By on February 5, 2013

Spencer writes:

Dear Sajeev,

Are there any examples of concept cars which, while not representative of the vehicles in the manufacturer’s immediate lineup, actually become something of a reality five or ten years down the line? More specifically, can you provide some images of concept cars that actually look like the cars we have on the road today (Isuzu VehiCROSS and similarly rare instances to be omitted, I suppose). Thanks!

Sajeev answers:

Fantastic question. But 5 or 10 years down the line?  That’s a bit of a stretch, as most concept cars (made by companies that are in business to market something profitable) show a future that’s a bit more readily available.  Now there are plenty of design firms that make pure dream cars, mostly of the Italian variety.  Hence the Giorgio Moroder Love above.

Well, at least in the past: 1970s Italdesign, Ghia, Pininfarina, Bertone, etc foretold of a future with wedgy angles for all of us.  But more palatable futures?  Maybe more like 5-6 years max from the major automakers. That’s far more doable.

And since I am of a certain age, my concept cars will reflect it. Let’s start with my favorite: the Oldsmobile Aurora. When the production model came out, I was shocked to see the product specialist let me on the table to sit in it.  Wait…that’s not a concept car?

Here it is back in 1989, known as the Oldsmobile Tube Car. Horrible name, absolutely lovely machine.


But oh my damn son, the production model had all the same lines and looked almost as radical.  What a lovely car, one that I truly miss as their terrible resale value and headgasket-eating Northstar V8s seal their fate in the scrapyard.

The Nissan Juke concept is pretty insane.  But then again…


The reality is just as bizarre.  And I love it, even if I don’t know I could actually be seen in it.  But that’s for another installment of Vellum Venom.

The Lamborghini Portofino concept (made when owned by Chrysler in 1987, IIRC) was definitely a Dodge Intrepid in the making. The cab-forward greenhouse, the wheels and especially the rear end styling. Just add the Dodge Viper’s nose and…


Whoa momma! The LH cars were absolutely fantastic designs. Well, aside from the crude engines and glassjaw transaxles.  But still, what a wonderful family sedan that we will never see again! Probably.


The Chrysler LHX concept quickly turned into…


The similarly insane, second generation, Chrysler LHS. While I didn’t appreciate this design until the Bentley-Truck Chrysler 300 replaced it (and the Chrysler Concorde from whence it came), they were a well styled piece.  Unless you lived in a state that required a front license plate.  Oops.


The Mercedes F200 concept had the upcoming S-class schnoz, and the body of the CL-class.


Yep. Dat hardtop roofline. Who ever thought Mercedes would bring back insane pillarless styling to the roof?  Impressive…just don’t own one outside of the warranty period: combined with the usual Mercedes component quality of this era (and the obligatory Super Bowl stadium joke), the CL’s hydraulic suspension will put you in the poor house. But it might be worth it.


And since you mentioned the VehiCROSS: who expected this…

…to actually make production!


And the 1986 Pontiac Trans Sport concept was pretty far out there.


If anything, the production model was even crazier. That dustbuster nose fares better in an accident, but the original’s design was a bit more conventional and appealing for your eyeballs…even if your insurance company begs to differ.


Supposedly the original Lexus SC concept car started off as plaster filled balloons in Toyota’s Calty design studio.  They were apparently squeezing and forming this stuff until this concept car came to mind.


Well then!  At least the production car came out frickin’ awesome.

How many times will you now wish that designers had balloons and plaster at their disposal, huh?


On to the cars that got me interested in the styling biz: the 1981 Ford Probe III. The other Probes (up to Probe V) were far more radical, but the III foreshadowed a radical change in mainstream sedans for Europe. It ushered advanced design and cutting edge aerospace technology to people on a Toyota Camry budget.


Yup, that’s the 1982 Ford Sierra: the salesman’s spaceship.  The Jellymould, not to be confused with Lexus’ plaster filled balloons.  While I think the wedge-nose Sierra looked more radical (with the Ghia front end) than the round-nose Probe III, I have my bias: here’s my 1983 Sierra Ghia in Dallas, en route to my garage.


While not nearly as historically relevant as the Sierra/Probe, the Ford Contour concept was just nuts.  While you see a lot of 2006 Honda Civic in the nose, plenty of Prius in the roof, there’s something else going on here.


