For decades, concept cars represented each car manufacturer’s vision of the automotive future. They leverage upcoming design languages and glimpses of things to come. Even though concept cars are often non-functional sculptures, they still have an important place in every brand’s lineup as attention-getters. Concept cars still prove the company is dedicated to progress and the future.
Concept cars as we know them today date back to the late ’30s with the legendary Buick Y Job. During the ’50s and the ’60s, they became popular and influential, and remain relevant and interesting today. However, concept cars were exclusively an American thing for a long time until the European and Japanese manufacturers started presenting their creations on a smaller scale.
The American fascination with concept cars was immortalized in the famous GM’s Motorama, a traveling car show that promoted crazy concept vehicles and future trends. Running between 1949 and 1961, over 10 million people visited the Motorama, so it had an immense impact on the car industry. And for that reason, here is a list of 18 best American concept cars of all time.
These are the cars that have captivated the imagination of generations of car lovers, influencing the industry beyond everyone’s expectations. Some of those cars even became part of popular culture, transcending the limits of the car design world.
Buick Y Job
Arguably, the first concept car in the world was the 1939 Buick Y Job. It was the brainchild of the famous GM designer, Harley Earl. He designed the car for the show circuit. His goal was to demonstrate future trends and design solutions.
The Y Job was famous for its hidden headlights, smooth lines and elegant appearance. Although they built it on a regular production chassis with a standard drivetrain, it featured a special interior. Unlike other concept cars purely for show purposes, the Y Job was a fully functional vehicle.
In fact, Harley Earl used it for many years. If you look at the design of those early ’50 Buick models, you will notice the resemblance to the Y Job concept. Today, this important piece of American car history and culture is a permanent piece of the GM Heritage collection.