Back in the mid-’50s, GM held the Motorama traveling car show. It features some crazy concepts, future cars, and promotional materials. Those were the glory days of the American concept car trend. Each year, manufacturers competed with different cars that later became car styling and pop culture icons. In 1954, Chevrolet presented the Corvette Nomad. They named it the Waldorf Nomad since it first appeared at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel. It was practically a Corvette station wagon, but the design proved to be influential. Chevrolet presented the Nomad as a three-door station wagon.
It became part of the mainline Chevrolet model lineup just a year later. Also, the Corvette Nomad was one of the most popular concept cars from the Motorama period. After their short lives on the show circuit around America, most concept cars went to the crusher, but some managed to survive. This is where the Corvette Nomad case gets strange. Since it was a fully functional vehicle, the chances are they sold it, possibly to an employee or dealer. There are no records to show they crushed this car, but there are no records to prove someone bought it, either. It vanished in the mid-1950s and Corvette fans have been searching for it ever since.
The late 1940s marked the beginning of the custom car culture with modified cars first appearing in magazines and car shows. One of the first highly influential models that gained wide recognition was the Bettencourt-Zupan 1949 Mercury. This car was the first customized “Lead Sled” Mercury model that set the template for thousands that came after it. When they built the car, it became popular and was in several magazines. However, by the end of the ’60s, it was outdated. After the original owner died in an accident, they sold it to the famous SoCal customizer Dean Jeffries.
But one night in 1970, someone stole the car in front of his shop and he never found it. The custom car guys are on the lookout for this extremely important, valuable piece of the American car culture. The only trace was a pair of photographs that were allegedly taken in the 1980s. Those pictures suggest the car still exists, but it could be in a private collection.
One of the most intriguing figures of the early 20th century was American-born dancer and choreographer Isadora Duncan. Despite her American roots, she spent most of her life in Europe where people highly respected her. She became a celebrity among the artistic elite of the Art Deco age. Unfortunately, her untimely death was bizarre and somewhat of a mystery. Isadora was in the company of her Italian lover and mechanic on a warm September night in 1927 in Nice, France. The couple went for a ride in her convertible car and Isadora was sitting in the passenger seat. During the ride, her long silk scarf got caught up in the wire wheels of the car, strangling her and also causing fatal injuries.
The driver rushed to the hospital, but there wasn’t anything they could do and there weren’t any witnesses to the case. A full 90 years after Duncan died, the community is divided on which car she rode in back then. During her lifetime, Isadora owner many prestigious machines. Most historians claim that a Bugatti was the car in question. However, recent research shows Isadora also owned an Amilcar, another long lost, obscure French brand. Her lover is long gone and could not provide any information, so nobody knows what happened to this car.
One of the first and currently unaccounted classic Detroit concept cars was the gorgeous 1953 Buick Wildcat. They made just two cars, white and black. Despite being similar, these two cars were not identical. Buick presented the first car in the lobby of the Waldorf Astoria Hotel. It was a black elegant roadster that gained much public attention. The white one was a later car they featured afterward. There are even rumors of a third car they painted green, but no one has been able to confirm that as fact.
The location of the first, black Wildcat is unknown. There were no reports of it being sold, scrapped, or reappearing anywhere in North America. However, there was a story of a black 1953 Wildcat concept in the garage of a GM employee who saved it from the crusher. They bought it for next to nothing a few years after the car retired from car shows. Someone allegedly saw the car in the late 1960s. There were even a few photos of the owner and the car, but even the best automotive historians and collectors cannot confirm anything.
One of the most intriguing stories about legendary missing cars is the tale about the 1967 Shelby GT500 Jim Morrison owned. He was the lead singer and songwriter for The Doors, a famous Los Angeles-based rock band. The car was a gift from Electra Records to celebrate the success of their debut album in 1967. It was a dark blue 1967 Shelby GT500 with a white interior and a manual transmission. Morrison was fond of the car and drove it often. He even featured it in his art film, When You’re Strange, giving it the nickname, “Blue Lady.” One urban legend claims Morrison crashed the car after a night of heavy drinking, leaving it by the side of the road. When he came to pick it up, the car was gone. Others say Morrison left the car at the airport when he went to France.
After his tragic death from an overdose, they impounded and sold the car. There is also a rumor that the new owner used it as a getaway car in the late 1970s, scrapping it to get rid of the evidence. In any case, the car is missing. For years, the Mustang community thought Morrison’s Shelby was gone. However, several years ago, a female forum user asked around for Shelby spare parts, claiming she owned a “deceased rock star’s GT 500.” The author has since deleted the posts, but many Shelby fans hope the legendary “Blue Lady” is still alive somewhere.
