up to the big engines after the start of production.”
This is another reason why the XP-833 was cancelled. It had potential. Tons of potential, actually. In mid-1965, when the prototypes were finally presented, James Roche, then GM chairman declined further funding. Risks of Banshee strangling, equal in terms of performance (if not worse), yet much more expensive Corvette were simply too great. Instead, it ironically served as C3 Corvette’s inspiration. Furthermore, it inspired the likes of the Opel GT in 1967, and 1970 Firebirds. The Banshee was finally given justice in 2005 when Pontiac marketed their first true 2-seater sports car – the Solstice (if you don’t count Fiero among such). Banshee II, III and IV concepts would appear in 1968, 1974 and 1988 respectively, but as we know, would never produce a direct offspring.
07. Nissan MID4 and MID4 II – 1985 and 1987
The Nissan MID4 and MID4 II prototypes were the silent partners behind the Japanese cars’ successes. True, they were only concept cars which never saw production, but technology utilized in their creation found its use in all subsequent Nissans like the Skyline, 300ZX and Silvia. Furthermore, although they were intended as Ferrari and Porsche fighters, they could easily be related to another supercar that would make its appearance a few years later. It is as if the MID4 prophesied the appearance of Honda/Acura NSX.
The project started in 1984 when Shinichiro Sakurai, then head of the Skyline team, started building his first prototype cars. He was involved with Skyline since nameplate’s inauguration in 1957 by the Prince Motor Company. Four MID4 prototypes were completed within a year, making them ready for the 1985 Frankfurt Auto Show. They were powered by four-cam and 24-valve 3.0L VG30DE V6 tuned to 230 horsepower. Mid-engined prototype boasted a 33/67 rear wheel bias, an all-wheel drive that would evolve into the ATTESA system, and then fresh all-wheel steering system that was to become known as the HICAS.
Project would evolve into the MID4 II powered by a twin-turbocharged 3.0L VG30DETT V6 packing 325 horsepower. It was presented at the 1987 Tokyo Auto Show, and by that time Nissan was on the verge of making a breakthrough on behalf of the entire Japanese auto industry. When they calculated the costs of such car’s production, however, the Nissan brass reconsidered. Developed MID4 was for a while viewed as a perfect candidate for the Infiniti brand launch in 1989. Instead, Infiniti started out with a more conservative M30. Although it ended up as one of numerous what-ifs of the auto industry, the Nissan MID4’s legacy is everlasting through the ongoing use of technology developed together with it.
06. AMC AMX/3 – 1970
The AMX/3 is probably the best AMC car we’ve never got. The mid-engined sports car had tons of potential, but the conservative AMC brass didn’t feel confident enough marketing something rather fresh and unusual to them, hence the $2 million project was ultimately scrapped. Little is known about a rather complicated development of the concept, and I’ll try to describe it in the following lines.
For starters, the idea comes from pushcar AMX/2 concept and AMC’s intention to reorganize the company. Declining sales forced them to do something, and the AMC brass agreed that performance is the way to go. Richard “Dick” Teague, the AMC’s then head of design was responsible for the AMX/2, but the brass wanted design competition for the AMX/3. Teague’s in-house team was pitted against then newfound Giorgetto Giugiaro’s ItalDesign. However, Giugiaro wasn’t all that interested and drew up a rather crude styrofoam mock-up that never stood a chance against Tucker’s fully developed fiberglass model. And that’s where ItalDesign’s contribution to the AMX/3 ends. Or is it?
At the same time, AMC was also looking for engineering help. BMW was their first option, but the Germans initially declined the prospect of working on the AMX/3 due to being busy with their own affairs. It was then Giotto Bizzarrini who took up that cup. Losing his own company only a few months prior, Bizzarrini, together with his colleague Salvatore Diomante, was eager to make another impact on the automobile world. But he was only one man, and in need of help. It’s not exactly clear who hired whom, but Giugiaro’s ItalDesign got back into the AMX/3 project. It was actually Karmann who have secured the engineering project. They commissioned ItalDesign to oversee the project, and Giugiaro likely hired Bizzarrini to deliver the chassis. As I said, it was rather complicated.
Anyway, BMW got back as well later on, agreeing to thoroughly test the prototypes. They found the first prototype faulty due to weak and flexible frame. Second prototype, however, boasted torsional rigidity 50% higher than that of the benchmark Mercedes-Benz model. At some point, they even decided to upgrade the car by using their extensive resources and automotive connections throughout Germany. BMW’s last report dates from January 7, 1970, and the work still wasn’t done. However, the AMC AMX/3 was showcased two months later, in Rome before hitting the new York Auto Show in April. And then, out of the blue, it got cancelled. An abrupt and unfitting end to such an impressive work by a select handful of brilliant minds for sure, but that’s auto business sometimes. We’ll never know what might have happened to the AMC had they decided to market the car.
