Car concepts, like fashion, can be creative, innovative, evocative and occasionally a complete faux pas. You can take a look at some failed vehicles on our list of the ugliest cars ever produced, if you need proof of how bad some designs can be.
During auto shows, concept cars are presented to both the public and the industry. It is there that car companies and designers get a chance to measure the overall reaction of their imaginative prototypes. It’s unlikely that these ambitious and unique vehicles would become the next Bugatti Veyron, but it’s a chance for the manufacturers to show everyone what is possible.
While some concept cars actually make it onto the assembly line, others fade away, only to be found in the obscure history books. Here are 10 crazy car concepts that came, went and even foreshadowed the next generation of automobiles.
10. Toyota RV-2 (1972)
The Toyota RV-2 was a four-person camper and standard station wagon all in one. Inspired by the Volkswagen camper bus of the ‘70s, Toyota was trying to appeal to outdoorsy hippies as well as drivers who just wanted a practical vehicle. The innovative, yet far from revolutionary, clamshell roof opened up, revealing a canvas tent that offered a sleeping arrangement that was more comfortable than most backseat at the time.
The emerald green concept car made its debut at the Tokyo Motor Show in 1972 and received positive response from the public. However, it was not popular enough to be worthy of mass production on a wide market.
9. Honda Fuya-Jo (1999)
The Honda Fuya-Jo was built to be a “mobile sound studio,” even though it looks like an oversized purple toaster oven. Translated, Fuya-Jo means “Sleepless City” in Japanese, which make sense, because who can really sleep in this four-seater dance floor on wheels? Taking inspiration from modern clubbing culture, Honda has attempting to replicate the DJ’s mix table and offer a ride that simulates the nightlife experience.
Unfortunately, many feared that the Fuya-Jo might be sending a message that drinking and then driving to the after-party was all right, thus keeping it from the production line.
8. Dodge Kahuna (2003)
The Dodge Kahuna made some waves at the 2003 Detroit Auto Show, but has never really earned the approval of surfers, soccer moms or the free-spirited drivers who live along the coast. The six-passenger van, with its bulky cartoon-like exterior and its Stow N’ Go seating, was meant to take surfers and athletic types from the street to the beach with ease.
The polarizing impression that the Dodge Kahuna left on critics and the public sank the vehicle’s production potentials. You can even say that the van “wiped out.”
7. Aurora Safety Car (1957)
The Aurora Safety Car may just be the ugliest car ever conceived. The strange ameba design, with a smiley face grille and oblong windshield, is enough to disgust even he most tolerant drivers. The Safety Car was the first Experimental Safety Vehicle (ESV) to be manufactured.
But the story of Father Alfred A. Juliano, a Catholic priest and automobile manufacturer, was even more upsetting than the Aurora Safety Car’s appearance. Juliano funded the $30,000 prototype with some help from his congregation, but it ended up bankrupting him and the Aurora Motor Company.
However, the vehicle is now restored and can be seen in the Beaulieu Motor Museum in England.
6. Saab Aero-X (2006)
The Saab Aero-X is the stunning and simplistic iCar that might have originated from Steve Jobs himself. The 180-degree canopy and fluid design gave the Aero-X the look of a fighter jet. Unlike the rest of Saab’s lineup, the Aero-X was simply not the direction the company wanted to gear towards. Yet, it was reassuring to know that the Swedish manufacturers were capable of making an elite vehicle that could reach 250 km/h.
5. Audi Avus (1991)
The Audi Avus was ahead of its time in more than one way. The futuristic design with a 6.0-litre engine capable of producing 509 horsepower turned heads, but wasn’t able to change people’s mindset at the time. Few were convinced that Audi was capable of creating the super car, the Avus claimed to be.
The silver bullet that is the Avus was never meant for production since it was built mainly to prove that Audi was a powerhouse brand that towers above most car manufacturers. Today, the original Avus can be seen in the Audi Museum in Ingolstadt, Germany.
4. Lincoln Futura (1955)
If the Lincoln Futura looks familiar, it’s because it was the Batmobile in the 1960’s television series. The clear-top bubble glass canopy is the defining feature of the UFO-like Futura. The concept car ended up bringing a lot of publicity for the company. Replicas were created for television and media appearances, and few were sold off for novelty sakes.
Although the Futura was a star at the time, it never saw production. However, it did serve as inspiration for other Lincoln vehicles such as the Premiere and Capri, which had a respectable run on the market.
3. Toyota EX-III (1969)
The Toyota EX-III, modeled after the EX-I, is designed for the high-speed commute of tomorrow. Sadly, tomorrow has never really materialized for the EX-III, EX-I or any of the EXs afterwards. The flat body with semi-rear wheel covers, bumperless front, fish gills and tacky headlights remind us of all the design relics of yesteryears.
2. Mazda Furai (2007)
The Mazda Furai was the punk-rock speed demon that car lovers have dreamed of, but sadly, the vehicle’s legacy ended in a nightmarish fiery death. During a showcase at Top Gear’s road test in 2008, the Furai’s Batmobile fire-breathing exhaust caught fire with the engine bay. The whole vehicle was engulfed in flames, and in eight minutes, the beautiful concept was scorched. There was no resurrecting the Furai, as the horrible image had made sure of it. The resting place of the concept’s carcass is still unknown.
1. Ford Nucleon (1958)
The Ford Nucleon, deemed the Atomic Car, was one of the most influential and iconic concept cars in history. Capable of running on nuclear power, the car was perhaps more of a mobile nuclear bomb than an energy saving initiative. Inspired by the functionality of nuclear submarines in the military, the vehicle was essentially an ironed-out red pickup truck. Still, you can imagine the chaos of a highway pileup or a congested urban accident, if all the vehicles involved were nuclear-powered, like this one was. Innovative, yes, but the Nucleon was just not meant for our rational world.