A Brief History of Concept Cars

A Brief History of Concept Cars
A concept car is an automobile prototype usually created by the design division of a major automobile company for the purpose of showcasing new styling and/or the latest technological innovations. These cars never go into production directly from concept model without first undergoing significant changes for safety, production costs, and other reasons of practicality. After a concept car’s display purpose had been accomplished, most ended up destroyed at Warhoops, a Westside Detroit salvage yard. The few that actually did survive the salvage yard crusher either wound up in museums; sold to a select group of collectors; or they were secretly hidden in storage by concept car designers and others. The collector Chicago nightclub owner Joe Bortz is one of the best known collectors of concept cars. He owns 24 of them. In some cases, he’s bought cars directly from Warhoops, rescuing these cars from the crusher in the nick of time. Some of these concept vehicles were in whole pristine condition. Others had been cut up into salvageable pieces. These pieces wound up re-assembled at Bortz’s garage. Joe Bortz particularly idolizes the original concept car designers, especially Harley Earl the father of the concept car. Note that Bortz also acknowledges that the major auto companies were first inspired by thirties, forties and fifties hotrodders as well as other backyard car customizers. Harley Earl was one of the very first backyard car customizers, emerging from Hollywood, California as a master designer during the roaring twenties. Harley Earl John DeLorean’s predecessor, Harley Earl was General Motors’ great design genius. He is credited with being the originator of the concept of concept car models, designed from clay prototypes to operational vehicles. His first concept car, the Buick Y-Job (“X-Jobs were experimental models), was shown at the 1940 Auto Show. During the World War II years, Harley Earl drove it as his personal car Thanks to Earl, many more GM concept cars followed, particularly after the buzz that the Y-Job created. Motorama In 1953, General Motors launched its first Motorama. This was an exhibit that traveled to major American cities, showcasing GM’s “cars of the future.” In Motorama’s eight year history, the Buick Wildcat, the Cadillac El Dorado, the Cadillac Biarritz, and maybe the greatest GM car model of all-time, the Corvette, were all introduced as concept cars of the future. 1961 was Motorama’s last year. The Henry Ford Museum While Dearborn, Michigan’s Henry Ford Museum boasts one of the world’s greatest collections of vintage automobiles, there are only a few concept cars on display here. These include Harley Earl’s original Buick Y-Job and two Motorama cars, the first Buick Le Sabre and the Firebird III, a concept car with a V8 engine so powerful that it would melt holes in the street. Eyes on Design The Eyes on Design Show has been around for 20 years. It began as a fundraiser for the Detroit Institute of Ophthalmology, a modest event where vintage automobiles were on display, some later auctioned, in the parking lot of a suburban Detroit school. Since then, the modest event has blossomed into a major event held annually at posh venues that include Edsel Ford’s estate in Grosse Pointe Shores. In some ways, Eyes on Design pays homage to Motorama, displaying at times as many as 250 vintage and classic concept cars. At the 2003 show, celebrating 75 years of automotive design, GM displayed 83 concept cars and Chrysler displayed 29, some of which had been kept in storage by the original designers and others for years. SOURCES: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Concept_car “Harley Earl”, Vivian M. Baulch, Detroit News, URL: (http://info.detnews.com/history/story/index.cfm?id=101 category;=people) http://www.businessweek.com/autos/content/jan2006/bw20060127_689697.htm “The Cars GM didn’t want you to see”, Phil Patton, Forbes, URL: (http://www.forbes.com/2001/03/19/0319feat.html) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Motorama “Eyes on Design”, Richard A. Wright, Detroit News, URL: (http://info.detnews.com/joyrides/story/index.cfm?id=408) “A collector gives concept cars a second life”, Dan McCosh, New York Times, URL: (http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9F01EFD91E39F936A15755C0A9629C8B63 sec;=travel) http://autos.aol.com/gallery/cool-concept-cars-of-the-past “Girl power softens Volvo’s edge”, Jorn Madslein, BBC, URL: (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/business/3528757.stm)
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