By on April 19, 2013
1998 Pontiac Rageous-sVl=mx=

1998 Pontiac Rageous

All good things, even obscure and maybe even not so good, must come to an end. You can see previous installments of the Encyclopedia of Obscure Concept and Show Cars hereherehere, and here.

Oldsmobile, Packard, Plymouth. Another dead brand with obscure concept cars in this part of the alphabet is Pontiac. This is their Rageous concept from 1997, another proto-CUV, and what some have called “the Aztek that should have been”. Imagine a four door Trans Am (the rear doors are suicide style like on the RX-8 Mazda) with  a hatchback and a flat load floor that will accommodate a 4X8 sheet of plywood. A ’90s vintage LT1 and a Corvette based rear suspension completed the package, which of course had Pontiac’s supernumerary nostrils from that era. Actually, the Rageous isn’t that obscure. Mattel’s Hot Wheels released their own version of it in 1999 and reissued it at least 8 times since then. Like the Jeep Jeepster concept, if you’re a Gen Y’er, or a baby boomer who collects Hot Wheels you may actually remember the Pontiac Rageous.

PontiacAztekConcept@1999Web22Speak of the devil. Not a bad idea, but much better in theory than in practice.

PontiacBanshee@1988Web22The name Banshee has graced a number of sporty Pontiac show cars starting in 1964.  You can see how GM designers were trying to come up with an integrated rear spoiler and this 1988 Banshee did have an influence on the Firebird and Camaro but I think the 4th generation Camaro, which came out in 1993, had an even better integrated spoiler.

autowp.ru_pontiac_tempest_monte_carlo_concept_car_1In the early 1960s, Pontiac made a couple of Tempest based concepts including the Monte Carlo in 1962, a two seat speedster with cut down glass and fairings on the back deck. I dig the period correct mag wheels secured with a single knock off hub nut.

PontiacFleurDeLis@63CAS_web1The following year the Pontiac Tempest went from sporty to elegant with the Fleur de Lis, though if you look at the badge in the grille, it’s got a 326 V8 under the hood. You could argue that the first muscle cars were small Pontiacs with V8 engines.

PontiacPiranhaConcept@2000Web22The Pontiac Piranha, introduced in 2000, had a logo that could be used to make an Angry Fish spinoff. It’s so obscure that it doesn’t even have its own Wikipedia page, though Mattel’s Matchbox brand has issued it four times since 2002 and it’s apparently still in production. Perhaps Mattel sold more Pontiacs in that brand’s last decade than General Motors did.

PontiacSalsa@1992Web22Like Ford’s Ghia Prima, Pontiac tried the Nissan Pulsar sedan/hatch/wagon idea with the Salsa show cars in 1992: “A highly versatile small sport utility vehicle with a unique expanding body configuration.” Note the surfboards, a recurring show car motif.

PontiacStingerConcept@1989Web22Did anyone put a poster of the Pontiac Stinger on their wall?

2004-Chevrolet-Nomad-Solstice-Curve-1920x1440In 2004, to demonstrate the flexibility of the then new but now abandoned Kappa platform, GM brought out three show cars, the production version of the upcoming 2006 Pontiac Solstice, the Saturn Curve concept and the Chevy Nomad concept. The Curve, a chunky, muscular design that I thought looked kinda funny, never made it to production but Saturn did get the Sky, it’s own version of the Solstice roadster. The Nomad, a modern take on GM’s legendary Corvette station wagon from the 1954 Motorama touring car show, was probably never even considered for production. Saturn and Pontiac are dead, as is the Kappa platform. As far as I can tell, since the Sky, Solstice and Sky-based Opel GT have gone out of production no current GM product is based on Kappa architecture. Of the three show cars in 2004, the Nomad was the most popular. My guess is that had Chevy made that version of the Kappa, the platform might still be alive. Somewhere a shuttered Pontiac-Saturn dealer is having Nate Altmanesque dreams of buying some tooling.

simcafulgurSome of the less obscure show cars of the late 1950s and early 1960s were ideas that seemed perfectly reasonable then but outlandish now, like the two wheeled gyroscope stabilized Ford Gyron. You may have heard of the Gyron, but have you ever seen the Simca Fulgur from Chrysler’s French subsidiary? Fulgar means “lightning” in Latin and I suppose the connection was electricity. The Fulgur was another supposedly gyrostabilized vehicle, with electric power (some references say atomic) and an “electronic brain”.