05. Volkswagen W12 Coupe – 1997
Volkswagen isn’t well known for making coupe cars. In fact, in the mid-1990s, they started to realize that themselves. VW’s CEO at the time, Ferdinand Piëch personally requested development of a supercar. Italdesign team came up with an idea for a coupe that would feature a 12-cylinder W engine, positioned in the middle and in 1997, first such car was constructed. The W12 debuted at the 1997 Tokyo Motor Show. Two other concept supercars followed in 1998 and 2001, named Roadster and Nardo, respectively. The engine itself would later be used in production, in the likes of Volkswagen Phaeton and Touareg, Audi A8, and Bentley Continental GT. It would also serve as a starting point for the Bugatti’s fabled W16 engine which first debuted in Veyron.
04. Willys Quad – 1940
Willys Quad was the prototype created in answering the U.S. Army’s call for new off-road vehicle that would serve in the WWII. Competition was stern with the American Bantam and Ford Pygmy standing in its way. As we now all know, the Willys MB is what came out of that competition as a winner, so its predecessor, the Quad, obviously impressed the most. There were five prototypes built for the purpose, and two of them were delivered for the competition at Camp Holabird, Maryland. One of the main reasons Quad beat its rivals was the more powerful Go-Devil engine with 60 horsepower. It was much heavier, though, but the production Willys MB would later “borrow” a number of details from its direct competitors in order to shed some weight. The rest is, as they say, history. In the end, after the WWII, the Quad/MB evolved into Willys CJ-2A. Sadly, neither of the Quad prototypes are known to have survived.
03. Mako Shark – 1961
The Mako Shark concept (named after the shortfin mako shark fish) or XP-755 concept car (it’s code name) is practically a preview of the second generation Chevrolet Corvette. Not only the second-gen, but pretty much every single generation of the ‘Vette after that. The Mako was assembled in 1961, and the C2 Corvette was launched two years later. The concept itself, designed by Larry Shinoda under Bill Mitchell’s guidance, was inspired by Mitchell’s own 1959 Stingray racer XP87 concept. That concept’s cues would also inspire the C2 Corvette Sting Ray. To date, the Mako Shark Corvette remains one of the most successful concept cars in terms of percentage of carried over features. When you look upon it and the production C2 Corvette, there’s the unmistakable sensation of how similar these cars are. There’s a back story to it as well. Mitchell wanted it to resemble the fish as much as possible, and design team simply couldn’t manage to find the right hue. So what did they do? They kidnapped the fish overnight and finally hit that sweet blue-gray tone with white underside and Mitchell was none the wiser.
02. Porsche Mission E – 2015
The Mission E concept may not be the sexiest Porsche ever built, as its mashup of the 911, Panamera, and Carrera GT doesn’t quite look as great as it sounds, but it is still an awesome, and above all revolutionary concept. Where the Mission E makes up for its odd looks is its powertrain consisting of two electric motors and a large 90-kWh liquid-cooled battery pack. This plug-in super-sedan produces more than 600 horsepower, which helps it get to 60 mph in less than 3.5 seconds and to 124 mph in under 12 seconds. What really pushes the Mission E over the edge of awesomeness is its driving range of more than 311 miles and its ability to recharge its battery to 80 percent in just 15 minutes thanks to a new 800-volt charging system that accompanies it. Most importantly, the Mission E concept car is actually entering production in 2020 as the Porsche Taycan which makes it one of the most important concept cars in recent years and one that’ll fundamentally change the direction in which the Porsche is heading as a brand. Sooner than you know it, a great number of sports cars will follow in its footsteps as well.
01. Cadillac Cien and Cadillac Sixteen – 2002 and 2003
Cadillac’s lineup has always been more or less intriguing but it could have been much more had they actually produced their back to back Detroit Auto Show concepts from 2002 and 2003. Named Cien and Sixteen respectively, these luxury vehicles represented two opposite visions, but they were equally sexy. The Cien was a rear mid-engined sports car with 750-horsepower 7.5L V12 engine, while the Sixteen, a full-size sedan, came with a 1,000-horsepower and 1,000 lb-ft of torque 13.6L V16 – as its name suggests. I know such behemoth powerplants are unimaginable in relatively affordable production cars and impractical to say the least, but the design was definitely worthy of production. In the end, it’s the idea that counts after all.
The Worst Concept Cars
15. Mercedes-Benz Bionic Car – 2005
The Mercedes-Benz Bionic was introduced at the Daimler Chrysler Innovation Symposium in Washington, D.C. At the time of its introduction, the Bionic had only one job in its mind – lower emissions. Although powered by 1.9L turbodiesel engine, it features up to 80% lower nitrogen oxide emissions – courtesy of its Selective Catalytic Reduction technology. Now, although quite advanced, the Mercedes-Benz Bionic doesn’t really showcase the most beautiful of designs. After all, it has been modeled after a fish. A Yellow Boxfish that lives in coral reefs, to be more precise. A subtle way to ruin what was a potential-oozing concept car back in the day.
