Concept cars are commonplace in today’s world, but back in the 80s and 90s, things were a little different. Back then, a concept car was created more to see what could be done as opposed to what will be done. Natasha Colyer takes PetrolBlog on a trip through the years, to see some of the most outlandish concept cars designed before the turn of the millennium. And ‘trip’ is a rather apt word for some of these weird and wonderful creations.
1987 Chevrolet Express
The Chevrolet Express was created to be a car of the future. Featuring in Back to the Future II, the Express had a unique entry method, with the glass roof/door lifting up like an old-school cassette player. As well as that, the futuristic Express ran on a GM-sourced gas turbine engine, could travel at 150mph and was made of carbon fibre. It featured drive-by-wire controls, with cameras replacing all the mirrors.
Hats off to GM, because the Chevrolet Express truly was ahead of its time. It was designed to travel at the aforementioned 150mph on a limited access high-speed motorway network, but even at these speeds it would only sip a gallon of kerosene every 25 miles. In 2015 we’re talking about autonomous cars becoming a reality, but this was the essence of the Express. Autopilot on the highway and manual control on the minor roads.
It even featured air-spring dampers, giving it a fully-adjustable ride height. Something Marty knew all too well, as he was nearly struck down by an Express in Back to the Future II.
1988 Ford Splash
Described as the “ultimate toy for those who like water sports” the Ford Splash was built to be the perfect transportation from the beach to the ocean. The flamboyant car had seats for four, however with the roof panel in place, getting four adults into the car becomes a near impossibility. The Splash was designed by four transportation students at Detroit’s Center for Creative Studies, with their goal to create something that’s “flexible, youthful, exciting and just plain fun.”
The body panels could be removed and the mud-flaps could be deployed at a flick of a switch. The seats were made from neoprene, the same material used for rubber wet suits. Oh and it also manages to look good on three-spoke alloy wheels. Well, only just.
Somebody must have agreed, because in 2012 this concept sold for $70,000 at auction.
1989 Plymouth Voyager 3
The Plymouth Voyager 3 had a glass roof as well as a detachable trailer; which allowed eight adults to travel. The smaller front section had seats for three and was powered by a 1.6-litre propane-fuel engine. The back section used a more powerful 2.2-litre 4-cylinder engine. Unfortunately when the detachable back of the car isn’t connected to the front, it’s left wide open, making the random British weather a huge headache for any owner!
According to Jalopnik, it’s one of the worst concept cars of all time.
1989 Pontiac Stinger
“Spirited, great-looking transportation for the under-35 car buyer or the young person in all of us” is how the Pontiac Stinger was described by the General Manager, J. Michael Losh. The SUV actually had five detachable pieces as well as the longest list of accessories of any car, including a handheld vacuum cleaner, a pull-out radio, a camp stove and a torch. As you slowly take apart your Stinger, you’re also likely to find a first aid kit, a fire extinguisher, a toolbox and finally a garden hose.
It was also powered by a 3.0-litre engine. It’s arguably the most 80s of 80s concept cars.
1993 Mazda London Taxi
Unfortunately the Mazda London Taxi never reached a motor show. If it did, we definitely would have heard about it earlier. Mazda teamed up with the Royal College of Art in London to come up with this new style of taxi. Its concept was built around the idea that London would one day ban the use of larger vehicles in the city.
Which is why it was s single-seater. A single-seat taxi? Yes, because that idea will take on. And hang on, does that say ‘HAVE A NICE DAY’ on the number plate? Good grief, this is London, not the Big Apple.
1999 Honda Fuya-Jo
The Fuya-Jo name translates directly to ‘Sleepless City’ and was designed to transport “Party animals who demand the full excitement of nightlife”. The Fuya-Jo is probably the best equipped car to handle the challenges that partygoers might drive into, with a non-slip, spill-proof covered floor. The dashboard also resembles a DJ’s mixing desk and the doors double up as powerful speakers.
Looking over these unorthodox motors makes you realise how uniformed our roads really are. It would be great to see some more variety when it comes to the shapes and colours of the nation’s cars. However maybe not in a Pontiac Stinger…