Even though Dean only made three films and died at the age of 24, his legacy is so great he’s still one of the most legendary names in the film industry. On the other hand, the story of his Porsche 550 Spyder nicknamed “Little Bastard” is one of the most enduring automotive mysteries of all time. Dean died in 1955, crashing his Porsche at an intersection in Cholame, California. The car was badly damaged, so they sold some mechanical parts like the engine, but the body and few components remained. After a few owners, the car ended up with famous Hollywood customizer George Barris.
He loaned it to an organization that promoted highway safety. Reports of people being injured in freak accidents involving falling pieces from the car and other strange occurrences lead the public to call the crashed Porsche, “a cursed car.” In the late ’60s, they shipped the remains of the 550 Spyder from Florida to California, but they never arrived in L.A. Someone stole the car under suspicious circumstances and no one has been able to recover it. Some historians claim Barris had something to do with the disappearance of the legendary Dean`s Porsche. But Barris took the secret to the grave since he passed away in 2015.
Duesenbergs are one of the finest American cars the industry ever built. It is also one of the most respected, sought-after classic cars in the world. The SJ model is the top of the line “Doozy” with a supercharged eight-cylinder engine and an astonishing 320 HP. This was unheard of in the 1930s. Duesenberg only made 26 of them. While they’ve accounted for most of the cars, the chassis number 506 has been missing since the early ’60s.
The car was bodied by the French company Franay, appearing at the Paris Motor Show in 1934. They sold it to Emile Beghain of Algeria, who raced on the Le Mans track, later returning with the car to Algeria. The elegant roadster remained in his possession until 1962 when civil war broke out and Beghain was forced to flee. Although some people think the car was destroyed, there is no evidence of that, so the destiny of the SJ-506 remains a mystery.
One of the legendary and lost Motorama concepts was the beautiful Cadillac La Espada. Cadillac designed it as an elegant two-seater roadster. The La Espada featured several interesting, innovative features like a power top that created a curved surface when drivers closed it. It also had four headlights.
The car was a perfectly functional prototype with a Cadillac V8 engine delivering 230 HP. As with all other outdated concepts, it was destined for the crusher. However, it looks like it never got there. The story is they sold the car was sold to a private party who stored it in their garage, rarely driving it. After that, they sent it to the scrapyard and it disappeared afterward.
The Boss 429 Rear Engine is one of the most interesting Mustang prototypes. Despite the fact it didn’t appear on the show circuit back in the late ’60s, it caused a lot of controversies. Basically, they took the 1969 Boss 429 and moved the engine to the trunk. Then Ford extensively tested it to see if this conversion had significant advantages over the standard layout.
They placed the engine longitudinally in the trunk and connected it to the rear wheels over the C6 automatic transmission unit. Next, they turned the rear glass into a hatchback door to provide access to the engine. In fact, the entire conversion was surprisingly trouble-free. The Boss 429 Rear Engine had a 40/60 weight balance. The added weight over the rear axle helped launch it off the line and reduced wheel spin. However, Ford realized there weren’t any significant performance improvements, so they decided to kill the project and nobody saw this car again.
The success of the Charger-inspired the Chrysler designers to develop the idea of a Dodge performance model. The original Charger had power, performance, and countless racing wins. But it was still a big, heavy, and non-aerodynamic muscle machine. However, the 1968 Charger III concept was something quite different. The Charger III was no longer a muscle car, but a pure two-seater sports machine. It had compact dimensions, a low profile, a low weight, and several unusual features.
For example, instead of conventional doors, the whole top of the car opened to allow access to the interior. Also, the steering column tilted along with the steering wheel to make entry more comfortable. On the back of the car, there were massive airbrakes. In fact, they were similar to the ones on airplanes that deploy under heavy braking. Unfortunately, since the whole car was extremely futuristic, it was doomed from real production.
In 1953, Cadillac presented the Le Mans Concept, naming it after the legendary French racing track they raced on in the late â40s and early â50s. They designed this concept car as a styling exercise. In fact, the design of the car, including its lines and details including its legendary four headlights are still visible on future Cadillac models.
They conceived the car as a roadster with an unusual three-seat configuration. Interestingly, they made it out of fiberglass, just like the first Corvette. The legendary mysteries of famous lost cars still intrigue many people and car historians today. If you ever see any of these treasures, be sure to take a picture before it disappears again.