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Concepts Detroit Should Have Built
Published: Friday, May 18, 2007
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6: Jaguar F-Type, 2000
For those of you unaware of such things, Ford owns Jaguar. It's imbued the historic brand with money and talent with the expectation that one day this specialty manufacturer will make it loads of money by selling lots of cars. (Anybody else see the confusion in that logic?) Regardless, cat and sports car lovers around the world rejoiced and felt hope when the F-Type debuted in 2000 at the Detroit show and stole everyone's heart. Meant to occupy a niche below the larger XK Coupe and Convertible, the truly sensuous design generated a flood of positive press and choruses of "build it" from sports car enthusiasts the world over.
With great fanfare, Jaguar announced plans for production early in 2001. Cruelly, in May of 2002, those production plans were jettisoned like an unwanted fur ball. Had Jaguar made a different decision, it could likely have had a long running hit on its hands, and managed to create a sports car worthy to follow their legendary E-Type.
The F-Type is currently at the Jaguar-Daimler Heritage Trust, an official company museum located on the Browns Lane grounds in Coventry, England.
Research Current Jaguar Models Here
7: Chevrolet Nomad 1999 and 2003
The Nomad is a true twofer in terms of concepts. The original Nomad that Chevrolet produced between 1955-57 was such a powerful design that it has spawned numerous concepts, two recently.
The 1999 version is built on fourth-generation Camaro/Firebird mechanicals. Reminiscent of previous Camaro and Firebird "wagons," the Nomad features a practical tailgate, generous cargo room, and performance an SUV can only dream of. Looked at from the front, more than a hint of first-generation Corvette puts a pure Chevrolet face on the car.
Timing for this Nomad couldn't have been worse, as rumors of the Gen IV F-Bodies (Camaro/Firebird) death were all but confirmed. At the 1999 Detroit Auto Show where the car debuted, the car was virtually ignored by GM's PR staff who didn't want to give the concept too much play as its chance for production was zero.
The second recent Nomad debuted in 2003 alongside the Pontiac Solstice and Saturn Sky. All three were said to be concepts, with the Pontiac hitting the market just ahead of the Saturn. The Nomad carried the day for Chevrolet, and shared many of the same features of the 1999 Nomad and the original.
With the success of the Solstice and Sky (and their Opel sister vehicle), production of these Kappa-platform vehicles is maxed out. However, if demand wanes, the Nomad would slot right in to Chevrolet's current lineup.
The 1999 and 2004 Nomad concepts are occasionally on display at The General Motors Heritage Collection.
Research Current Chevrolet Models Here
8: Lincoln Continental, 2002
Few production designs age as gracefully as the 1961-63 Lincoln Continental. Its clean, restrained lines still stand out as the antithesis of the finned and chromed beasts that preceded it. As the Continental progressed through the decades, it lost its styling edge. But when the Continental concept debuted at the Los Angeles Auto Show in January of 2002, it was clear somebody in Dearborn found what was once lost.
In the two weeks that separated the L.A. show from the Detroit Auto Show, Ford Motor Company announced the results of one of its many restructuring plans. The production Continental was canceled, making the concept a PR nightmare ... "Gee, Mr. Ford, you just killed the Continental, what's this concept about?" For the Detroit show, the newly out-of-the-spotlight concept was shunned and parked in a dark corner of the Lincoln display.
Lincoln is still struggling to find its way in terms of design. The MKR that debuted in Detroit this past January, while attractive, looks far more contrived than the 2002 Continental. With the success of Ford's current Mustang, how much better off would Lincoln have been had it taken the historically inspired path with this Continental? With the average Lincoln Mercury dealer selling fewer than half a dozen cars per month, the company probably wouldn't be worse off.
The 2002 Continental is stored at a facility near Ford's World Headquarters in Dearborn, Mich.
Research Current Lincoln Models Here
9: Cadillac Sixteen, 2003
It is hard to imagine that ex-GM Design Chief Wayne Cherry was responsible for both the production Aztek and the Cadillac Sixteen luxury-sedan concept. Talk about schizophrenic.
Meant to spearhead Cadillac's phoenix-like rise from the abyss, under its gullwing hood purrs a V-16 engine displacing 13.6 liters and producing an incredible 1000 horsepower and 1000 lb-ft of torque. The Sixteen is an evocation of Cadillac's heritage, with 24-inch tires, a super-luxurious cabin that seats four, an all-glass roof, invisible B-pillars, and extensive use of real crystal for both interior and exterior decor.
At this point, production for the Sixteen has been officially ruled out, but even the most myopic can tell that its grille and vertical headlamps have influenced current Cadillac design language. Unlike Volkswagen, with their misguided Phaeton, Cadillac could have pulled off the Sixteen. Cadillac has the history (including a V-16 engine in its past) to pull off such a move with genuine legitimacy. Too bad they didn't give it a try.
The Sixteen is occasionally on display at The General Motors Heritage Collection.
Research Current Cadillac Models Here
10: Ford Reflex, 2006
Automotive Gnostics from New York (sorry, is that snickering I hear?) have predicted the imminent death of Ford Motor Company (plus GM and Chrysler) more times than we care to remember. Helping demonstrate that FoMoCo has life within is the showstopping Reflex, introduced at the annual Detroit Auto Show in 2006.
Most obvious, the coupe's styling looks like nothing else, mercifully achieved without resorting to the cartoonish or weird. The bold, stepped rear fenders give this small car an impressively solid stance. While the butterfly doors would certainly never make production, one can easily envision this shape making production with standard portals.
What's more remarkable than the efficient design (it seats two up front and one in the rear), is the diesel-electric hybrid powertrain. The hybrid combo drives the front wheels, while an electric motor drives the rear axle, giving the little sports car all-wheel drive. Integrated solar panels to top off the on-board lithium-ion battery pack while parked. With the powertrain skewed toward delivering torque, the Reflex promised great off-the-line acceleration. Ford expected fuel economy to reach 65 mpg.
We actually drove the Reflex in the late spring of 2006. The dramatic butterfly doors open only so far, meaning you have to duck while climbing in. Once inside, everything is concept-car phony ... for looks only. As a matter of fact, the team responsible for the car didn't even have time to install the working diesel-electric powertrain that Ford engineers developed and tested. The Reflex moves under the power of a golf-car motor. Steering is likewise cobbled together, as the chassis bears no resemblance to anything in Ford's production stable. The result was a less than fanciful drive, but just seeing the car is enough to know what "could be" if the Reflex were brought to market. It's not too late, Ford.
Currently, the Reflex is still making appearances at industry functions and auto shows.
Research Current Ford Models Here
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