14. Chrysler PT Cruiser (Pronto Cruizer) – 1999
The PT Cruiser had a loyal following and continues to have one to this day, as it is one of the more versatile vehicles available in the used-car marketplace (although age has now definitely caught up with it). However, if you were to look back at the Chrysler Pronto concept that previewed this funky, retro-inspired wagon, you may wonder why Chrysler changed it so much. The Pronto’s body was sleeker than that of the PT Cruiser, giving it a more modern look, and its coupe body catered to younger generations. We got a taste of this coupe setup with the short-lived PT Cruiser GT Convertible, but it still lacked the sexy curves of the Pronto concept. Not that the concept car itself was all that good, but it certainly had more to offer than the problematic production car. I think most would agree that this is not only one of the worst concept cars on this list, it was also a terrible production vehicle to boot.
13. Dodge Avenger – 2003
The Dodge Avenger actually lived two lives, and neither one was overly successful. At the 2003 Detroit Auto Show, the Avenger name wound up on a vehicle unlike any of its two production examples. The 2003 Avenger concept car was actually a precursor to the very annoying “crossover coupe” fad going on now. It was the X4 and X6 before there was an X4 or X6, as it was essentially a jacked-up four-door coupe with all-wheel drive and a sloped rear hatch. Although I find this segment annoying as hell today, back in 2003, this was actually innovative, and the Avenger could have really made an impact on the market had it carried this into production. Instead, we got a craptacular sedan that used some of the styling cues of this concept. Chrysler often finds a way to shoot at its own foot, doesn’t it?!
12. Pontiac Aztek – 1999
Another one of Detroit Auto Show’s busts, this one doesn’t come as a surprise really. What still baffles me, however, is the fact the car actually got the green light. Not only that, but it was basically carried over straight into production phase with little to no changes despite looking the way it did. The result was something every respectable car journalist simply had to condemn in a review. Come to think of it, the concept actually had a little bit more pizzazz to it than the production model, hence it probably looked better. Only slightly better though. Despite some strong points, the Aztek wound up a laughing stock of the American cars and probably will remain one for years to come.
11. Packard Twelve – 1998
The Packard Twelve concept car was a one-off attempt at reviving the long gone Packard brand. Roy Gullickson, an entrepreneur and engineer came to the idea back in 1991, and he finally acquired the rights and had completed the car in 1998 with the help of Lawrence Johnson, a fellow automotive engineer. Sadly, the fruit of their almost decade-long labor was one ugly $1.5 million investment. This all-wheel drive concept was finally presented at the 25th anniversary celebration of Arizona Packards in Tuscon, in October 1998. One of the precious few good points about the car was its custom-built 573-horsepower V12 mill. That and the fact it was actually sold for $143,000 at the Sotheby’s Motor City auction in 2014. I guess some things are just better left undisturbed.
10. Scion Hako Coupe – 2008
Here’s a proof that oddball compacts aren’t exclusively reserved for the Tokyo show. The Scion Hako Coupe based on the xB hatch first made its appearance in New York. However, as you can imagine by its highly unusual looks, it was actually put into motion by the Tokyo Design Division. Universally disliked by everyone who viewed the car on it’s debut, the Scion Hako Coupe blended all the charms of its rectangular xB role model with one of the fiberglass kits you can add to the front of your Chevy S-10 to make it look like a mini 18-wheeler. Normally automakers carefully store their very expensive hand-built concept cars for some future use. The Hako Coupe was chopped up and turned into an altogether different concept car, so the Hako you see in this photo no longer exists.
09. Tang Hua Book of Songs – 2008
Some might find this ugly duckling cute, but as far as concept cars go, the Chinese offspring are often as bad as they get. Even the name of this one is rather questionable. Naming a car “Book of Songs” is equivalent of calling your firstborn Velcro, or duct tape, or Jayden. You get the picture. The Book of Songs by Tang Hua is one rather petite electric car with a small electric motor up front and no trunk whatsoever. Since we’re already slamming it for its looks, try flipping the image of the Book of Songs upside down in your head. Once seen, it can’t be unseen! Can it? And the fact it actually premiered in Detroit as an insult to the auto industry as we know it.
08. Plymouth Voyager 3 – 1989
In 1989, America was minivan happy. All domestic and nearly every Asian import automakers had one, if not more, models of minivan in their line-up. Of course, Chrysler was the king, as they’d invented the segment. They were also trying to squeeze as many model types from one platform as possible out of necessity back then, so what could be a better move than to up the minivan stakes? The designers at Chrysler created a three-seat mini car for around town errands that could be mated to a larger, self-powered unit that carried five more passengers. Unfortunately it offered all the charm of an airport car rental bus. No one followed Chrysler on this one and rightfully so.
