Beautiful Styling + Extreme Engineering = the Creme de la Creme of Automotive Design
Today we're starting new DRB series, Exceptional Concept Cars, which will highlight the absolute best in concept car design from 100 years of automobile history.
It is not our aim to present a complete list, or even a comprehensive coverage of particular brands and car shows (there is enough material of this nature available on the web). What we want to do instead, is to celebrate the daring and esthetic value of the most fascinating and unusual concept automobiles - give you shapes and curves to brighten up your day, and to make you say "Wow, what a cool concept!" a couple of times.
(image credit: Mechanix Illustrated, 1951)
For every model we will include a piece of interesting fact or trivia... and perhaps some highly subjective remarks from the author. Remember, beauty is the eye of the beholder, and what some may count as pretty, others will consider an abomination, and vice versa. The good news is that there were enough concept cars produced in the last hundred years - of every conceivable kind and shape - to satisfy every taste.
(Astra Gnome: "Time and Space Car", 1956 - )
And so, let us begin with a selection of American concept cars - the American Dream cubed, quadrupled and multiplied to infinity by the daring designers of yesterday and today:
From way back in 1917 - Behold the Golden Submarine (in its "Silver" incarnation):
This extreme custom "stick rod" was built by Harry A. Miller for racing driver Barney Oldfield. The car looked almost jet-powered when the smoke came out... Above picture is the modern interpretation of this legendary car, built by Webb's Automotive Art - more info.
1948 Tucker Torpedo Concept
Check out the "Cyclops Eye" on this early design rendering from 1946:
Originally 1936 Buick/Chrysler 'Topper Car' (built for "The Topper" movie to be driven by Cary grant himself), then converted into Mobiloil /Gilmore Special.
Designed by Bohman & Schwartz (also known as Bohman & Son) who also came up with extremely beautiful aerodynamic designs - see more here, for example this modified 1938 Phantom Cosair (owner Herb Shriner):
Fun fact: This great example of futuristic 1950s styling also included a television camera mounted in the trunk. The images were displayed on the instrument panel, so there was no need of the rear-view mirror. Sounds familiar?
It also features one of the most futuristic, and perhaps confusing, dashboards ever designed (certainly sparkly with all this chrome and funky shapes):
Fun Fact: Designed by famous designer Harley J. Earl, it had a full canopy with gull-wing panels - and the incredible, totally over-the-top rocket-engine styling in the back. One of the cars was painted in metallic bronze: looking slick and striking, like a steampunk'd fish submarine.
Fun fact: the first appearance of the large rear spoiler, later a feature on many models of the 1960s muscle car era. And of course, the fact that this car was powered by a gas turbine (part of the Chrysler Turbine Engines project). Here is a later 1963 Turbine Car incarnation (Ghia-designed):
Such incredible variety of front- and rear- seat arrangements was called "a compartmentalized interior: designed for family travel in utmost comfort and convenience." This family pre-SUV "dream on wheels" was complete with polarized sunscreen glass roof and some "Aerosmith", eh, sorry "Aerohead" cooling system. Indeed, an epitome of cool for 1960s family travel.
Here is a bunch of other extreme 1960s concepts from Ford:
Pictured above, top to bottom: 1960 Ford Predicta, 1960 Ford Levacar, 1961 Ford Gyron, 1962 Ford Seattle, and 1962 Ford Selene. All ready to be shipped to some outer space colony, or a futuristic City Dome - to be driven by the bladerunners and paranoid androids in various Philip K. Dick environments.
Speaking of Blade Runner (1982), here is how legendary designer Syd Mead pictured a futuristic urban car in the 1960s:
The Chrysler ME Four Twelve is considered the most advanced concept car to have come out of Chrysler (and this is in the midst of huge financial difficulties!). It looks great, even though it took less than one year for design and development. Powered by a huge V-12 engine (and yet one of the lightest, as it's made out of aluminum) producing 850 horsepower. Top speed is estimated 399 km/h, which is in the league with the Bugatti Veyron.
Chassis is carbon-fiber and aluminum honeycomb: lots of sweet, sweet power and a certain "lightness of being".
BONUS Weird oddity here: a custom body designed by American Sunroof Corporation... complete with front-end propellers and a huge hood ornament:
"Dark Roasted Blend" - All Kinds of Weird and Wonderful Things, Discovered Daily!"
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