10 Concept Cars Of The '60s We Wish Had Been Made
Left: The 1960 Plymouth XNR. Right: A look into the Lamborghi Marzal through its window-like side door. Sources: RM Sotheby's; Wikimedia Commons
Concept cars of the 1960s reflected the era's science-fiction inspired futurism, along with real innovation and the mod styling that is appealing even 50 years later. The Plymouth XNR from 1960, the Chrysler Turboflite from 1961, the Lamborghini Marzal from 1967, the Alfa Romeo Carabo from 1968 -- are these freaky visions of a future that failed to come true? Or were they more prescient than we give them credit for being?
A concept car can be laden with working, innovative features, it can be more of an eye-catching shell. Substance, style or both -- there are no requirements for a concept car, but one hopes that it will at least look cool. And these ten concept cars of the '60s did. Wouldn't you love to have one in the garage?
Alfa Romeo Carabo
The Carabo, a name that was derived from ‘carabidae,’ a family of green and gold ground beetles, was designed to be aerodynamic. The engine was mounted amidships, thus allowing the designers to create a car with a pointed hood. The car also hugged the ground and was less than a meter high at its highest point. Additionally, it had a square rear, giving it quite the distinctive shape. It also had front hinged wing doors and headlights hidden beneath flaps. The Carabo inspired the wedge-shaped designs that became popular with elite manufacturers in the ‘70s and ‘80s, for example, the Lotus Esprit and Lamborghini Countach.
Chevrolet Corvair Testudo
The Testudo, with a name that comes from the Latin word for turtle, was based on another car: the Corvair Monza. The body of the Monza was redesigned, and painted silver with a pearlescent white finish. It had pop-up headlights, a glass roof, a wrap-around windshield, and a forward hinged canopy. Additionally, the engine was rear-mounted and had vents to cool it. Inside, the Testudo featured a rectangular steering wheel. It was the first car that Giorgetto Giugiaro was allowed to freely design. It also had an influence in the design of the Lamborghini Miura.
Chrysler was suffering from an image crisis and needed to compete with Ford and GM, so the company hired Virgil Exner, who commissioned Carrozzeria Ghia to design concept cars. Eventually, Exner developed his boldest design to date. The car was originally called the Asymetrica but the company eventually called it the XNR, a tribute to its designer. The car had thin whitewalls adorned with complex slotted hubcaps, a long hood, external exhaust pipes on the left side only, and a rear fin that emphasized its asymmetrical design. Additionally, it had deep door pockets, a passenger seat that was four inches lower than the driver, a place to store luggage, and a padded driver side headrest. It was styled to give the impression of motion and while there was some buzz about it going into production, the car was eventually shelved. Luigi Segre copied the design and built a more practical version, but could not find a financial backer. The original then began an odd journey, being owned for a short time by the Shah of Iran before it eventually ended up at RM Restoration in Paris.
Imagine a sort of cross between a motorcycle and a car. Most people would recognize that it would require a sort of balancing act between the two passengers who would sit side by side. Ford designed this odd automobile and equipped it with gyroscopes to help eliminate the rocking, which, for some, may have induced seasickness. It also had a canopy to protect the passengers from rain. Between the two seats of the car, there was a dial to allow the driver to control the speed and direction. It was a very creative but obviously doomed idea, although the concept car did inspire contemporary designer Zhu Lingyun to start to develop his own two-wheeled vehicle -- which he expects to bring to market in 2020.
The silver Marzal had a rear-mounted inline-6 engine, about half the size of a Lamborghini V12 engine. It had glass gullwing doors, a silver leather interior, and a louvered rear window. The Marzal was shown off at the 1967 Monaco Grand Prix, where it was driven by Prince Rainier III accompanied by Princess Grace, his wife. The design details, including the hexagonal headlights, have influenced other current Lamborghini models and it inspired the Espada that was produced starting in 1968. In 2011, the Marzal was auctioned off for approximately 2 million dollars.
Fiat Abarth 2000 Scorpione
A car that followed the Carabo, the Abarth, which debuted in 1969, was designed at the beginning of the wedge-shaped car era. It had a 180 degree view due in part to the wrap-around windshield. The car also had six headlights on a popup central bar. This light-weight Fiat also had a short tail pipe and no proper muffler. Because it only weighed 1477 pounds, it could be driven quite fast.
Ford Seattle-ITE XXI
Ford designed the Seattle-ITE XXI for the 1963 World’s Fair. The designer envisioned nuclear fuel cells in the car, which would be a far-fetched idea even today. The Seattle did have other features that were a bit more practical. One of the most unusual was the four front wheels that could turn in tandem, and that made the Seattle the first six-wheeled car. Ford cited several potential benefits of the additional two tires, from braking efficiency to improved traction. While this feature would not appear in cars, others would. The Seattle-ITE also had fingertip steering, and envisioned a computer screen to allow drivers to see the road conditions, weather, position of the car in relation to a map, and the estimated time of arrival.
Alas, this is one concept cat nobody could even attempt to drive, as it was only built as a 3/8 scale model.
Another car that was the stuff of fantasy, the Turboflite, looked a bit like an earthbound spacecraft, and indeed, it did borrow some design elements from flying machines. Its smaller front was designed to reduce drag and it had a wing on the back which could act as an air brake. The Turboflite had eye level rear brake lights with a bright bulb to help with daytime visibility, a feature that would become mandatory in 1986. Its more unusual features included a canopy that lifted upward to allow passengers to get out more easily, though this did preclude traditional windows. The windows hinged outwards from roof-mounted hinges.
Created in 1964, the Stiletto was also influenced by aircraft. Its pointed nose made the design look reminiscent of a jet. The interior had 31 indicator lights, 29 toggle switches, and 16 gauges, evoking the feel of the console of a plane. Its steering wheel helped to make it feel even more like being in a plane. The Stiletto did have some innovative features that would show up later, including automatic climate control, obstacle sensors, and rear-view cameras. One of its more interesting innovations was the speakers that would allow passengers to communicate with those outside the car.
Buick Century Cruiser
The Buick Century Cruiser was definitely ahead of its time. It was designed for a future that included automated highways. When the car entered this theoretical highway, a card with programmed routes would take over, and the Century Cruiser would proceed to its intended destination as it obtained information transmitted from highway centers. While the car did offer hands free driving, it had pistol grips in the arm rests to allow the driver to manually steer and control the car’s speed. In addition to its swivel seats, It also boasted a television set and a refrigerator.
Tags: Alfa Romeo | Chevrolet | Concept Cars | Fiat | Ford | Lamborghini | Plymouth | Buick
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