top of page

The greatest crazy concept cars ever made

Story by Richard Dredge

Jun 5, 2023

Ever since the first 'dream cars' were created in the 1930s, designers and engineers have tried to look into the future.

Ever since the first 'dream cars' were created in the 1930s, designers and engineers have tried to look into the future.

They built prototypes and design studies to show what might be possible one day. New propulsion systems, electronic driver and safety aids, plus advances in exterior design have transformed production cars over more than a century.

But take a look at some of these crackpot concepts and you could be forgiven for wondering why the pace of change has been so slow. Or being thankful that most of these crazy creations never reached showrooms. Enjoy the trip:

Volvo Venus Bilo (1933)

This car was so radical when it was first shown, the company behind it refused to be linked to it. In an era where full-width styling was very much in the future, the Venus Bilo embraced it, but it wasn’t until years later that Volvo admitted it had bankrolled the project.

Chrysler Thunderbolt (1940)

The Chrysler Thunderbolt wasn't a small car, but it could seat just two people as its retractable hard top was stowed behind the cabin – then behind that was the luggage bay. Nick-named "the Push-Button Car", the Thunderbolt's roof, windows and retractable headlights were all electrically controlled.  Six Thunderbolts were made, all trimmed differently, for displays across the US.

Fiat Turbina (1954)

Admittedly this was more of a prototype than a concept – but what an incredible design! Fiat started to develop a gas turbine engine for automotive use as early as 1948. Using a Fiat 8V chassis, the Turbina was honed in the wind tunnel and the result was a drag co-efficient of just 0.14.

Fiat wasn't the only car maker to build a vehicle powered by a gas turbine engine – and just like all the others it realised the technology was never going to work.

Ford FX Atmos (1954)

The FX stood for Future Experimental, those spears on the front were aerials to help control the car to stop it running into vehicles in front, and the ‘Atmos’ was taken from atmosphere, which Ford said “came from free and unlimited creative thinking”. With a glass canopy, seating for three and a pair of aircraft-style fins, this was truly a jet-age design.

Ford La Tosca (1955)

Capable of being driven via remote control from up to a mile away, the Ford La Tosca was designed by Alex Tremulis, who had also penned the Tucker 48 'Torpedo'. Featuring fins at the front as well as the rear, the La Tosca was a typical jet age concept with its Plexiglass dome over the cabin.

Oldsmobile Golden Rocket (1956)

Nobody could keep up with the Americans in the 1950s, with one space-age creation appearing after another. The Golden Rocket packed a 275 BHP punch from its 3.2-liter V8, and it introduced us to powered steering column adjustment. Its party piece was the way the seats rose up and swivelled outwards when the doors were opened – and at the same time, the roof panels hinged upwards so it was easier to get in and out.

Chrysler Imperial d'Elegance (1958)

From the A-pillar back the Imperial d'Elegance wasn't quite so radical; many of the features would appear on production cars very soon after this concept was unveiled in 1958. But that nose would always be controversial with its vestigial bumpers, full-width grille and concealed headlights.

Ford DePaolo (1958)

The Ford DePaolo was named after Indy 500 racer Peter DePaolo (1898-1980), who had enjoyed success in the 1930s. Designed by Buzz Grisinger (1908-2002), the DePaolo was intended to be a key exhibit in Ford's Stylerama project – dreamed up to compete with GM's Motorama which toured the US in the 1950s. But Stylerama was canned before it ever reached fruition, and with it went the DePaolo.

bottom of page