8 Modern Cars That Started Out as Wild Concepts

Published On 05/12/2016 Published On 05/12/2016
The BMW Efficient Dynamics Vision Concept
Courtesy of BMW

While some cars trace their genesis to a divergence in the line of an ancestor, and gradually water themselves down over decades, there are a few that are born not from existing vehicles, but from truly wild and outlandish concepts that have game-changing attributes. Take a look at the eight concept cars below. Each wowed the world in one way or another when the curtain was pulled back, and each went on to see production and become the car you know today -- albeit generally with a great deal of change.

Courtesy of Ford

Ford Mustang

Early concept: Mustang I, 1962
Aside from the name, and a subtle nod to the side scoops behind the doors, the Mustang you know and the original Mustang don't have much in common. The Mustang I, as it eventually came to be called, was a true sports car, and featured a four-cylinder engine behind the driver. In the grand scheme of cars, it was somewhere between a Corvair and a Corvette, but it was fast. Ford brought in racing icon Dan Gurney to drive a few laps ahead of a Formula One race, and it was only a couple seconds off of the F1 lap times.

Courtesy of GM

Corvette (C2)

Early concept: Mako Shark, 1963
The second-generation Corvette owes more than a few of its design elements to the original Mako Shark. Itself an evolved descendant of design legend Bill Mitchell's 1959 Stingray race car, the Mako Shark's influence on the C2, and to some extent, on every Corvette ever since, is apparent.

Fun fact: Mitchell wanted the car's color to match the actual mako shark he had on his wall, but the design team couldn't quite get it right. One night, after Mitchell had left, they hijacked the shark, painted it to match the car instead, and told Mitchell they managed to match the fish. It worked.

Courtesy of BMW

MINI Cooper

Early concept: Mini ACV30, 1997
Before BMW bought the Mini brand and turned it into the MINI of today, the car had gone unchanged for decades. In 1997, though, this ACV30 concept debuted to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the marque's success at the famed Monte-Carlo Rally. Quite a bit of the design wound up being incorporated into the MINI Cooper, when the brand's refresh occurred in 2000.

Courtesy of Ford

The Batmobile

Early concept: Lincoln Futura, 1955
In 1955, Ford debuted the Lincoln Futura concept with zero intent to produce it. Intended purely as a window into the minds of the designers, the Futura's bold shape is the epitome of the wild jet-era cars of the 1950s. While a few of its design cues made their way to production cars in watered-down forms, that's not why it's here. In 1965, the producers for the Batman TV series needed a car. Eventually, George Barris was called in, and he took the Futura -- not a copy, but the actual car in this photo that made the car-show rounds -- added a few tweaks, and POW!, the iconic Batmobile was born.

Courtesy of FCA

Plymouth Prowler

Early concept: Prowler, 1993
The Prowler is one of the very few examples where a car debuts as an outlandish concept, then hits the streets with relatively few changes. Nearly 12,000 were made in its five years of production, before it faded away into the annals of automotive history.

Courtesy of GM

Chevy Volt

Early concept: Volt concept, 2007
The Volt concept, when it debuted nearly a decade ago, was among the very first plug-in hybrid concepts shown at one of the major auto shows. Originally a response to the Tesla Roadster, its production version didn't quite share the same chiseled good looks.

Courtesy of GM

Pontiac Aztek

Original concept: Aztek, 1999
Before the Aztek spent a decade as a laughing stock rivaling the Edsel for the title of biggest automotive disaster in history, and before it became the poster car for fictional Albuquerquian drug manufacturers, it was actually a pretty novel concept, with looks that, well, didn't quite translate to production, and ideas like an optional tent that comes out of the rear.

Courtesy of BMW

BMW i8

Early concept: Vision EfficientDynamics, 2009
The i8 is a marvel in many respects, as a lightweight hybrid that's highly efficient yet can compete with a Porsche 911 head to head. When BMW introduced the concept Vision EfficientDynamics in 2009, it was immediately one of those cars that everyone wished BMW would have the balls to build, but deep down knew wouldn't happen. Rarely have so many been so glad to be so wrong.

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Aaron Miller is the Cars editor for Thrillist, and can be found on Twitter. He's touched two of these original concepts in real life.



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