The storied history of the automobile industry is one of the most fascinating and introspective looks into American culture. And the Amelia Island Concours d'Elegance is one of the premiere destinations to see it in the metal.
The event is jam packed with hundreds of rare cars that reign from all over the world, whether driven, towed, or even flown in. And this year promises to be one of the best ever. Aside from the usual spate of pre-war Bentleys and Bugattis, some of history's coolest and most obscure concept cars will be in attendance, a few of which stand as the epitome as “Western Culture."
Looks like a bizarro version of a GTO, right? In a sense, that's exactly what it is. The X-400 was essentially Pontiac putting pre-GTO in the public's eye. Under the hood lies a 421 cid V8, and despite the engine and some of the styling cues, it's kind of a tame concept car, at least by 1960s GM standards.
This might look like a '33 Ford, but the rear of the body's been modified to resemble a Bentley "Blue Train Special", which in turn commemorated what's best described as a Top Gear race from the flapper-era. This is vastly more impressive. The engine's a 900 hp V12 designed for boat races and for use in vintage aircraft, which may explain the horrified look on the car's face.
Chrysler Town & Country Steer Car
When just the horns aren't enough, you go with the whole head of the steer. This actually once belonged to a man named Lee Carillo. You've probably never heard of him, but he was a Vaudville-era comic, then found fame in the 1930s and 40s doing Western movies. It should be all coming together now.
DeSoto Adventurer II
The Adventurer II is the story of a car that was just a little too far ahead of its time to be a wild success. Take an American car with an Italian body and a Chrysler Hemi V8 and you've got a recipe that (today) would light the world on fire. It didn't in 1954—DeSoto folded six years later—so you can blame your grandfather for this car not being more successful.
Perfectly in-line with the 1950s futuristic outlook, the Predictor aimed to predict the options Packards would have in the future. It was meant to be a "portrait of styling philosophy,"1 but instead it signaled the beginning of the end for Packard.
If you think a fiberglass-bodied V8 coupe with killer 1950s looks and room for the whole family sounds like a great idea, you're in line with most of Ford's execs. Some, though, wanted to make the Edsel instead. That uh...didn't go so well.
Built by a high-end hotrod shop in rural Pennsylvania that's been doing its thing for 50 years now, think of the Aeroliner as a 1930s art deco-era hotrod-slash-supercar. Then toss on some modern brakes and a 500 hp 427 cid V8, and you've got this beauty.
The 1938 Y-Job is, without question, one of the most important cars you've never heard of. It's considered by many to be the first true concept car (others were experimental rather than conceptual). The legendary Harley Earl (he also did the first Corvette and is responsible for introducing those wild fins on cars of the '50s) built this car to gauge the public's interest in the styling.
Every Buick that followed until the end of the 1950s (see: the 1949 Roadmaster in Rain Man) had the Y-Job to thank for its styling, and its grill is still found on Buicks today.