Tag: Concept Car

12 Detroit luxury cars that died on the show floor – Ronnie Schreiber @Hagerty

12 Detroit luxury cars that died on the show floor – Ronnie Schreiber @Hagerty

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For what seems like decades, American car enthusiasts have clamored for domestic automakers to make a serious effort to compete in the luxury-car segment. Brands such as Cadillac, Lincoln, and Imperial pretty much invented the full-size luxury sedan, but those U.S. brands have long since yielded to the German and Japanese. It has, in fact, been decades since Toyota upset the automotive apple cart with the Lexus LS400 in 1990.

Finally, Cadillac has accepted the challenge—and raised its sights even higher. Revealed in concept form last week, the $300,000 Celestiq leapfrogs the Lexus LSMercedes-Benz S-Class, and BMW 7 Series to challenge Rolls-Royce and Bentley. Caddy’s battery-powered flagship will be handbuilt to customer specification at GM’s Tech Center in Warren, Michigan.

Of course, Detroit has tried to step into the ring multiple times since the LS400. In the past twenty years, the Big Three debuted a number of promising luxury concepts that positive reactions from consumers, dealers, and the automotive press. If not ready for immediate production, most looked quite feasible—that is, if C-suite executives had the guts. On second thought, perhaps that’s unfair to the people running the domestic automakers. As attractive as these cars were to enthusiasts, by the time some of them would have come to market, the business case had evaporated.

We’ll never know whether these high-class studies would have succeeded, but we can wonder, can’t we? Here are 12 concept luxury cars introduced by the American automakers that never made it off the display stand. While a couple of them might be better described as supercars, I think it’s safe to say that anything with a projected retail price in the six figures is a luxury item.

2001 Lincoln MK9

The Lincoln MK9 was introduced at the New York Auto Show in 2001, at a time when Lincoln decided to imitate European luxury automakers’ penchant for alphanumeric designations, as opposed to model names. The problem was that Lincoln chose a combination of letters and numbers that evoked some giants in its history: the Continental Mark series, starting with the landmark Mark II in 1956, through the then-recently retired Mark VIII, last sold in 1998. One would think that the MK9 would at least be pronounced “Mark Nine,” thus positioning the two-door as a descendant of the Mark III personal luxury coupe—but no. Lincoln brand managers insisted the ongoing pronunciation of MK branded vehicles would be “Em Kay.”  Were they embarrassed by the big land barges of the 1970s and ’80s?

The MK9 rode on a stretched version Ford’s DEW98 platform, which was also the basis of the Lincoln LS, 2003 Ford Thunderbird, and the Jaguar S Type. The traditional, rear-wheel-drive platform had independent rear suspension with coil springs at all four corners. The exterior styling, by Gerry McGovern, who later headed Land Rover’s design department, features a long hood fronted by Lincoln’s waterfall grille (then a defining characteristic) with a big star in the middle. In general, the MK9 tried to reimagine the classic ’61 Continental and its long, bladed fenders and belt line for the 21st century. A chrome trim line running most of the length of the car gave it a retro touch, complemented by supposedly functional vents behind the front wheels, flush aluminum door handles, and 22-inch ten-spoke alloys.

The MK9’s interior was trimmed in chocolate brown, with lipstick red leather and brushed aluminum. An aluminum console cascaded down the dashboard, flowing the length of the passenger cabin. In the early 2000s, lacquered wood finishes were quite popular with luxury automakers. The MK9 sports dark cherry wood floors and a white leather headliner with fiber optics that lit up like a starry nighttime sky. The seats were modeled after the famous Eames Lounge Chair, designed by the influential husband and wife team of Charles and Ray Eames. The Eames met while attending the Cranbrook Academy of Art in suburban Detroit, taught there, and their work has been popular with the Detroit design community. Just as the Eames chair comes with a matching ottoman, the MK9’s red-upholstered front passenger seat boasts a foot rest trimmed in leather and aluminum

Since it was based on a production vehicle, the MK9 was fully functional. When Ford conducted one of its periodic auctions of concept vehicles to raise money for charity in 2010, the MK9 sold for an impressive $101,750.

2004 Lincoln Mark X

By 2004, Lincoln had reverted to traditional names, and the Roman numeric Mark X (pronounced “Mark 10”) debuted at the 2004 North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) in Detroit. It was a convertible take on themes introduced with the Em Kay Nine.

Also based on the Thunderbird, the Mark X swapped the T-bird’s soft top and removeable hard top with a folding metal roof with a panoramic glass insert. The Mark X’s interior was, per Ford’s press release: “dressed in Lime Sorbet with white Corian accents, polished aluminum, dark chrome, natural grain leather seating surfaces, plush sheepskin flooring and tailored tone-on-tone stitching throughout. Its four-spoke, power-adjustable steering wheel also is leather wrapped.”

