Vellum Venom Vignette: From Here to Eternity

Sajeev Mehta
by Sajeev Mehta
vellum venom vignette from here to eternity

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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2 of 35 comments
  • MonaroCV8 MonaroCV8 on Feb 06, 2013

    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.

  • Rpn453 Rpn453 on Feb 09, 2013

    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?

  • Lou_BC I kinda like the blocky lines. The snout has a star wars stormtrooper look so that means it won't hit anything.
  • ToolGuy I respect the work this individual has done from the starting point he was handed ("I have been involved for about 6 months repairing this car acquired form my sister who received it from our dad"; "The car was an oily mess when I received it, had a clogged catalytic converter, and hesitated intermittently on the highway after extended driving (> 20 miles)")...But there is no need to show prospective customers the "before" or "in process" photographs. Very few customers want to see or know how the sausage is made.And rather than show extreme close-ups of the dents, call a PDR shop, and bump up your selling price.
  • Ajla "launched as the GX550 offering a 3.4-liter" I know some people rip on pick up or performance car buyers for insecurity but it is funny that premium vehicle buyers need inflated designations like this because "GX340t" won't get their d*cks hard. Although Lexus isn't alone in this, it's even better here because they went from GX470 to GX460 back in 2009 and no one died over the decrease. The IS500 and LC500 are still matched to their displacement but maybe they'd sell more if it was called LC650? 🤔
  • ToolGuy Q: Is it time for ToolGuy the non-early adopter to purchase an EV for long-term ownership?A: No, it is not.(Get this stuff ironed out and I'll be back later.)
  • Theflyersfan Why take the effort to cover the back plate when the front plate is visible in a couple shots?