Concept cars, or cars designed according to a certain theme or older model, are generally prototypes introduced at car and motor shows to gauge consumer reaction and appeal. Combining the best of modern technology with the sleek lines of tried and tested cars from the past, concept cars are often tentative feelers put out by automobile companies to test the waters before ‘diving’ into serious production.
Concept cars were first introduced by designer Harley Earl of General Motors in the 1950s. It was for the concept of a car that offered buyers state-of-the-art motor car technology in a new design which was actually a variation of an older theme. This gained almost instant popularity with the general public.
Recognizing a winning horse when they saw one, General Motors further publicized the concept and their car, through its touring Motorama shows of that period. Beautiful to behold, concept cars show off radical, futuristic designs, powerful engines and sometimes even controversial technology.
However, tempting as these concept cars may appear under the spotlight, many of them often undergo changes before being put on the production line by their manufacturers, and all of them are subjected to alterations that make them more suitable, and affordable, to their target markets.
The majority of concept cars seen at automobile exhibitions such as the Geneva Motor Show are the dream rides of automobile fans and racing enthusiasts, but are more often than not only show models made of wax, clay, metal, fibreglass and plastic. In fact many concept cars never even reach this stage due to impractical design glitches and cost factors.
An interesting example of an old, operational concept car being brought back into service would be the 1954 Ford Lincoln Futura, which after having been stored in the North Hollywood car shop of George Barris came out of storage to rise to stardom as the Batmobile of the 1966 Batman series on the ABC Television Network.
On the same note, current examples for concept cars would be the Mercedes-Benz bionic car (this is said to combine the best of nature, technology and the ever popular DaimlerCrysler engine), the 2006 BMW Mille Miglia concept coupe (based on the earlier BMW 328 Touring coupe and the BMW Z4 M coupe), the Camaro Concept sports coupe (which follows the lines of the first Camaros) and the Chrysler Imperial Concept 2006 (a direct descendent of classic Imperial and Chrysler designs).
Sadly, the majority of concept cars are destroyed once their use has been served. However, some do escape the crusher and continue to live their lives in storage or on display in automobile museums.