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25 Unique Concept Cars That Never Made It To Production

Cameron EittreimJanuary 7, 2022

Concept cars are a part of the lifeblood that fuels the automotive industry. They gauge whether consumers will embrace or shun a new vehicle. The role of a concept car is becoming increasingly important, as consumers become more involved in the future of automotive design. Concept cars like the Oldsmobile Aurora changed the future of how automakers would design vehicles.

There have been hundreds of successful concept cars that have gone through the auto show circuit. There have also been great concept cars that never went into production. Cars and trucks that had a lot of potential such as the Dodge Power Wagon concept or the Jeep Jeepster concept were unique had a lot of potential but unfortunately never hit the market. Taking a look back at some of the best concept cars and why they never went into production is a great mystery. Join us as we looked back at 25 unique concept cars that, due to whatever reason, never saw their time on car lots via America Loves Horsepower below.

Photo Credit: Chrysler

25: Dodge Copperhead

There’s no denying the Dodge Viper was an awesome sports car. It was one of the first performance cars to break the 400 horsepower mark at a time when those numbers were almost unheard of. The problem was that the Viper had a high price tag and the car wasn’t practical for casual drivers. The Copperhead was a sports car concept that was supposed to give buyers a more practical alternative to the Viper (via Motorious).

Photo Credit: Chrysler

A V-6 engine powered the Copperhead concept and it was rear-wheel drive. This car had a recipe for fun due to its lightweight modern design. That made sense because it was essentially the same recipe Mazda used with the Miata years earlier. The Dodge brand was on a successful run in the 1990s, and it’s curious why Chrysler didn’t release this sports car. The market for the Copperhead would have been there, and enthusiasts would have snapped them up as a result.

Photo Credit: Audi

24: Audi Avus

Long before the Audi R8 became a beautiful reality in 2006, there was a concept car called the Avus that came onto the scene in 1991. If the styling and design look familiar, it’s because the Avus was the forerunner for what would become the R8 a decade later. The main takeaway from the concept car was the all-aluminum body. Coupled with the mid-engined W-12 powered design, the Avus was unlike anything else on the market (via Classic Cars).

Photo Credit: Audi

The 1990s recession is to blame for the Avus never making it onto the market. The Audi brand was in a tough place during the decade so it’s no shock that the Avus wasn’t on the top priority list. But this is by far one of the most production-ready concept cars that came out during the decade. The Avus would have had no problem competing with the likes of the Acura NSX and the Dodge Viper.

Photo Credit: Motorious

23: Mercedes-Benz C112

The Mercedes-Benz brand was riding high in the early 1990s with impressive wins in the LeMans racing series. When the company debuted this beautiful concept car, there was much talk about it going into production. Car fans took a look at the Mercedes-Benz C112 and instantly saw a supercar that needs no introduction. The styling was beautiful and years ahead of its time (via Hemmings).

Photo Credit: Old Concept Cars

Even the Mercedes-Benz brand hadn’t yet adopted this type of styling on the production vehicles in the lineup. You wouldn’t see this type of styling on a Mercedes model until the latter portion of the 1990s. Had the C112 gone into production, Mercedes-Benz most likely would have had an undeniable hit that offered serious bang for the buck.

Photo Credit: Nissan

22: Nissan IDx

There’s no denying that the Datsun 510 is one of the most iconic cars in auto history. The Nissan brand was built on the back of the 510 car, and the popularity has lasted all these years after. Nissan released a 510 rear-wheel-drive concept car to the market in 2013 to much fanfare. The car was a modern rendition of what you’d expect the sedan to look like and it came across well (via Nissan Motors).

Photo Credit: Nissan

Then everything in the Nissan universe fell apart when Carlo Ghosn was arrested and taken to a Japanese prison. Many of the cars planned to hit the market were quickly canceled and brushed under the rug. Will we ever get a modern 510? Only time will tell as the Nissan brand is slowly rebuilt.

Photo Credit: Buick

21: Buick Avista

The Buick brand has transformed exponentially over the past two decades. From going to a badge-engineered brand to having breakout hits like the Encore SUV, the Buick brand has continued to excel since the GM bankruptcy. The Avista concept car was introduced in 2016 and was based on the Alpha platform (via GM Authority).

Photo Credit: Buick

Boasting a 400 HP twin-turbo and a two-door coupe design, the Avista was a beautiful car. The car harkened back to the glory days of Buick when they were introducing beautiful concept cars and two-door sports cars. The Avista concept car sadly never came to fruition, but Buick did release the Cascade convertible later on.

