Pontiac 'Ghost Car'
GM Firebird II
GM Firebird III
Aston Martin Bulldog
Mercedes-Benz F-Cell Roadster
Kia Pop electric
EDAG Light Cocoon
Our ability to drive innovation through creative visualization has helped us explore the reaches of space, put powerful computers into our pockets and design some bad-ass car concepts. There's always been a seed of futurism in automobiles: Manufacturers and hobbyists alike have been crafting unique vehicles for decades, sometimes to test out fresh, new tech and other times to indulge in space-age fantasies. Below, we explore some of the more notable concept cars that have been created over the years, from the utilitarian to the fantastic.
Famed inventor and architect Buckminster Fuller added a car to his "Dymaxion" line of life-improving designs in 1933. It was a teardrop-shaped concept vehicle that seated 11 people, got 30 miles to the gallon and was tested at up to 90MPH. The three-wheel design also gave it an incredible turning radius.
This drivable concept was unveiled in 1980 and developed to demonstrate the ability of Aston Martin's factory to produce a "supercar for the '80s." Its wedge shape was influenced by the Aston Martin Lagonda. That Blade Runner-esque shape and 5.3 liter V8 helped it reach speeds in excess of 200MPH. A motorized panel could be lowered to reveal an array of lights when streamlining wasn't as essential.
Don't let the name fool you, this unique concept wasn't born in Japan; it was developed by VW's Italdesign studio in Italy. The design and name were a mashup of machina and motociclo (car and motorcycle, respectively in Italian). It was loosely based on a Volkswagen Golf GTI. Riders would sit in rows atop motorcycle-styled sets (each with their own handle for stability). The driver could use its steering wheel in the round, or flip out two handles for the full biking experience.
Plymouth Voyager III
In 1989, Plymouth unveiled the Voyager 3 concept vehicle. This extended people carrier had characteristics similar to a tractor-trailer. When you didn't need to haul the soccer team around town, you could remove the back portion and cruise around in the forward cab.
The 2010 Mercedes Hexawheel concept was designed with rough terrain in mind. Taking some cues from GE's early work on tackling odd and uneven surfaces, Iranian designer Siyamak Rouhi Dehkordi made this off-roader flexible and rugged. Perfect for handling urban structures (literally).
Toyota Fun Vii
Toyota showed off its Fun Vii at the 2011 Tokyo Motor Show. At the time, it was a purely non-functioning concept and didn't even implement the OLED display panels it was pitching for its infinitely customizable exterior.
Another offshoot of MIT's urban research was the CityCar concept. Designed with support from GM (like the 2004 Smart Cities program), this car was made to be folded and stowed like shopping carts at a grocery store.
In 2012, a Basque consortium named Hiriko Driving Mobility ran with the idea and produced a short run of Hiriko folding cars based on the design.
NASA, never one to be left out of the race for the future and a group most likely to implement it, unveiled its own forward-thinking car in 2014. The Modular Robotic Vehicle (MRV) was created at the Johnson Space Center and just like the 2004 SOFT Car concept, this model tested the functionality of independently powered wheels and a drive-by-wire system.
The EDAG Light Cocoon concept went on display at the 2015 Geneva Motor Show, ditching the standard shell for weatherproof fabric and a 3D-printed skeleton. The concept featured lighting threaded throughout the exterior behind the semitranslucent Texapore Softshell material, providing a unique glowing style.
Audi Matrix OLED and Swarm taillights
Audi showed off its OLED swarm taillight technology back in 2013 and now it's back on the Audi Matrix concept. Like the EDAG Light Cocoon and perhaps more realistic than the Fun Vii, this vehicle design aims to embed lighting tech throughout the car's exterior, making it the perfect four-wheeled companion to your lightcycle.