That’s right: the ovoid nightmare Ford Taurus that nobody liked.  Except me, I thought it was a brilliantly executed design. Far too radical for its time? Yes, but it will age well. Especially as a (timing gear eating) V8 powered Taurus SHO with the Ford Contour concept paint and chrome wheels.  It’s still a stunner, even if you hate it.


And just to make us all feel better about the MKZ, here’s the original Lincoln MKX: The Marque X of 1992.  And what happened one single year later?


BAM SON: the 1993 Lincoln Mark VIII.  Even the insane directional wheels kinda made production.  That Continental-kitted butt with full length tail light? Yup.  The coke bottle profile, buttery smooth lines and some insane V8 motor with 4 cams and 32 valves hidden under concept car plastics that will power the SVT Mustang Cobra in three years?  Indeed. Even the Marque X interior logically made production into the Mark VIII.

Okay, they never made a Mark VIII droptop from the factory, but the disappearing door Mark VIII was proof that this concept car was more than just a pretty face. Don’t believe me?


Here’s my (unverifiable) personal proof: heading to the press preview night at the 2007 Houston Auto Show. A night that inspired a somewhat famous General Motors Deathwatch, I rolled up in my 1995 Mark VIII: factory HID lights blasting and that 4-cam V8 monster rumbling through Kooks headers. The guard at the gate did something I’d never expect.

Let’s go back to that night in 2007:

Guard: There you go. Man, that’s a nice car!

Me: Thanks. (driving off)

Guard: Wait, wait, wait…WAAAAIT!

Me: (stopped) What?

Guard: Remember you gotta enter from the back!

Me: But the show entrance is up front!

Guard: The door for the cars is out back.

Me: Wait…what?

Guard: That’s a show car right?  That’s going in the show…right?

Me: Dude, this was a concept car back in 1992!

Guard: (dumbfounded face and general remarks of genuine disbelief) Man I thought it’d be in the showrooms pretty soon!

Me: Nope! But you can find plenty of them in the junkyards!


Off to you, folks.


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35 Comments on “Vellum Venom Vignette: From Here to Eternity...”

  • avatar

    I sense a very negative Vellum Venom coming for the 2013 MKZ.

    #1 a moonroof that almost completely hinders rear visibility.
    #2 an antennae on the side
    #3 a ridiculously chunky power rear liftgate.
    #4 a rear that resembles the Thunderbird – or Dodge Dart.

    • 0 avatar

      It has an exposed radio antenna? In 2013???

      Well, I still haven’t seen an MKZ in person. It has potential, especially since the original is an absolutely horrible rebadge of the Fusion…and this one is not.

      • 0 avatar

        I made a day and a night experience.

        It’s a nice car and has more tech than any other car on the market. But after having just taken a long road trip in my XJ-L, the MKZ feels painfully substandard.
        The XTS however feels much better.

      • 0 avatar

        Lincolns’ explanation goes something like this: MKZ that’s equipped with sliding roof have radio antenna on the side, because sliding roof in open position is blocking reception. On cars with fixed roof radio antenna is integrated into rear window.

  • avatar

    More recent examples:

    Ford Interceptor = current Ford Taurus
    Ford 427 = 1st generation Ford Fusion

    These two are interesting in that the car mags and internet go all berserk that Ford is going to build affordable RWD, V8 powered sedans when they were really to be your basic FWD mainstream products.

    There was also the Lincoln MKC that showed the new beak, Pontiac Aztec, the concepts for the last GM F-Bodies and the Pontiac Piranha forecasting the Vibe.

    • 0 avatar

      The Interceptor/427 were horrible teases. I considered the 427/Fusion for this one, but the proportions are all wrong. They don’t look close enough because of the macho RWD style.

      Same applies to the 2002 Continental Concept. (rams fist thru screen)

    • 0 avatar

      The only company that knows how to build an “AMERICAN” sedan is Chrysler. They did the smart thing: moultiple transmissions with multiple drive system choices and multiple engine choices.

      With the masses chasing fuel economy instead of handling /sport, FWD/AWD platforms are the norm and RWD with a manual quickly becoming the bottom 5%.

      • 0 avatar

        Except that Chrysler’s revered models (the Charger and 300) are on RWD platforms with several components from Mercedes-Benz. But I would agree that they are quintessentially American sedans for the modern era, with few to no compromises.

