Concept cars help designers figure out the distinctive parts of each model. (AP)

Concept cars help designers figure out the distinctive parts of each model. (AP)

Wheel patterns and tails are features that start in concept cars and later become fashionable. (AP)

Wheel patterns and tails are features that start in concept cars and later become fashionable. (AP)

Some design details, like the Mustang's side scoop, make it to production. But fancy scissor doors are too costly for mass production.  (AP)

Some design details, like the Mustang's side scoop, make it to production. But fancy scissor doors are too costly for mass production. (AP)

Other wild concept cars are useful only for superheroes! (AP)

Other wild concept cars are useful only for superheroes! (AP)

Idea Cars

Posted: November 1, 2017

Have you ever seen a fashion show? Models display some pretty wild clothes. Concept cars are the fashion models of the automobile world. They might seem outrageous. But sooner or later, some of their features show up in the cars people actually buy.

Concept cars are “idea cars.” Designers can go crazy! They don’t have to pay much attention to practical questions like, “Will those bumpers pass a crash test?” “Can our factories make a fender in this shape?” “Will this much chrome make the car too expensive?”

Photo 1: Look at Mazda’s 2008 Furai concept car. It is a super sporty mass of swirling lines. It would have been too expensive to make, hard to manufacture, and tough to sell. But look where those flowing lines show up five years later—on Mazda’s minivan!

Look around you at cars. Can you imagine how some of their features looked on concept cars? How would you design your own “idea car”? Grab a sketchbook. Go crazy!

Photo 2: Shape. In the 1950s, concept cars looked like horizontal rockets. And some were just as hard to get into! People had to climb through the back window of this 1964 GM Stiletto.

Photo 3: Grill. A car’s front grill lets air in to the motor. But it can also be the way a company leaves its signature on a car. Everyone recognizes the grill of a Jeep.

Photo 4: Wheels. Hubcaps or spokes? Close them in? Half-way? Completely? There have been more wheel pattern ideas than you can count!

Photo 5: Tail. A 1951 Buick LeSabre concept car featured big tail fins. Soon, lots of cars—like this Cadillac Eldorado—were growing fins too.

Photo 6: Doors. Alpha Romeo designed a concept car with scissor doors 50 years ago. How would your design look with doors that flip up like wings or fold down like ramps?

Photo 7: Lines. This clay idea model for the Ford Mustang doesn’t look much like the car that became famous. But its square side scoop would become a favorite feature on Ford’s “pony car.”

Photo 8: Roof. The 1954 Lincoln Futura concept had a plexiglass roof domes. That wasn’t practical for the public. But it was perfect for Batman and Robin. The car was turned into the Batmobile for the 1960s TV show!