Photo Credit: Chrysler

20: Chrysler ME Four-Twelve

It’s amazing to see how many supercar concepts have come out in the past couple of decades but almost none of these vehicles made it into production. The appetite for supercars is always growing, but industry stables like Lamborghini get all the attention. Chrysler Corporation, with its Mercedes backing the early 2000s, toyed with the idea (via Motor Trend).

Photo Credit: Chrysler

The Chrysler ME Four-Twelve is a beautiful carbon-fibered supercar concept introduced in 2004. The styling was beautiful, and the car was a fully running prototype model. Chrysler had cornered a certain portion of the market with the Dodge Viper, but that was a rough and tough sports car whereas the Chrysler ME Four-Twelve was a more sedate option for higher-priced clientele.

Photo Credit: Mitsubishi

19: Mitsubishi Concept-RA

Mitsubishi is a brand that’s introduced many unique sports cars over the past three decades. Unfortunately, though none of these sports cars were amazing, that is until the Mitsubishi Concept-RA hit in 2008. The concept car was heavily based on the existing Eclipse model. But some differences made the concept car a bit more appealing.

Photo Credit: Mitsubishi

The first and most notable thing about the Concept-RA is the turbo-diesel engine. Not only was that unique but the car also had recyclable plastic resin body panels. The Concept-RA was meant to be a sustainable sports car in a segment where that isn’t the norm. Unfortunately, the recession crushed plans for this potentially interesting sports car.

Photo Credit: BMW

18: BMW E1

Electric crossover vehicles are just now starting to come to fruition but in the early 1990s, this wasn’t the case. That is until we saw the BMW E1 concept car, a tall-bodied electric car with a spacious interior. The E1 was a car that was ahead of its time, both in terms of practicality and functionality (via Below The Radar).

Photo Credit: BMW

The range of the car was only rated at 155 miles, but this was still very early in electric car technology. There are very few concept cars that have been as well done as the E1 was. When you look at everything the E1 brought to the table, it’s interesting to see how electric cars have progressed over time.

Photo Credit: Motor Trend

17: Aston Martin Lagonda Vignale

After Ford purchased Aston Martin, there was much excitement about the future of the nameplate. The Aston Martin Lagonda Vignale was a five-seat concept that took a lot of great Aston Martin design aspects and made them better. The modern design came out at a time when automakers moved away from boxier designs. The car was sleek and modern, like something that you might see on the road today (via Classic Driver).

Photo Credit: Motor Trend

The performance was derived from a 4.6 L SOHC Ford Modular V8 engine, a tried-and-true motor Ford had used in many cars. There were three Lagonda Vignales put into production. One was destroyed and the other two were sold by Ford at auction, fetching quite a bit of money in the process. It’s interesting to think about how popular this car might have been if it had made it into production.

Photo Credit: Chrysler

16: Chrysler Atlantic

The Chrysler Corporation was on a design spree in the ’90s with many interesting concept cars hitting the market. Perhaps the most notable was the Chrysler Atlantic sports car concept. Released in 1995 to many ovations, the retro-inspired roadster was much more put together than the Plymouth Prowler production car was. Smooth lines and a beautiful design made the Atlantic a real possibility (via Concept Carz).

Photo Credit: Chrysler

The consumer response to the car was positive, and the 2.0-liter four-cylinder used in the design was cheap to produce. Unfortunately, the Atlantic never made it into production. However, Chrysler released the Crossfire almost a decade later. Had the Atlantic been released, it might have put the Chrysler brand on the map because of a well-appointed sports car.

Photo Credit: Ford

15: Ford GT90

In the ’90s, Dodge had the Viper and Chevrolet had the Corvette, but there was no “supercar” on sale from Ford. The Mustang SVT Cobra picked up the slack for performance buyers who wanted something out of the ordinary. The GT90 concept looked to change this with inspiration from the original Ford GT. The design of the car was beautiful and it was surprisingly road-ready in terms of a concept car (via Motor Trend).

Photo Credit: Ford

The concept car used a quad-turbo V12 that pushed out 720HP, a strong number even by today’s standards. The design of the car was modern and still hearkened back to the original GT40 for inspiration. Although the GT90 never went into production, Ford still released a GT model later in the 2000s.

Photo Credit: Ford

14: Lincoln Sentinel

The Lincoln brand was in a tough spot in the 1990s. Young luxury car shoppers had moved onto other brands such as Lexus and left the domestic brands to sell to a very limited demographic. Ford had to do something to inject life back into Lincoln, which it later did with the Navigator SUV. But before the Navigator hit the scene, we got the Sentinel concept car, which was a modern rendition of a beautiful Lincoln (via Concept Carz).

