When we here the term concept car most of us have a picture in our mind of futuristic designs reminiscent of the Jetsons, and quite often this can be the case. One of the most famous concept cars was actually brought out of mothballs to become an iconic symbol of 60’s television. I’m talking of course about the Batmobile.
This iconic car began its journey as a concept car doing the rounds of auto shows in the mid 50’s, although then it was known as the Lincoln Futura. While it was something to behold, very few people ever though it would be anything more than a shining example of what cars might look like in the future.
It was never expected to become a common site on the streets of any city, and it never was – not really. Yet the longevity of the Lincoln Futura, due in large part to Batman fame, is much more than most concept cars are ever likely to see. They represent the hopes and dreams of auto designers for the future.
In a nutshell experimentation is what concept cars are all about. Car designers are probably some of the most creative people on the planet, and every year they wow us with their latest wild ideas.
These concepts are often made into full scale models which are put on display at events such as the Detroit Auto Show. However, for every concept car that makes it to the auto show floor, there are dozens that don’t get beyond the phase of computer designs and miniature models.
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Even the ones that do make the cut and become full scale models are often far from street worthy. Their parts have not been put through the rigorous design process that a production model will go through, and under scrutiny, you’d likely find many safety infractions.
This may sound like a problem, but it’s not. These cars aren’t meant for the street they’re meant to spark our imaginations.
From Innovation to Adaptation
While concept cars usually never make it to the production floor, their innovations and inspiring designs are quite often utilized in production model vehicles. The Chevy Volt was originally a concept car, but its innovative hybrid electric technology was later used in actual production vehicles.
This type of leap from concept to production is nothing new. In 1938 the Buick Y-Job was introduced as a concept car with quite a few exciting innovations. Not least of which was power windows, a standard feature today, but a thing of science fiction in those days.
You might say concept cars have gone through several phases, in those first cars of the thirties and 40’s they were used to introduce cars that were ahead of their time, but not out of this world.
That all changed in the 50’s, 60’s, and 70’s – concept cars from these decades were famous for their futuristic designs that were meant to impress us, but were never really expected to make it to the production floor.
Concept cars these days are normally much more practical affairs. Yes, there are still some wild designs to be found at major auto shows, but the vast majority of concept cars at auto shows today are precursors of cars that are only a year or two away from production.
It’s a way for the main automakers to test the popularity of their designs before they begin an expensive production run. The Chevy Volt mentioned above is one such example.
Concept cars may not be the fanciful things they were in years past, but they still have the power to spark the imagination.
If you’re heading to the local auto show don’t expect to be treated to our generations Lincoln Futura, but you can still expect to be impressed by some pretty cool designs. After all, until it actually reaches the production floor it’s still the stuff of designer’s imaginations.