      • 0 avatar

        Kyree– Ever looked at an LH’s engine compartment? They have a North/South engine for a reason. LX would have happened in RWD/AWD without Daimler’s assistance.

  • avatar

    They had to tweak the Camaro concept, to make it less cartoonish. However I believe the end result looks fairly close to the concept car.

  • avatar

    What about the Dodge Neon show car from ’91? A lot of its styling cues made it to the production version.

  • avatar

    I think we need a Vellum Venom of that Giorgio album(?) cover.

    “The hairline takes design ques from Gino Vanelli.”

    Love the cheese!

    Back to cars…I agree with the Aurora, I think it’s a killer design. There’s a pristine one in the lot at work in that oh so late nineties gold/champagne colour that was all the rage then. I admire it every time I walk by.

    • 0 avatar

      I walked by a black 1st gen Aurora in the parking garage at work just this morning. I admired the full-width tail lamp, and the swoopy alternatively styled dash inside. It was in good shape!

      Also as I passed by, I thought “Wonder how often this is in the shop?”

  • avatar

    That album cover is all kinds of fantastic. I wish I had the nerve to grow that ‘stache in this day and age. Maybe Movember 2013, Vellum Venom style.

  • avatar

    The Mustang III concept at the 1992 Detroit auto show was pretty outrageous for Fox body owners, but most of the styling cues made it onto the 1994 production car. And the Fox soldiered on underneath until 2004!

    Remember the 2004 Mustang GT coupe concept? Everyone has their Hot Wheels version at home, right? Ford added 2 seats and preserved the rest of the design. I still think the 2005-09 is the cleanest of the current retro Stangs.

  • avatar

    Glad to see my Tube Car photo was stolen by the Aurora Proboards. That’s a badge of honor, right?

    That thing was at the Eyes on Design show at the GM Tech Center years ago (you can see other shots from that show in that account), but was scrapped last year.

  • avatar

    I want that LHX! I also want the Trans Sport concept, since it looks like a tired mouse at the front.

    I’m surprised the horrible reliability of the CL was not mentioned, like the LX-platform comments. Air suspension nightmare for $100K+!

  • avatar

    What about the Impact concept/prototype that eventually became the GM EV1?

  • avatar

    I was stunned when an ambitious concept from the 1989 Tokyo Car Show made it into production a few years later, virtually intact … as the Subaru SVX.

  • avatar


    Jerry Brochstein drew the very nice looking Cadillac Voyage concept that was shown in 1988. While Brochstein’s son and I agree that it directly influenced the mid-’90s fullsize GM B body “bubble” cars, Brochstein himself doesn’t think so. Go figure.

  • avatar


    For years, I have heard people say that the Audi 5000s and the 1982 Ford Sierra were the inspiration for the Ford Taurus/Mercury Sable. I realize now that they were both wrong.

    It was the 1981 Ford Probe III. While the Ford Sierra retained the Probe III look with few changes; the Taurus/Sable evolved into the three box design of the 1985 car. But the early drawings show the Probe III influence:

    • 0 avatar

      Opps; I was wrong; the Ford Sierra was already being designed when the Ford Probe III was released; it was intended to prepare the buying public for radical Sierra when it came out; so technically, the Sierra inspired the Probe III:

  • avatar

    I enjoyed this post, but five uses of “insane” (and one of “crazier”) is a bit much; I don’t expect copyedited content on a free site, but this was distracting.

  • avatar

    1998 Holden Concept Coupe became 2001 Holden Monaro and 2004 Pontiac GTO. 2004 Holden Torana TT36 Concept Car became 2006 Holden VE COmmodore and 2008 Pontiac G8. The Coupe was most definitely a pure concept, Holden had no intention of manufacturing a coupe when they made the concept, popular acclaim lead to production. The Torana TT36 was more an exercise in preparing the public for the VE Commodore styling which had probably already been signed off anyway.

  • avatar

    Wow, that Trans Sport concept is awesome. I love the shape and the stance, and all that curved glass. Ditch the plastic cladding and smooth out the sheet metal below and I’d consider it beautiful. Even as-is it would easily beat the Gen 2 Odyssey for my pick of best-looking minivan of all time. Crazy that it became the miserable dustbuster. I assume that black plastic thing on the roof was just forgotten there while loading the kids and will fall off when it’s driven away?

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