Photo Credit: Ford

The design of the car was themed after the 1955 Lincoln Continental. A clean, smooth design made the vehicle impeccable to the eyes. Beautiful 20-inch wheels graced the car, and the power was derived from a V-12 engine. The concept car was popular with consumers, although it never went into production. Lincoln then released the LS sedan a few years later, based on a Jaguar platform.

Photo Credit: Concept Carz

13: Dodge Dakota Sidewinder

Packing a large engine into a compact pickup truck and dubbing it a “sports truck” is nothing new. GM did it with the 454 SS and the Syclone, and Ford did it with the Lightning. But Dodge never had a true performance truck during the 1990s. Sure, there was the Dakota Shelby, but it was limited in production. The Ram SS/T was more or less an appearance package than an actual performance upgrade (via Consumer Guide).

Photo Credit: Concept Carz

The Sidewinder concept took a Viper engine and crammed it into a modern-looking shell. The styling of the truck was attractive and a bit like a modern El Camino. Nevertheless, the truck concept hit the auto show circuit to much fanfare but the production model never hit the market. Dodge would release a Viper-based truck later on down the road in the 2000s, although it was the Ram and not the Dakota.

Photo Credit: Nissan

12: Nissan Stylish 6

Nissan has released many crossovers since the start of the 2010s. As the crossover segment continues to rise, there was a time when these cars were only a thought. The Nissan Stylish 6 was a crossover concept car released in 1997. The 2.5 Liter engine was a gas-electric hybrid powertrain, coupled to a CVT transmission. This concept car was well before CVT transmissions were a thing (via Auto Blog).

Photo Credit: Nissan

When you look back on the design of the Stylish 6, it was a forward-thinking car. The Stylish 6 looked like the modern crossover vehicles we have today. It also marked a new type of design language for the Nissan brand. The company was in a bad position, and the cars of the 1990s were bland. Nissan had to completely transform as a brand to remain relevant and rebuild its sales.

Photo Credit: VW

11: Volkswagen W12

Have you ever seen a supercar with a Volkswagen badge on it? No, but there’s a concept car that debuted in 1997 at the Tokyo Auto Show. The Volkswagen W12 is an interesting concept car and a powerful supercar to boot. The 5.6-liter W12 engine was made from two 2.8-liter VW VR6 units. The design of the car was definitely over the top and it made for a pretty unique sports car (via Motor 1).

Photo Credit: VW

The beauty of this model is that Porsche engineering is behind it. You get the prestige of a Porsche supercar with the badge of a Volkswagen. Unfortunately, the W12 never made it into production, and Volkswagen has never sold a supercar under the VW marquee. The W12 would have been a great supercar if it had gone into production.

Photo Credit: Chrysler

10: Chrysler Chronos

You can’t deny the depth and variety Chrysler had in terms of conceptual vehicle design in the 1990s. The concept cars coming out of Chrysler were unique to say the least. Many of these concept cars were drivable and seemingly road-ready, which made them exciting for the automotive press (via Consumer Guide).

Photo Credit: Chrysler

The car had styling similar to the production version of the 300M and the Dodge Intrepid. The 17-foot length of the Chronos made it considerable when you saw it in person as most vehicles weren’t this long. The performance of the Chronos was also impressive thanks to its 6.0-liter V10 engine.

Photo Credit: Chrysler

9: Jaguar XK180

Many people in the automotive press don’t approve of Ford purchasing Jaguar in the 1990s. But there were some interesting concept cars that came out of the partnership. One such vehicle was the XK180 that was revealed at the 1998 Paris Auto Show. The unique-looking sports car was a re-bodied XKR shortened for performance (via Jaguar Forum).

Photo Credit: Chrysler

The end result was a car that handled better and looked better than its predecessor did. Power was derived from the 4.0-litre V8 engine, which was the main V8 engine used in Jaguar models. The XK180 could have been a popular car if it was released to the market, but unfortunately that never became the case.

Photo Credit: Cadillac

8: Cadillac Ciel

The Cadillac Ciel is in line with many Cadillac concept cars that have hit the auto show scene. The styling hearkens back to a time when Cadillac was known for large and opulent convertibles. Much like the El Dorado and many of the classic Cadillacs of the 1950s, the model takes traditional styling and blends it into the future. There have been many beautiful Cadillac concept cars in the past couple of decades, but the Ciel stood out from the crowd (via Cadillac).

Photo Credit: Cadillac

Unfortunately, the Ciel was never put into production as the market for a high-priced convertible wasn’t there. The long wheelbase of the Ciel made it seemingly beautiful compared to an otherwise bland barrage of models. It’s too bad that the recession caused GM to axe any thought of the Ciel going into production.

