File:Buick Y.jpg

1938 Buick Y-Job

File:Bonneville Special.jpg

1954 Pontiac Bonneville Special


1955 Lincoln Futura

File:Pontiac Club de Mer.jpg

1956 Pontiac Club de Mer


Dodge Copperhead

A concept car is a car prototype made to showcase a concept, new styling, technology and more. They are often shown at motor shows to gauge customer reaction to new and radical designs which may or may not have a chance of being produced.

General Motors' designer Harley Earl is generally credited with inventing the concept car, and definitely did much to popularize it through its traveling "Motorama" shows of the 1950s.

Concept cars rarely go into production directly; most undergo at least some changes before the design is finalized for the sake of practicality, safety and cost. Concept cars are often radical in engine or design:

  • Some use non-traditional, exotic, or expensive materials, ranging from paper to carbon fiber to exotic alloys
  • Others have unique layouts, such as gullwing doors, 3 or 6 (or more) wheels, or special abilities not usually found on cars.

Because of these often impractical or unprofitable leanings, many concept cars never get past scale models, or even drawings in computer design. Other more traditional concepts can be developed into fully drivable (operational) vehicles with a working drivetrain and accessories. The state of most concept cars lies somewhere in between and usually does not represent the final product.

Inoperative "mock-ups" are usually made of wax, clay, metal, fiberglass, plastic or a combination thereof.

If drivable, the drivetrain is often borrowed from a production vehicle from the same company, or may have defects and imperfections in design. They can also be quite refined, such as General Motors Corporation's Cadillac Sixteen [1].

After a concept car's useful life is over, the cars are usually destroyed. Some survive, however, either in a company's museum or hidden away in storage. One unused but operational concept car that languished for years in the North Hollywood, California shop of car customizer George Barris, Ford Motor Company's "Lincoln Futura" from 1954, received a new lease on life as the Batmobile in the Batman series that debuted in 1966 on the ABC Television Network.

Term Differentiation[]

Although the term concept car and show car are often used interchangably, they are now typically used to two different things. Concept cars are usually radical and design and unqiue; they are often designed as stand-alone studies or previews of upcoming production vehicles. Show cars are different, because they are regularly based on vehicles already in production. However, some grey area exists because of the varying degrees that concept cars and show cars are based on production vehicles. The Specialty Equipment Manufacturers Association (SEMA) show that is scheduled each November consists primarily of show cars that are modified by independent companies.

Some Concept Cars[]

See Also[]