Image: Ford

Back in the 1990s, there was a seemingly endless supply of bonkers concept cars that existed solely to grab attention at auto shows and in the pages of magazines. Some of these concepts were wild enough to end up on childhood bedroom walls, because the street cars weren’t quite exciting enough. When the Mustang Mach III (above) was unveiled, for example, Ford dealerships were still selling Fox-body ‘Stangs.

Image: GM

There have been a few off-the-wall concepts floating around the auto show circuit lately, specifically Lagonda’s Vision Concept, or the delightfully French DS X E-Tense Concept. These are the kinds of concepts we want to see, the stuff that will never make production, but inspires decades of automotive designers to take a step beyond the norm.

Image: Audi

When I was a youth, I didn’t much care for street cars, but the bizarre stuff I found in Edward Janicki’s Cars Detroit Never Built are what inspired my love of the automobile. Concept cars are fun and exciting, partly because they portray a world where anything is possible.

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Even today, seeing a 1990s concept car gives me the shivers. I saw 1992's Porsche Boxster Concept at the Porsche Experience Center in Atlanta last year, and it has stuck with me. That was such a forward thinking car in its day. It still looks quasi-futuristic today.

Image: Bradley C. Brownell

Hell, in the glory days of concept cars, manufacturers were even playing around with the idea of a modular mini-van. The Plymouth Voyager III concept paired a compact two-seat front-wheel-drive compact with a detachable cargo and person-carrying second and third row. The front section was fitted with retractable rear wheels, and the rear section had a second engine to shove all that extra weight around.

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Image: Chrysler

Cars can be exciting and fun and interesting, so why have exciting and fun and interesting concept unveilings fallen by the wayside?