07. Buick Signia – 1998
If this was the winner in the internal Buick design contest, can you image what the losers looked like? General Motors’ press release at the Detroit Auto Show described it as follows: “Based on the architecture of the Park Avenue, the Signia is an upscale family sedan with SUV attributes designed for modern families on the go. Features include a high roof and seats for easy entry, inset rocker panels that prevent slush or mud from dripping on your pants, a removable hatchback for hauling large items, infrared sensors that detect objects in your blind spot and flexible cargo space, including a powered floor that extends 15 inches out the back. While the concept car showcases a number of new technologies, Buick executives say the Signia will not be built as it is.” Thank goodness. What’s more, the concept never materialized into anything. Instead it was left at the mercy of the elements in a desolate parking lot.
06. Sbarro Autobau – 2010
The Autobau was first presented in Geneva, and, boy, did it shock the crowd! It’s easily one of the ugliest cars we’ve ever seen, let alone one of the ugliest concept cars. It was intended as Swiss racer Fredy Lienhard’s tribute, but one wonders if Franco Sbarro secretly hated the guy given the Autobau’s aesthetics (or an apparent lack of). At least it’s powered by a beauty of an engine – a V12 Ferrari mill packing 500 horsepower that’s stuck in the back, somewhere under all these layers of whatever the Autobau is made of.
05. Lexus LF-SA – 2015
Although featuring the company’s current design language (which is a major improvement over the old design), the LF-SA is simply way too small to ever make production under the luxury automaker’s wing. Maybe if it was a Smart. Also, there’s the problem with it being a little bit too ugly for a Lexus. Concept cars are expected to be futuristic, free of usual constraints and wacky even, but the LF-SA takes all of the above mentioned in a wrong way. Furthermore, with only 11 feet of length, the LF-SA actually dares to accommodate up to four persons. Well, at least that’s what the rear seats are for, I hope.
04. Ford SYNus – 2005
There was a little bit of the 2004 Bronco concept in it, but the Ford SYNus never exhibited the same aspirations as the iconic SUV. Furthermore, the 2004 Bronco concept was simply badass, while the squared-off bank vault that was SYNus, never looked serious enough. Sure, it had the menacing front, but the rear, completed with four-spoke spin handled doors, was simply too much. Like the 2004 Bronco concept, the SYNus too was powered by a 2.0L turbodiesel 4-cylinder engine making 134 hp and 236 lb-ft of torque. It was built upon the Fiesta’s platform, though, which speaks a lot about its size in reality. The real purpose behind the SYNus was safety and everything else has been sacrificed for it. The SYNus has a lock down mode, metal shutters for windows, and it’s completely bulletproof, but that’s pretty much it.
03. Plymouth Expresso – 1994
The mid 1990s must have been heady days for the folks at Chrysler. The company that descended to bankruptcy and required a government bail-out to survive had dug themselves out of debt, repaid the feds, and were suddenly the talk of the industry with their new models. The Neon was viewed as a genuine import fighter at the time and the new Ram, with its big-rig good looks, had made Dodge a player in the light truck segment again. So perhaps they were just a little too giddy when the Plymouth Expresso was approved – a car that would have received better reviews had Chrysler debuted it in Tokyo rather than the Windy City, as they did.
02. Nissan Pivo 2 – 2007
The Nissan Pivo 2 is a high mobility urban vehicle concept. The platform consists of a frame containing the battery pack with wheels at each corner and electric motors in each hub. For maneuverability, the cabin spins 360 degrees so there’s never any backing up. OK so far. The cabin though, is an Isetta that’s spent too much time in a Sanrio store. And like the Isetta, both provide access to the interior via a single front-facing door (which, like in the Isetta, means your feet are the crumple zone). But the real weirdness is in the interior, where control functions are interfaced through the voice of a little robot imbedded in the dash – sort of like a creepy R2 unit. No need mentioning it’s also one of “them” concepts from one of many Tokyo Auto Shows.
01. Honda Fuya-Jo – 1999
OK, it might have been presented in Tokyo – and we know a lot of crazy stuff gets revealed there – but still: “What the heck was that thing?” The Honda Fuya-Jo is hardly a car. It’s more of a transporter. Since the Fuya-Jo essentially translates to “sleepless city,” we can at least try and grasp the idea behind this awkwardest of concepts. It was aimed at “nightbirds” whose way of life demanded a car which would help them fully enjoy their night(s) out. The Fuya-Jo’s height, which allowed the occupants to stand up and dance, it’s sound system with a DJ mixing desk, and bar stool-like seats encouraged exactly that. Still, that doesn’t make it any more appealing to the eye, and it comes without saying none of its features ever made it into production.