Photo Credit: Ford

7: Ford Shelby GR-1

There have been many unique Shelby models over the past two decades. The GR-1 was a unique sports car concept that was road-ready and beautiful. With a style that blends a modern day Mustang and a Ford GT together, the GR-1 was amazingly beautiful. Released in 2004, the GR-1 was built for a purpose, and the only model ever built was sold at auction for $82,500 (via Super Performance).

Photo Credit: Ford

Although the Ford lineup is fairly dominated by the Mustang sports car, there is still room for a more powerful model. Similar to how GM markets the Corvette, the GR-1 could be a specialty model that consumers have access to. With signature styling and the Shelby nameplate, the GR-1 was a beautiful concept car that could have offered serious bang for the buck.

Photo Credit: Jaguar

6: Jaguar C-X75

Jaguar introduced many unique concept cars to the auto show circuit over the past few years with the C-X75 being one of the main and most recent ones. The styling of the car far exceeded anything else that has hit the automotive circuit in a long time. A parallel hybrid electric model, the C-X75 took a lot of technology to the next level (via Jaguar).

Photo Credit: Jaguar

If you remember Jaguar supercars of the past, you’ll know that the company doesn’t skimp on technology. Although Jaguar decided against putting the C-X75 into production, the car was still beautifully done. It shows that theres still a lot of potential in the Jaguar brand and their cars are still beautiful.

Photo Credit: Motor 1

5: Lamborghini Estoque

The Estoque was marketed as the first “practical” Lamborghini model. Featuring a wagon-like design similar to the Porsche Panamera, the concept car garnered a lot of attention in the auto show circle. Although the URUS SUV would come almost a decade later, the Estoque was still a marvelous car (via Lamborghini Talk).

Photo Credit: Motor 1

It was about the closest thing to a production car that a concept can get. The V-10 engine was powerful and yet the car still looked modest. If you’ve ever dreamed of driving a four-door Lamborghini model, this would be it. The car was excellent in every way but never made it into production.

Photo Credit: Motor 1

4: Saleen S5S Raptor

Saleen is a company that does more than just juice up your local Mustang. The brand has also been known to design supercars from time to time. The S5S Raptor concept car was one such example. This beautifully sculpted sports car was set to be produced, but the company’s financial woes at the time prevented it. So yes, the S5S is about as close to a production car as a concept vehicle car (via Car Junky).

Photo Credit: Motor 1

The styling of the Raptor was downright beautiful, almost reminiscent of a Ferrari. Saleen has been in the performance business for a long time, so there’s no denying that this car could handle its own on the track. There has been talk in recent years that Saleen will try to produce the S5S at some point in time.

Photo Credit: Motor 1

3: Bugatti Galibier

2009 was an interesting year for concept cars, and perhaps one of the most interesting was the Galibier concept car. What was supposed to be slotted as the successor to the Veyron ended up confusing a lot of Bugatti loyalists. The styling of the car was more reminiscent of the Porsche Panamera than anything else (via Top Speed).

Photo Credit: Motor 1

Nevertheless, those who have always dreamed about driving a Bugatti sean finally got to see one in person. There is no denying that the styling of this car was beautiful, and the functionality was there too. It shared the W-16 engine with the Veyron and the design of the car looked like it was carefully sculpted.

Photo Credit: Motor Trend

2: Maybach Exelero

In the mid-2000s, Maybach was a company known for opulence and excellence. The Exelero had a beautifully-sculpted style that made you want the car. Since Maybach hadn’t built a two-door coupe yet, there was a lot of hurrah around this model. The Exelero had a twin-turbo V-12 engine, and it was capable of doing some serious numbers on the track (via Maybach).

Photo Credit: Motor 1

The plan was to put the Exelero into production, but that never came to fruition. Instead, the only model built ended up being sold to Jay Z of all people. It will be interesting to see if Mercedes-Benz ever resurrects a Maybach coupe. The car had a beautiful design and a lot of potential at the time.

Photo Credit: Mercedes

1: Mercedes-Benz Ener-G-Force

Mercedes-Benz isn’t the first company to come to mind when you think of an extreme off-road. But that’s exactly what happened with the Ener-G-Force concept. Although the vehicle was fuel-cell powered and had a range of 500 miles, it looked like it could take anything on. The concept car is no surprise, as SUV models have become more of a status symbol in recent years (via MB Denver).

Photo Credit: Mercedes

It will be interesting to see what the future holds for these Mercedes SUV models. The Ener-G-Force was interesting, and showed us what fuel-cell vehicles could provide. The Ener-G-Force concept never made it into production, but there was a lot of potential there for sure.

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