It's a crime these concepts never made production.
Concept cars are incredible for so many reasons, yet only a small number ever make production as they tend to be created as design and/or technology demonstrations. While many new cars appear in concept form first, there’s still a huge chunk of brilliant design ideas that are never seen again, especially when they are retro-themed. Retro has been tried before and, well, we were given the Chrysler PT Cruiser. But isn’t the Jeep Wrangler somewhat retro-ish? The Volkswagen Beetle?
Every now and then a retro-inspired concept is revealed that, at the very least, ought to make production in limited numbers. Call it a special edition or, heck, even mark it up so that it becomes a collectible. We went through some of the more recent retro concepts that, as of this writing, didn’t make it to production in their current form. Yes, there is at least one nameplate on this list in production today but it looks nothing like its discarded retro concept counterpart.
Holden is GM’s famous brand Down Under. Over the decades, Holden built some of the coolest V8-powered sedans and coupes to ever hit Australia's roads. Unfortunately, that’s no longer the case. Prior to Holden becoming globalized, its Australian employees had some wonderfully crazy ideas and one of them was 2005’s Efijy Concept. Inspired by the 1953 Holden FJ, which was built in Australia, this stunning concept was designed entirely in-house at Holden’s design and engineering studio. How nuts were those Aussies?
The Efijy is based on a stretched version of a C6 Chevrolet Corvette platform and was powered by a supercharged 6.0-liter LS2 V8 producing 644 hp and 560 lb-ft of torque. Power was sent to the rear wheels through a four-speed automatic gearbox (hey, this was nearly 20 years ago) and the concept also boasted a fully customized exhaust system.
The interior featured electronic instrumentation such as a multi-use display screen that could disappear into the dash. Was it too wild to produce? Kind of yes, but a toned-down version could have been possible. Just look at the Plymouth Prowler.
The Lincoln Continental. Great large luxury car. Wrong type of car for the time (blame crossovers). Since its 2017 re-launch, the Continental has experienced relatively slow sales and, according to the latest rumors, won’t be around after the 2020 model year. Perhaps Lincoln could have found success if it had been bold enough to build a production version of its 2002 Continental Concept.
This car made a statement not only with its clean lines and luxurious interior appointments, but also its wicked cool suicide doors, as per the 1966 model. Why didn’t Lincoln build this version of the Concept instead of the toned-down car we have today? Who knows, and it’s a real shame this large luxury concept never made it past the concept phase.
Yes, the Ford Bronco is about to make its triumphant return in the next few months, likely at Detroit in January. Based on the same platform as the also just revived Ranger pickup truck, the new Bronco will be a bonafied SUV for all of your off-roading adventures. What will it look like? Hopefully, it’ll draw some retro inspiration from the 2004 Bronco Concept, shown here. We could easily see this concept’s styling toned down for production, but there would be one major change: rear doors.
As we already know, two-door SUVs are dead before arrival. From the little we know about the 2020 Bronco’s design, it will feature some cues from the nameplate’s past, but it won’t be all-out retro. The problem with a retro SUV, as proven by the Toyota FJ Cruiser, is that it’s hard to mass market it.
However, we know Ford did consider building this particular Bronco concept but then something happened that ultimately killed the project: an increase in gasoline prices. SUVs were suddenly out of favor and small cars, like the Fiesta, were in. Times have changed, yet again.
Of all new vehicles on sale today, only the Jeep Wrangler retains the styling of its ancestor. Though fully modern from the inside, under the hood, and all other mechanicals, the Wrangler manages to pull of the near impossible without being too retro yet modern. Over the years, Jeep has launched several Wrangler-based concepts that were really never intended for production, but there was one in particular that stood out: 2015’s Wrangler Staff Car.
Based on the previous generation JK Wrangler, the Staff Car Concept was modified to look like the original Willys MG, complete with flat fenders, zero doors, matte, sand-colored paint job, and even classic Firestone NDT tires. Although it has a stock drivetrain and instrument panel, just about every other part has been modified for that cool military look. Who wouldn’t want to have a side-mounted ax ready to go?
Volkswagen has toyed around more than once with a reborn Microbus. In the not too distant future, it’s widely rumored an all-electric Microbus, based on the I.D. Buzz Concept, will receive the production green light. Back in 2001, VW revealed its Microbus Concept, a modern version of the famous original. And yes, it was scheduled to enter production but that was cancelled in 2005 because of Chrysler. Chrysler!? Yes, really.
Remember the Volkswagen Routan? It was a rebadged Chrysler minivan. While the exterior had the VW badges, the interior was still crappy Chrysler build quality, although a few parts were upgraded. Yes, a rebadged Chrysler Town & Country/Dodge Grand Caravan is what killed an earlier reborn Microbus. VW figured it was best to play it safe and the Routan was the result.
Today’s 2 and 3 Series share an ancestor, the BMW 2002. Built from 1966 to 1977, the 2002 brought BMW international acclaim by charting a path as a premium brand that focused on driving satisfaction (it was not yet considered luxury). To honor this icon, BMW revealed its 2002 Hommage Concept in 2016 at the Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este. The timing was quite appropriate because it was the 50th anniversary of the 2002’s initial launch. Using an M2 as the donor car (the most obvious choice), the Hommage Concept perfectly encapsulated the German automaker’s past and present – which is why it should have made become a limited production model.
All of the mechanicals were already done, so only the exterior skin needed to be altered. BMW would have likely sold every single one of them in record time even if they were all sold at a premium.
The new era of all-electric cars presents many opportunities, including designs, so why not have some fun? Infiniti did exactly that with 2017’s Prototype 9 Concept. This open-wheeled electric retro roadster combined ingenuity, artistry and craftsmanship. Although it looks like a 1940s era race car, the Prototype 9 was the first Infiniti to be powered by a new EV powertrain, consisting of a 9kWh battery paired with an electric motor. Total output was 148 hp and 236 lb-ft of torque. It could make the sprint to 62 mph in a respectable 5.5 seconds.
Could this concept be turned into a production car? Again, look at the Plymouth Prowler. Imagine all of the attention these things would have received when spotted on the road or at a dealership. For a brand like Infiniti that needs a clear identity and attitude in a very crowded luxury car market, the Prototype 9 would have been an excellent and wonderfully retro start.