Lincoln chief of design Marek Reichman was responsible for the exterior design, which did riff on some of the MK9’s themes. The waterfall grille, however, was replaced with Lincoln’s new egg-crate affair, a throwback feature from the 1960s. The Mark X was shorter than the MK9 by more than a foot, and had slightly smaller, 21-inch chromed aluminum wheels. A functional vehicle but, like most modern concepts, not street-legal, the Mark X was powered by a 280-hp 3.9-liter DOHC V-8 paired with a five-speed automatic transmission.

While it was close to production-ready, the Mark X was born into the wrong time: Sales of the Thunderbird were waning, and Lincoln decided that the market was then ripe for a traditional, personal-luxury car.

Speaking of brandnomenclature, the Mark X was not the first time that name was used for a Lincoln concept, at least phonetically. In 1992, Lincoln showed the “Marque X” concept, a convertible based on the then-new Mark VIII.

The Mark X was sold by Ford at the same 2010 auction as the MK9 and, in a remarkable coincidence, it fetched the same $101,750 price. Four years later, it changed hands for $129,250.

2002 Lincoln Continental Concept

The end of the 20th century and beginning of the 21st saw a wave of nostalgia sweep across the auto industry. Retro( more properly, “retrofuturism” was in), and modern cars adopted a vintage look. There was VW’s New Beetle, Chrysler’s PT Cruiser, and Ford’s reissue of the Thunderbird. The Lincoln Continental Concept introduced at the 2002 Los Angeles Auto Show fit nicely into that ethos, expressing the look of the classic 1961 Continental for a modern audience. Perhaps the most eye-catching homage was the suicide doors, which opened a full 90 degrees. One thing the ’61 Conti didn’t have but the ’02 concept did was a powered trunk lid that opened vertically on a parallelogram linkage. Beneath it, a bumper-level draw slid out to reveal a bespoke set of Zero Halliburton luggage.

The interior featured indirect fiber-optic lighting for the headliner and door panels along with the use of LEDs, features that have since proliferated throughout the automotive world

Apparently two versions of the ’02 Continental concept were made, a display-only “pushmobile” used at some car show and a fully functional vehicle powered by a 414-hp V-12 engine (created by mating two Duratec V-6s, a trick that showed up on other FoMoCo concepts of the era), with a six-speed automatic transmission, four-wheel disc brakes, multilink suspension front and rear, and 22-inch aluminum wheels. The static display car sold for $15,400 in 2010 and again in 2014 for $27,500. The functional concept sold for $56,100 at that same 2010 sale.

Responses from the public and press were almost uniformly positive, but it would be more than 10 years before Lincoln introduced a new Continental. Thankfully, when it did offer the new Conti, it was available in a coach (or “suicide”) door edition.

2007 Lincoln MKR

Revealed at the 2007 NAIAS in Detroit, the MKR, designed by a team led by Peter Horbury, was introduced at a time when the Mercedes-Benz CLS and other swoopy “four door coupes” were becoming popular. Powered by a twin-turbo, direct-injection 3.5 liter V-6 with 415 hp that introduced Ford and Lincoln’s TwinForce engine branding, the MKR was supposed to presage Lincoln’s new styling theme, billed as “elegant simplicity.”

Exterior design, headed by Gordon Platto, featured a high beltline with a chamfered surface that ran the length of the car, a cantilevered roof that transitioned to a wide C pillar, full-width horizontal taillights, upward swinging doors, and 10-spoke, chromed 21-inch wheels. The most dramatic exterior styling cues were yet another new grille—the split “bow wave,” said to be based on that of the classic 1940 Lincoln Continental Cabriolet—and an expansive glass roof that integrated a structural Lincoln star. The tread of the MKR’s custom Michelin tires also bears the Lincoln star.

It’s possible that Platto’s team settled on a glass roof to show off the impressive interior, promoted as “guilt-free” luxury, filled with premium amenities that were environmentally friendly. The instrument panel is made from a piece of recycled black oak that extends from left to right, flowing down into a two-level center console. Ice-blue ambient lighting illuminated the interior, which feature self-standing “floating” seats made with soy-based foam, glossy exterior shells, and upholstered with cashmere leather tanned in an environmentally conscious chromium-free process.

