Top 10 20th Century Concept Cars We Hoped We’d Drive By Now

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Children of the 1980s have the year 2015 marked on our calendars. The reason for this is because the movie Back To the Future II told us we would have flying cars and hover boards by 2015. There are still two years left to mass produce. If an apocalypse can theoretically occur in a day, then we can still hold out hope for 2015. Every year, car manufacturers unveil their latest ideas into what are known as ‘concept cars.’ These concept cars often will not be mass produced, but we are still holding out a bit of hope that one days these beauties could be on the streets. We also want to reach our sky garages by jet packs as long as we are at it.

10. Autobianchi Runabout Bertone (1969)

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At the Turin Motor Show in 1969, the Autobianchi Runabout Bertone made its debut. This car was the closest thing that you would probably ever see to actually owning Speed Racer’s Mark 5. If the future depicted in the Waschowski’s movie was to become a reality, then the Runabout Bertone model should be massed produced by now. The Runabout Bertone was not even inspired by the automobile world. The basic concept behind this car was to put a speed motorboat on wheels. Now, just imagine if the wheels were actually retractable and the Runabout was either a convertible motorboat or submarine. The dropped ball on the Runabout could have given us to James Bond or Condorman action.

9. Italdesign Machimoto (1986)

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The Machimoto (1986) was an attempt at the evolution of the Dune Buggy. It was essentially a bridge between open air dirt riding and Total Recall. Basically, a combination with Volkswagon engineers to try and combine the stability of a car with the open air enjoyment of riding a motorcycle. The Machimoto was designed to comfortably seat nine. The Machimoto looks more at home riding a rail ala The Black Hole or being a street worthy roller coaster car. It sports a sleek boxy open air look that we were supposed to fall in love with here in the future. Unfortunately, we are as far away now from the Machimoto as we are from having everyday silver or gold pants.

8. Chevy Astro III (1969)

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The Chevy Astro III came out during a time in which the Moon Shot was influencing everything. The question today becomes “Why aren’t we driving around miniature spaceships on freeways… right now?” It certainly seemed like a possibility in 1969. A little imagination and this baby would have been your driving X-Wing fighter today. One of the truly great innovations of the Astro III were the rear view mirrors. Do you not see them on the car? That is exactly the point. The rear view mirrors were actually small closed circuit televisions in the interior that would broadcast what was going on around the car. If the closed circuit television idea had come to fruition for everything, all we would lose is one ‘objects in mirror’ joke in Jurassic Park as well as a single Meat Loaf song. We would have lived.

7. Ford FX-Atmos (1954)

1954 Atmos Concept

The Ford FX-Atmos debuted at the Chicago auto show in 1954. This seeming proto Batmobile used the term FX ( for Future Experimental ) and seems like it would be more comfortable riding the airways on Coruscant than any where near the freeway system. The Atmos name was a nod to the idea that cars could one bay be run by nuclear reactors. To this day, we do not drive anything that looks quite as futuristic as the Atmos. You can only imagine that crowd’s disappointment if they saw a twenty first century KIA Optima. A degraded nuclear core was a central plot point in The Dark Knight Rises that might eliminate millions of people. Just imagine the wholesale destruction some schmuck could cause by changing out one on his modern day Atmos.

6. Bertone BAT 5 (1953)

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Berlinetta Aerodinamica Tecnica 5 was an attempt to make the lightest most aerodynamic car possible. The Bertone BAT 5 eliminate weight as well as wind resistance as much as possible. There was even an attempt to eliminate wind resistance in turning wheels. The result? This is a car out of your futuristic wet dreams lighter than most cars on the road right now. Also, the BAT 5 could easily top 200 mph. If we had gone down the road of the BAT 5, the muscle car era would have turned into the steroid muscle car era. Literally, the idea behind the Bertone BAT 5 was to have a mini jet cruising down the highway. If that was going to be the regular cars, just imagine what the cop cars to stop them would have had to look like.

5. GM Firebird II (1956)

The Firebird II is the only car ever constructed out of titanium. We don’t think that you are quite taking the journey with us here. Titanium is the same material in which Stewie Griffin talks about making death rays from and Iron Man villains construct their armor from. The Firebird II looks like a combination of a shark and a pod racer. The amazing part is that the Firebird II was an imagination of the futuristic family roadster. This car would have probably taken the run time of National Lampoon’s Vacation down to around four minutes. That is probably a bit of hyperbole but Clark Griswold would have had no trouble keeping up with Christie Brinkley in and updated version of this baby.

4. Ford Nucleon (1958)

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Believe it or not, there was a time in which nuclear energy was seen as a source of power for every day use. The vision was that nuclear energy would provide a clean cost efficient alternative to all other types of fuel. Just imagine, you could power your car, talk on your phone, and scold the kids with all three of your arms! During this time of unfettered and possibly ignorant optimism, there was the scale model produced of the Ford Nucleon. The Nucleon imagined a future in which cars would run on the same concept as nuclear submarines. There would be nuclear powering stations on every corner. Somewhere, Mr. Burns would put his fingers together and say ‘Excellent.’ There was never a working proto type but the Nucleon gave us a glimpse of what might have and what might still be.

3. Chrysler Turbine Car (1962-1964)

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Have you ever sat down and pondered what would happen if they actually put a jet engine into a car? Well, take heart Bucky, you are not alone. Chrysler spent about three decades pondering whether your car could style around like it was straight out of Men In Black. The Chrysler Turbine car could run on your choice of diesel fuel, unleaded gasoline, jet fuel, or vegetable oil. The findings on whether or not it would also slice and fry potatoes are a little more vague. Unfortunately, you cannot even buy these things on the black market as most of them were destroyed by Chrysler or donated to museums. There are only three fully functional Chrysler Turbine Cars out of 54 produced. The technology was later used in the M1 Abrams Battle Tank. The possibilities were endless… and awesome.

2. Ford Gyron ( 1961 )

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In the recent Men In Black III, Will Smith’s J character said that “two wheels is like my minimum.” It stands to reason that J would have loved (or at least tolerated) the Ford Gyron. The Gyron was a two wheeled fully encapsulated car that looked more like a TRON light cycle than anything currently on the road. At auction, a mere model of the Gyron sold for forty thousand dollars. The Gyron operated on a series of gyroscopes to operate the hybrid car/motorcycle. For being envisioned over fifty years ago, the Gyron still looks like it could be the future of automobile travel.

1. Lincoln Futura ( 1955 )

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The Lincoln Futura is still embedded in our collective imagination not for what the Futura was but for what the Futura would become. The Futura was originally produced at a cost of a quarter of a million dollars in the 1950’s tio highlight potential advancement in car design. Ten years later, the Futura was repainted and turned into the infamous Batmobile for the Adam West television series. Years later, the Dark Knight trilogy Batmobile would be postulated to come out of Wayne Enterprises Research and Development department. Of course, the Futura was never actually mass produced but everyone certainly wanted one.


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9 Comments

  1. if you’re anything like me you never HOPED to drive any of these cars….you’re followup list should be in regard to concept cars from 2008 that arent here yet…and you GOTTA include concept cars from makers that died after the recession we suffered….now THAT’S a list. one concept on the top of the list should be the 2008 Chrysler Imperial Concept. It’s a beautiful car that they have yet to roll out.

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    These are some of the most memorable concept cars from the 20th century. The automobile makers have been responsible for some of the most impressive engineering improvements of all time and they all start here in the concept stage.

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    It’s amazing how many of them look like the Batmobile from the old Adam West episodes. We think the Machimoto is the only one that remotely looks like it belongs in this century. Nice list.

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