THE FREEDOM TO REIMAGINE IS ONLY THE BEGINNING

1966 Lincoln Futura Batmobile to illustrate wacky concert cars
1966 Lincoln Futura Batmobile Courtesy of Barrett-Jackson and The Robb Report

We’ve all seen them—those wacky concert cars introduced by the automotive industry. But did you ever stop to think there’s a reason for the madness? True concept cars are the lightbulb moments of the great car designers made real: sketch-pad doodles rendered in steel, carbon fiber, and glass, displayed at auto shows looking like they’ve been time-warped there from 20 years into the future.

Some were silly. But some really did predict the future with their lightweight bodies, keyless entry, rear reversing cameras, sat-nav and collision-avoidance systems.

The very best can influence the looks of an entire generation of cars from a marque, as Cadillac’s Sixteen concept did in 2003, or inspire an entirely new breed of car. In 1976, New York’s Museum of Modern Art asked designers to create the checker cab of the future. Giorgetto Giugiaro proposed a taller, shorter vehicle that created more space in the cabin. He developed the idea in his Megagamma concept of 1978, which in turn inspired every minivan now on the road. 

The US has always been a rich source of great concept cars, especially when its car industry was at its most successful and exuberant. Its first was the sensational Buick Y-job of 1938 by Harley Earl, head of General Motor’s famous Art and Color department. Earl imagined his cars of the future in an office called the “Hatchery” at GM’s Detroit HQ, which had no windows or telephone and a fake name on the door so he wouldn’t be disturbed.

In 1958 it revealed the Nucleon, powered by its own nuclear reactor and good for 5,000 miles between uranium fill-ups. Exactly what would happen in the event of a heavy crash was never examined. There was also the ’61 Ford Gyron, a two-wheel car balanced by a gyroscope, and the Leva Car, a 500-mph hovercraft with no brakes. But the best-known Ford concept of the period was the ’55 Lincoln Futura. Built by Italian coachbuilder Ghia, it was sold to Californian “kustom kar” builder George Barris, who painted it black and turned it into the Batmobile in ’66.

Sadly, not all modern concept cars are quite as inspired. It can take five years for a production car to be designed and engineered, and the exterior design is one of the first things to be signed off. So, when a carmaker shows a concept car and then reveals the production version a year or two later, don’t be fooled. They’re not graciously responding to demand from an adoring public. Too many concept cars are just the still-secret-but-finished production versions, dressed up with huge wheels and mad features that will disappear on the car we can buy. Of the two dozen or so concepts I saw at this year’s Geneva auto show, around two-thirds of the manufacturers previewed an already finished production car.

While we don’t have any wacky concept cars, we here at Boston Corporate Coach™ do offer an amazing fleet of outstanding vehicles for both business and pleasure. Just call Boston Coach at +1-800-664-4480 to make your reservations or visit https://bostoncorporatecoach.com/reservations/. You can also download the Boston Corporate Coach™ app on Apple or GooglePlay.

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