2003 Mercury Messenger

While it wasn’t branded as a Lincoln, I’m including the Mercury Messenger concept because a grand touring sports coupe could have been part of Lincoln’s portfolio. (Also because I think it’s a very handsome automobile and deserves attention.) “In my opinion, it’s as good looking as any Ferrari,” concept vehicle collector Joe Bortz, who owns the Messenger, says. “This car could’ve saved Mercury.”

The Messenger was supposed to send the message that moribund Mercury was about to undergo a rejuvenation. Unfortunately, the brand would die just seven years later

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Still Out There? The Ford Mach 2 Concept Car Remains Missing More Than 50 Years Later – Daniel Strohl @Hemmings

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The story behind Ford’s mid-engine Mach 2 sports car project might not be as fully documented and fleshed out as, say, the story of the Mustang or any other enthusiast car that actually made it to production, but it’s less shrouded in mystery than many people would suspect. We know who was involved in it, we know much of the car’s timeline, and we know for what purposes Ford intended to build the car. It’s a rather complete story up until the very end when the one remaining prototype vanished without a trace.

Ford Mach 2 prototype at Kar Kraft. Image via Ford Performance

“Nothing,” said Jim Kreuz, who writes about Shelby and (in this case) Shelby-adjacent vehicles and who is searching for the missing prototype Mach 2. “I quizzed Howard Pardee, who located all the Shelby paperwork in the Ford files in Detroit in 1970’s, and his words of advice were, ‘good luck.'”

Still, Kreuz believes it may still be out there

The Mach 2, as Charlie Henry wrote for Ford Performance, was not necessarily intended to be a mid-engine Mustang, more an in-house Shelby Cobra positioned to compete head-on with the Chevrolet Corvette, both in showrooms (retailing for no more than $7,500, with a well-equipped small-block Corvette going for about $5,500 at the time) and on the track (designed with SCCA A-Production and FIA Group III GT specifications in mind). The program kicked off in the spring of 1966 with Roy Lunn at the helm and with an eye toward involving Shelby American in the production process somehow. Ford plucked a 1966 Mustang convertible off the assembly line and shipped it to Kar Kraft to have it converted to mid-engine layout for initial feasibility studies

Two more followed, one red and one white, both full fiberglass-bodied prototypes that Kar Kraft built on 1967 Mustang chassis. According to Henry, Ford designated the white one for further development for racing but finished the red one as a street-trim car and sent it out to the media for road tests. By the fall of 1967, however, Ford’s designers had shifted their focus to what has since been dubbed the Mach 2A, leaving all three of the Mach 2 prototypes with Kar Kraft for disposal.

Ford’s Mach 1 concept envisioned a competition-prepped persona with a few forward-thinking features – Thomas A. DeMauro @Hemmings

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The fertile imaginations of automotive designers have produced awe-inspiring renderings of idea cars with thought-provoking innovations. The freedom to explore new horizons, without having to be overly concerned about current production viability which could stymie creativity, has fostered positive results like those shown here.

Ford designer Charlie McHose, who’s also known for conceiving the body enhancements for the legendary 1967 Shelby G.T. 500, made these Mustang concept drawings of what would become the Mach 1 experimental car, as FoMoCo referred to it at the time.

First shown with the frontend design above, the Mach 1’s extensive restyling for 1968 is obvious in the color photo

Because the renderings likely pushed the limits of what was feasible, even for a concept car, the actual Mach 1 built for show duty in late 1966 didn’t incorporate a number of the ideas depicted.

Nevertheless, it was still quite the attention grabber with some GT40 traits incorporated, a dramatically lowered roofline, two-seat layout, and flip-out toll windows. Mirrors were added to the fixed side windows and large quick-release gas caps were installed. The front and rear treatments were revised, but they differed somewhat from the renderings.

Additionally, the Shelby-like lamps in the grille, the power dome hood, and the lower scoop shown in the lead drawing in this article weren’t used on the Mach 1. More intriguing elements presented in the renderings are discussed in the captions below.

The professional legacy of Charlie McHose endures in the remarkable designs he created at Ford. Fortunately, we can still appreciate these works of art and what their creator had envisioned in them. Just imagine blasting out of your local Ford dealer’s lot in a Mustang with the styling and equipment depicted here.

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The 1990 Micro, a two-seat, two-stroke roadster, had a chance to be GM’s Miata – Daniel Strohl @Hemmings

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The Miata, everybody seems to agree, caught lightning in a bottle when it first came out. The nimble and zippy roadster segment had all but been abandoned at the time, and if Mazda hadn’t gotten the MX-5 right, there’s no saying it would have inevitably risen to success. After all, take a look at the 1990 Micro, GM’s ostensible attempt to shoulder into that market.

