Known as concept cars, vehicle prototypes give automakers the chance to spread their creative wings, take radical chances, and introduce new designs, new technologies, new styles and, well, new concepts. Although most of them never come to fruition, concept cars offer a bold and daring look into what the future could hold. Here's a look at the most exciting concept cars of today, as well as some of history's most amazing prototypes.
One of the newest concept cars to dazzle the imaginations of gearheads everywhere, the fully electric Volvo 360c is the Swedish automaker's alternative to short flights. The driverless pod is the brainchild of Volvo's automation division, and it promises to deliver all the luxury of a private jet without the headaches or cost. If it ever becomes a reality, Volvo vows that the 360 will change the nature of medium-length road trips consisting of a few hundred miles.
Daredevils would love to take Buckminster "Bucky" Fuller's 1933 Dymaxion prototype for a spin, if only to stare down death. Three prototypes were built for this 20-foot, three-wheeled, spaceship-esque beast, the first of which killed its driver in 1933. When pros at the Lane Motor Museum in Nashville dared to build a replica in 2015, Autoweek claimed it was the scariest rides of their lives. During the Depression, however, the visionary inventor billed the Dymaxion as the car of the future, promising it would eventually fly.
Before GAC unveiled the Enverge at the Detroit Auto Show in 2018, few people beyond automotive insiders had even heard of Chinese automaker. But the company's creation has certainly helped to get the GAC name out there. The electric Enverge features a floating digital dash screen, gullwing doors, and, if GAC's calculations are correct, 370 miles on a single charge. Perhaps the coolest feature of all, however, are the headlights, which detach to become flood lamps.
Another oldie we'd love to see come to life in the modern age is the Phantom Corsair, a six-passenger coupe designed in 1938 by Heinz 57 ketchup heir Rust Heinz. The original concept car was a Batmobile-esque rocket with a V8 engine capable of pumping out 190 horsepower and propelling the aerodynamic wonder to 115 mph. Plans for production died with Heinz in 1939, though the prototype did make an appearance in the film "Young at Heart." Today, it resides at the National Automobile Museum in Reno.
lexus lf-1 limitless
Billed as a "flagship luxury crossover with an eye toward a more human future," the Lexus LF-1 Limitless could be fueled by gas, plug-in hybrid, hybrid, fuel cell, or fully electric. Bulging fenders, a split spoiler, 22-inch wheels, and a super-low roofline help the future-car to exude power — and that's just the outside. The interior is a wonderland of lighting and technology, the highlight of which is a four-dimensional navigation system.
In 1954, Fiat unveiled the Turbina, a rocket-shaped concept car that featured a then-unheard of gas turbine propulsion system — hence the name. With declared horsepower of 300 at 22,000 RPM, the Turbina held the record for the lowest drag coefficient for three decades. The Turbina was abandoned due to poor fuel economy and overheating issues.
Nissan has promised the world that its IMX concept car will be available to the masses in 2020. It will probably be built on a modified version of the hugely successful LEAF chassis. Its dual motors generate 429 horsepower and 516 foot-pound of torque and its battery has a stated range of 380 miles. When EPA standards are factored in, that will likely drop to a still-impressive 250 miles, which it will traverse through the self-driving ProPilot system.
oldsmobile golden rocket
In 1956, Oldsmobile unveiled a concept car with a name that summed up its entire essence: the Golden Rocket. With a body designed to look like an airplane's fuselage, the front end features bullet-shaped chrome inserts to really give it a Buck Rogers feel. Light as a Porsche Cayman, the futuristic car wasn't just a pretty face. With a 3.8-liter Rocket V8 that could generate 275 horsepower, the Golden Rocket was as serious about performance as it was about design.
Jeep fans, rejoice. The 4SPEED concept car is nearly half a ton lighter — 950 pounds, to be exact — than the standard Wrangler. Such a load off the suspension lifts the 4SPEED by a full two inches. A combination of ultra-light concepts from 2011 and 2013, the 4SPEED has the same wheelbase as the classic Wrangler, but it's 22 inches shorter, which makes it among the most nimble four-wheel drive vehicles you'll ever see off road.
Once billed as the future of transportation, the AMC Amitron was released in 1967 in anticipation of a coming oil crisis. A hair smaller than today's popular Smart car, the Amitron looked sort of like a "Jetsons" golf cart, but much cooler. Although it was tiny, the wheels were at the corners so passengers could fit inside comfortably. Designed with space economy in mind, the inflatable seats could be deflated to increase cargo room when passengers weren't sitting on them.
mercedes-maybach vision 6 cabriolet
The Maybach Vision 6 Cabriolet slingshots classic Mercedes luxury into the future. The two-seater comes with a shallow under-seat battery that allows for more than 200 miles when meeting EPA standards. Curved and sporty, the radiator stretches the entire length of the grill, making it arguably the most attractive cabriolet ever built.
Corvette, meet Lamborghini. Lamborghini, Corvette. Introduced at the New York International Auto Show in 1976, the Chevrolet Aerovette was a sport coupe from the future with an unmistakable touch of Countach, gullwing doors and all. Almond-shaped and aerodynamic with a minimalist interior and a cartoonishly giant windshield, the Aerovette just might be the greatest Chevy that never was.