Subaru SRD1990_ _ExhibitWeb22The 1990 Subaru SRD-1 was the first concept car out of the Subaru Research and Design center in Cypress, California. Recognizing that they were selling the most popular import station wagons, Subaru went with their strengths and designed what they called “an innovative “dream wagon” concept for the ’90s and beyond”. The “beyond” part was a reference to a “family wagon” with features designed “with characteristic attention to the future needs of the mature wagon users”. The typical Subaru owner then was often rather frugal and I guess for that crowd knowing that the car would still be running after the kids move out and you start buying Depends would be a selling point.

SuzukiSea@@2006Web221The Suzuki Sea from 2005 and 2006 was one of a number of forgettable Suzuki concepts that embraced surfer culture. You’ll excuse me if I’d prefer a real woody wagon (and definitely not the Dodge Kahuna) if I was going to go surfing.

toyota pod 2002For a conservative company decried by some as producing “beigemobiles”, Toyota has made some rather odd concepts, like the Pod from 2002.

1977_Toyota_CAL-1_Concept_02I’m guessing that like the Subaru SRD-1, Toyota’s CAL-1, from the 1977-78 show circuit, celebrated that Japanese company’s then new California design center, in this case CALTY. Though it was designed in the United States, it was revealed at the 1977 Tokyo show, which may explain the right hand drive. Based on an A40 Celica Supra, the CAL-1 was a ute, with wooden decking over the pickup bed. Also reminiscent of Subaru are the BRAT style seats in the bad.

VolkswagenAAC_Concept@2000Web22The Volkswagen AAC, shown here at Chicago in 2000, was another VW pickup truck that they didn’t sell in North America.

ARVW_Riga_Motor_Museum_2008Do you remember the Volkswagon ARVW (Aerodynamic Research Volkswagen) from 1980? For a while it was the fastest diesel powered car in the world: 362.07 km/h.

volvo you_rA show car doesn’t have to be old to be obscure. The Volvo Concept You was on the show circuit last year. It’s a gorgeous car and a look at what the next Volvo S80 flagship will be like, but I think even Volvo wants to keep it obscure. They kept it behind glass at the 2012 NAIAS.

Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth, a realistic perspective on cars & car culture and the original 3D car site. If you found this post worthwhile, you can dig deeper at Cars In Depth. If the 3D thing freaks you out, don’t worry, all the photo and video players in use at the site have mono options. Thanks – RJS

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35 Comments on “The Encyclopedia of Obscure Concept and Show Cars: Part Five – Pontiac to Volvo...”


  • avatar

    What a great series this has been! I can tell you put a lot of time and effort into this. I really enjoyed it.

    It’s amazing how many of the older cars I know and how few of the new ones I missed.

  • avatar
    OneAlpha

    I always liked the Rageous, and I had the Revell 1/24 Banshee at least twice when I was a kid.

    The Aztek looked like if one grafted a bed onto the back, it would’ve made a good-looking crew cab pickup.

    For the record, I always LIKED Pontiac’s cladding, especially on the 2003 Grand Am GT coupe. Converted to rear wheel drive and with a 3800 or a Nissan RB26, it would make a sweet hot rod.

    • 0 avatar
      Easton

      Pontiac ALWAYS had the best and most wildest concept car design. I remember seeing the Rageous concept for the first time in an issue of Motor Trend. I thought that, if anybody, Pontiac would be the only manufacturer with the balls to actually produce something like that for public consumption (or at least that awesome name). God, I miss Pontiac and the cracked out boss’s son that somehow managed to always get assigned to the Pontiac design time somewhere along his acid trip.

