Daimler’s recent introduction of a doorless, open-roof electric car might have startled some, but in the wild world of concept cars it’s far from daring.
Since their invention by the auto industry in the late 1930s, concept cars have afforded engineers and designers an opportunity to let their imaginations run free. Notably, some designers have taken the idea to an illogical extreme, producing cars that are more memorable than functional.
But some of today’s production vehicles have their roots in concept cars. The recently introduced Cadillac ELR, for example, started out as the Cadillac Converj at the 2009 Detroit Auto Show. Similarly, the Ford Mustang and Pontiac Firebird evolved from concept cars that seemed daring in their day.
We’ve collected photos of concept cars that range from wild to pragmatic. From Smart’s Fourjoy, to Cadillac’s racy Converj, to BMW’s shape-shifting GINA, we present some of the best-known and most unusual. Click on the concept car below to start the slideshow.
Winner of a Peugeot design competition in 2005, the Moovie Concept Car was designed for city dwellers who needed to fit into tight parking spaces. Each of its wheels were independently driven by their own electric motors, allowing the car to rotate on its own axis. The vehicle’s two-passenger interior was designed for brightness and visibility. (Source: Wikicars.org)
Ervin, my feeling is that if every artist was an engineer then most of them would probably not be artists. I see the two talents pointing in different directions. Of course some engineers do appreciate appearances but only a few follow appearance to the detriment of functionality. That task is most often handled by marketing and cost reduction groups.
But sometimes it becomes quite clear that some engineers have no concept of what looks good and what does not, and unfortunately a few of them have been architects responsible for buildings that the rest of us have to see.
That FourJoy looked every bit as impractical as any of the concept cars shown. And it was not nearly sporty enough to be a fun sports type of vehicle. WHAt were they thinking?
The Dodge pickup would have sold a lot if they had put regular type doors on it, it looked much cooler than the El Camino. But Chrysler management of that era was often immume to creativity, except for my 1965 Barracuda. I loved that car. With a few modifications to the suspension it handled like a real race car.
Right - someone clearly thought "unnecessary ballast" was a clever turn of phrase, but that pesky "ballast" on any car is almost never considered unnecessary by the designers. The real indicator as to whether it's necessary or not would ultimately be determined by the marketplace.
@Jim S: To me the BMW looks like a death trap. I think it would lose in a collision with a Smart Car and that is saying something. On the cars I like the old Buick best, but what I really found facinating was the Big Hair on the two models with the 70 Mustang. It brought back uncomfortable memories of choking on my wife's hairspray before we left the house. I wonder how much lung damage is a remnant of that era.
Great show Charles. I agree with an earlier poster about all of the glass. That reminds me of an AMC Pacer. Yuchh.
The BMW concept seems to have technology that could be adapted to aircraft design. The shape changing capability could re-form a wing from a low drag high speed airfoil to a high drag low speed airfoil. The transition could be such that all intermediate combinations would allow an aircraft to operate in all flight regimes. This would allow the same aircraft to go from STOL to high speed flight, extending it's utility.
The question of whether engineers could have foreseen the shortcut maintenance procedures that led to the crash of American Airlines Flight 191 in 1979 will probably linger for as long as there is an engineering profession.
More than 35 years later, the post-mortem on one of the country’s worst engineering disasters appears to be simple. A contractor asked for a change in an original design. The change was approved by engineers, later resulting in a mammoth structural collapse that killed 114 people and injured 216 more.
If you’re an embedded systems engineer whose analog capabilities are getting a little bit rusty, then you’ll want to take note of an upcoming Design News Continuing Education Center class, “Analog Design for the Digital World,” running Monday, Nov. 17 through Friday, Nov. 21.
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