Pontiac had just put a headstone on the Fiero – GM’s only two-seat automobile other than the Corvette at the time – so it seemed strange that the General would pursue another diminutive two-seater so soon after in the late Eighties. Longtime GM designer Elia Russinoff, who typically worked on more advanced concepts, apparently knew only that GM’s design staff heads wanted such a vehicle, so he got to drawing.

At the same time, however, GM, Ford, Chrysler, Toyota, Subaru, and others had made some inroads into modernizing the two-stroke engine for use in small cars. The second fuel crisis, after all, was only a decade in the rearview, small front-wheel-drive cars were becoming the norm, and Detroit continued to plow dollars into alternative engine designs well into the Eighties. According to a July 1990 Popular Sciencearticle on the two-stroke trend of the time, automakers had hoped to put the technology on the road as early as the mid-1990s.

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Did the 1961 Pontiac Monte Carlo concept foretell the Pontiac Firebird? – David Conwill @Hemmings

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The GM Y-body senior compacts (Buick Special/Skylark, Oldsmobile F-85/Cutlass, and Pontiac Tempest/Le Mans) were practically sized cars with some interesting mechanical innovations, including an all-aluminum V-8.

The Tempest/Le Mans sported a flexible driveshaft and a rear transaxle.When they came out for the 1961 model year, one thing none of the three offered was a convertible body. Buyers could choose from a sedan, hardtop, or station wagon. The hardtops were plenty sporty, of course, but up to that point two-seat open cars were still the ne plus ultra in performance.General Motors had a two-seat open car, of course: the Corvette.

Despite its newfound performance reputation, Pontiac did not. Nor would it get one, but not for lack of trying. Later in the decade, John DeLorean would attempt to get the two-seat Pontiac Banshee into production, but instead the division got its own version of the F-body—the 1967 Firebird.The Y-body was also the predecessor of the famed GM A-body, so arguably here is the spiritual predecessor of the Banshee, the Firebird, and the GTO.

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Was Ford’s Astrion meant to be a super-sporty Thunderbird or just another concept car? – Daniel Strohl @Hemmings

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As noted when we posted the video on Ford’s Styling Center the other day, the advanced design that much of the first half of the video focused on is something of a mystery given how much time and energy that Ford and the video’s producers devoted to it. So let’s see if we can get to the bottom of it or at least place the design in some applicable context.Here’s what we know so far: Ford’s brass codenamed the car the Astrion. Gene Bordinat is the vice president of styling at the time the video was filmed, so it’s sometime after 1961, when he was appointed George Walker’s successor as vice president of styling at Ford. Bill Ford is pictured driving a Bullet Bird—specifically a Sports Roadster version—in the video, so the video was filmed sometime around or after the introduction of the 1962 Thunderbird models. Though the video provides mini profiles of two of the clay modelers, it makes zero mention of the Astrion’s designers. And the Astrion (or, at least, this Astrion) doesn’t appear in Jim and Cheryl Farrell’s Ford Design Department Concepts and Showcars, 1932-1961.

The Farrells could have simply not included the Astrion because it came along after their chosen era of study (or the whole thing could have been a lark, or something that Ford paraded for the cameras, and not a serious design study), but some clues to the Astrion’s identity can still be scratched out from their research. First, the rear of the Astrion—with its small fins, skegs, and ovoid taillamp housings—bears some similarity to the Lincoln Marlin, the alternative proposal for the 1961 Lincoln Continental that John Orfe and Howard Payne worked on and that Walker and Elwood Engel liked (and that Engel apparently used as inspiration for the Chrysler Turbine car’s taillamps). According to the Farrells, the Marlin’s fins and skegs “were concessions by the car’s designers to the belief that the 1961 Lincoln must show at least minimal continuity with the previous model Lincoln.” However, the Astrion and the Marlin differ in just about every other aspect.

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The Buick Y Job, The First Concept Car

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A few years ago I was lucky enough to visit the limted access GM Heritage Collection in Sterling Heights Michigan as a Birthday present.

Trip post here

A recent edition of Jay Leno’s Garage featuring the Buick Y Job reminded of how lucky it was to have been up close to this ground breaking car.

The Buick Y-Job was the auto industry’s first concept car, produced by Buick in 1938. Designed by Harley J. Earl, the car had power-operated hidden headlamps, a “gunsight” hood ornament, electric windows, wraparound bumpers, flush door handles, and prefigured styling cues used by Buick until the 1950s and the vertical waterfall grille design still used by Buick today. It used a Buick Super chassis, indicated by the word “Super” located above the rear license plate. (read the full article here at Wikipedia)

The Y Job is one of the few cars that I have on display at home.