      And, for the record, I too liked the use of cladding on SOME of Pontiac’s designs, particularly the (IMO) gorgeous 1996-1999 Bonneville SSEi. What I didn’t like was the perfect environment that cladding created for rust and rot.

  • avatar
    danio3834

    It’s been great going over some of these concepts again. Throughout the 90′s and 2000s I always thought Chrysler had the best collection of conceptual vehicles that would have been awesome in production. They could warrant a post all on their own.

    Some notables:
    1991 300 concept
    1995 Atlantic
    1997 Phaeton
    1997 Copperhead
    1998 Chronos
    1999 Charger
    2002 Razor
    2003 300c convertible
    2004 Slingshot
    2004 ME Four Twelve
    2005 Firepower

  • avatar
    daiheadjai

    Toyota also had a nifty (IMHO) compact sporty ute called the RSC.
    Basically an off-road coupe, with CRX-style rear hatch-integrated glass
    I wish they had put that into production.

  • avatar
    Syke

    The two concepts that I really, really, really would wish have entered production were the Chevy Nomad (which would have been just a difficult to find in stock condition a year later, just like the originals) and the Chrysler Atlantic (think of that one the streets instead of the Crossfire).

  • avatar
    niky

    The Toyota POD race from Gran Turismo Concept has got to be one of the funniest races ever in a video game.

    -

    I’ve always loved the Banshee.

  • avatar
    Crabspirits

    Saab’s Phoenix and AeroX concepts were pretty neat. I marveled at these at the Chicago Auto Show, surrounded by no one.

  • avatar
    wagic

    “Like the Jeep Jeepster concept, if you’re a Gen Y’er, or a baby boomer who collects Hot Wheels you may actually remember the Pontiac Rageous.”

    So gen X’ers don’t touch hotwheels?

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    Excellent series.

  • avatar
    GoFaster58

    Whatever it was, concept or special edition, The Ford Shelby GR-1 should have been made. The same for the Ford Iaccoca Mustang. The Shelby GR-1 is still one of the most beautiful cars designed.

    • 0 avatar

      There’s not a bad angle on the GR-1.

      Ford did a fine job doing modern takes on two already great looking cars, the GT40 and the Shelby Daytona Coupe.

      When Ford introduced the GR-1, that year they produced a brochure about their concept cars and fortunately I saved a few.

  • avatar
    Conslaw

    The Aztek show car was actually pretty cool looking. It’s a shame someone in the development process didn’t point out that they took something good and made it ugly. (In the production Aztek’s defense, I have to say that looking back at the Aztek after a decade and a half of me-too crossovers and SUVs, the looks aren’t so bad. If they would have given it the 3.6 or even the 3.9 liter engine, it might have had more legs.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      I agree looking back everyone who lampooned it should eat their hat since every fake SUV on the road is just almost as ugly.

      I don’t think either engine was in production when it debuted in 2002 IIRC. Personally I would have gone 3800 with it and then when the 3.6 VVT came out either replaced it or put it in an upscale trim.

    • 0 avatar
      Felis Concolor

      It is sad to see how the accountants nickel and dimed it to death; the original concept was a lot better looking than many of today’s offerings and those asymmetric wheels are still fantastic.

  • avatar
    cargogh

    I was surprised and happy they built the Sky, but all three of those looked great. Back then I couldn’t figure out how the Curve looked so bad-ass and so Saturn at the same time.
    Like the Beat, Groove, and Trax concepts, I couldn’t tell which, if any, would be produced.
    Somehow the Beat grew doors, kept the green paint, and morphed into the Spark.
    Ronnie, I’m sure you’re happy the Trax, with its shrunken Kahuna look, was not chosen. lol

    I don’t remember the Subaru SRD-1. But it sure reminds me of Giugiaro’s Lancia Medusa concept from 1980.

