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A concept vehicle or show vehicle is a car prototype made to showcase a concept, new styling, technology and more. They are often shown at motor shows to gauge customer reaction to new and radical designs which may or may not have a chance of being produced.

General Motors designer Harley Earl is generally credited with inventing the concept, or show, car, and did much to popularize it through its traveling Motorama shows of the 1950s.

Concept cars never go into production directly; in modern times all would have to undergo many changes before the design is finalized for the sake of practicality, safety and cost. A "production-intent" vehicle, as opposed to a concept vehicle, serves this purpose.


Concept cars are often radical in engine or design. Some use non-traditional, exotic, or expensive materials, ranging from paper to carbon fiber to refined alloys. Others have unique layouts, such as gullwing doors, 3 or 6 (or more) wheels, or special abilities not usually found on cars. Because of these often impractical or unprofitable leanings, many concept cars never get past scale models, or even drawings in computer design. Other more traditional concepts can be developed into fully drivable (operational) vehicles with a working drivetrain and accessories. The state of most concept cars lies somewhere in between and does not represent the final product. A very small proportion of concept cars are functional to any useful extent, some cannot move safely at anything above 10 mph.

Inoperative "mock-ups" are usually made of wax, clay, metal, fiberglass, plastic or a combination thereof.

If drivable, the drivetrain is often borrowed from a production vehicle from the same company, or may have defects and imperfections in design. They can also be quite refined , such as General Motors' Cadillac Sixteen concept.

After a concept car's useful life is over, the cars are usually destroyed. Some survive, however, either in a company's museum or hidden away in storage. One unused but operational concept car that languished for years in the North Hollywood, Californiamarker shop of car customizer George Barris, Ford Motor Company's "Lincoln Futura" from 1954, received a new lease on life as the Batmobile in the Batman series that debuted in 1966 on the ABC Television Network.

Notable concept cars

Model Notes
Buick Y-Job Designed in the late 1930s by the famous General Motors designer Harley Earl. Considered by most to be the first concept car
General Motors Le Sabre Built by Harley Earl in 1951, it helped introduced 12 volt electrics and the aluminum 215 ci V8 to GM.
Cadillac Cyclone Built in 1959, it is one of Harley Earl's last designs. Its futuristic styling was heavily influenced by 1950's aviation and rocketry.
Chevrolet Corvair Monza GT 1962 mid-engined experimental prototype
Chevrolet Corvette Mako Shark Previewed the design of the 1968-1982 production Corvette
Chevrolet Volt One of the first plug-in hybrid electric vehicle concept cars.
Ford Nucleon a nuclear-powered car
Ford SYNus mimics the modern obsession with safety
General Motors Firebird a series of gas turbine-powered cars
Holden Efijy Based around the Holden FJ, named the United States concept car of the year for 2007.
MIT Car The Massachusetts Institute of Technologymarker concept car with Frank Gehry
Phantom Corsair a 1930s concept car, developed by Rust Heinz
Pontiac Bonneville Special Pontiac's first 2-seater sportscar that debuted at the 1954 Motorama
Pontiac Club de Mer Pontiac's all stainless steel sportscar that debuted at the 1956 Motorama
Porsche 989 Porsche's first 4-door car, a predecessor of the Porsche Panamera
Volvo YCC the first car designed entirely by women
Lancia Megagamma the prototype for the modern MPV (minivan)
Alfa Romeo BAT cars 1950s aerodynamic studies by Bertone
GMC Terradyne Concept truck said to include an onboard 5000 watt generator

See also


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