  • avatar
    Zackman

    I – wifey and me – actually liked the Aztek, and seriously considered one back in 2001, but I didn’t want to spend money on car at the time. Of course, quirky designs turn me on, so go figure…

    For all the hate the Aztek gets, car lovers of all kinds always clamor for something different. Well, there it was, on a silver platter for you! Stop complaining – it’s likely going to be a collector’s vehicle in a few years and be worth money, so find one now.

    I do wish the Jeepster would have been re-introduced, though…

    Jeep blew a fantastic opportunity.

  • avatar
    Tomifobia

    “You could argue that the first muscle cars were small Pontiacs with V8 engines.” I’m gonna argue that the first muscle car was the ’57 Rambler Rebel, stuffed with 327 cubic inches of V8 goodness.

  • avatar
    Lie2me

    That’s funny you should mention the Tempest as being the original muscle car. I recently argued the same point on another site. It seems, according to those who know much more and decide these things the 1949 Oldsmobile Rocket 88 was the first (by default because 98 was introduced making the 88 the mid-size) , followed by the 1955 Chrysler 300 and the then 1957 Rebel (good call Tomifobia)

    If the ’57 Rebel were first at something it would be the ugliest Muscle Car ever built

  • avatar
    amca

    I remain madly in love with the Kappa platform Chevy Nomad.

    And I’m deeply in mourning for the lost potential of the Kappa chassis. GM touted the idea that a wide variety of Kappa cars could be put together in short production runs based on its low cost deep draw body tooling.

    Sadly, that never happened. Maybe it wasn’t possible. Maybe GM’s failing finances were the cause. Sad all the same.

    • 0 avatar
      cfclark

      And to think instead of the striking and eminently buildable Nomad, we got the dumbass and boring HHR and expensive but not very useful SSR. I’d have a Nomad now instead of my wife’s MINI Clubman.

  • avatar
    F-85

    Great, great stuff, Ronnie.

    ps — that Tempest speedster nicely captures the styling vibe of the period, IMHO. My left nut, would I have given.

  • avatar
    suspekt

    Hey Ronnie,

    Great series;

    I think you missed one of the most important concept cars to come from a Japanese OEM in the 2000′s….

    The car…. the Honda Sport4…. I believe it heavily influenced all Honda-Acura styling language up to and including the current TSX…

    Personally, I think Honda/Acura styling throughout the 2000′s was phenomenal and continues to be so. Styling knockouts include:
    - Current TL (gorgeous, all the ‘beak’ haters can ride it)
    - Current Odyssey
    - Current CRV (in 5 years time, its the Escape that will look odd)
    - Current Accord (perfection in balancing tension in the metal)
    - Current MDX

    Just look at that product mix. It can go head-to-head with any product mix from any maker on the planet and come out ahead in terms of:
    - design
    - powertrain quality
    - residual value

  • avatar
    suspekt

    and just to throw another one out there that had me obsessed for a while???

    Dodge Venom concept car!!!!!

    loved it

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    The Aztek concept above looks almost predictive of the future (Cherokee and Juke come to mind). The concept is painful to look at, but certainly much better looking than the final production example inflicted on the American car buying public.

  • avatar
    Demetri

    Those 90s and early 00s Pontiacs were the worst looking cars of all time. Good riddance.

  • avatar
    sfvarholy

    IIRC the Aztek turned out as awful as it did because the concept car was not created on an existing GM platform. It was basically a roller with no drivetrain.

    When the reaction to the show car was favorable, they went forward with the idea of producing the vehicle and had to translate the concept to the existing GM minivan platform, with was proportionally all wrong and they would/could not incur the costs of modifying the platform to make it look proper.

    Hence, the monstrosity that is still the butt of jokes.

  • avatar
    mkirk

    I would have purchased a GXP powered version of the Nomad looking kappa variant…

  • avatar
    MRF 95 T-Bird

    Great series. Surprised you left out the Plymouth Pronto Spyder. Mid engine roadster similar to a MR2 Spyder or a Boxter. If they built it they would have sold plenty. Another Mopar concept missed opportunity.

    http://www.allpar.com/cars/concepts/pronto-spyder.html


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