Rarely are we lucky enough to see a concept car retain all its fantasy as it moves from paper to car shows to the road. Regardless of whether car companies listen to our pleading and bring their original concepts to reality, concept cars present an opportunity to see the difference between what designers and engineers really can do, and what they really want to do. These 17 should be celebrated above all.

Chrysler D’Elegance

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Such a beautiful collaboration between American and Italian firms, it’s a shame only 25 were built.

Designer: Ghia and Virgil Exner
Debut: Paris Motor Show, 1952

General Motors Firebird III

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The Firebird III was the brainchild of Harley Earl, the father of the concept car. It helped set the tone for concept cars in the Jet Age of the ’50s — kerosene-burning jet engine and all.

Designer: Harley Earl
Debut: Motorama, 1958

Holden Hurricane

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More often than not, if a concept car is brightly colored and wedge-shaped, it’s from Italy. But Australia should be commended for the Hurricane, not only in terms of its aesthetics, but for the futuristic digital interfaces as well.

Designer: Holden Design
Debut: Melbourne Auto Show, 1969

Lancia Stratos Zero

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Speaking of Italian wedges — the Stratos Zero stood as one of the forebears of the iconic “Italian wedge” design. It was also the predecessor to the wildly successful Lancia Stratos Rally Car.

Designer: Bertone
Debut: Turin Motor Show, 1970

Ford GT90

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Ford proposed for the GT90 to have a 253 mph top speed and 720 horsepower 6.0–liter quad-turbo V12. It’s a shame they didn’t follow through. The GT90 would’ve pushed the supercar game ahead by an entire decade.

Designer: Ford
Debut: Detroit Auto Show, 1995

Cadillac Ciel

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If Cadillac ever wants to get serious about competing with true luxury brands, this car is the key.

Designer: Niki Smart
Debut: Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, 2011

Cadillac Cien

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And if the Ciel is the ideal luxury Cadillac, the Cien is clearly the performance counterpart. But with a dose of optimistic speculation, we may not be far off from seeing a mid-engined Caddy.

Designer: Simon Cox
Debut: Detroit Auto Show, 2002

Lamborghini Asterion LP1 910-4

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We all know a Lamborghini SUV is on the way, but a much lower, more forward-thinking version of the 910 horsepower hybrid Asterion would be… appreciated.

Designer: Filippo Perini
Debut: Paris Motor Show, 2014

Astro II XP-880

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Not many car designs can work with multiple engine layouts (see: the Porsche 911 and Panamera). This concept is the reason we’ve all been pining for a mid-engine Corvette since 1968.

Designer: Bill Mitchell
Debut: Detroit Auto Show, 1968

Alfa Romeo Carabo

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Audacity and simplicity never worked together so well.

Designer: Bertone
Debut: Paris Motor Show, 1968

Lamborghini Countach LP500 Prototype

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Not only was the The LP500 Prototype one of the pioneers of the Italian wedge, it also began to push the boundaries on the cab-forward design to help accommodate a larger, mid-mounted engine.

Designer: Bertone
Debut: Geneva Motor Show, 1971

Alfa Romeo 33/2 Coupé Speciale

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More than a handful of concept cars used the Alfa P33 as a base, but Pininfarina’s Coupé Speciale easily did it best.

Designer: Pininfarina
Debut: Paris Motor Show, 1969

Pontiac Banshee I

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John DeLorean’s Banshee I design was seen as too aggressive for any Pontiac model. And GM wouldn’t let its sub-brand outshine the mighty Corvette, so the Banshee I essentially became the C3 Corvette.

Designer: John Z. DeLorean
Debut: Was scheduled for the 1964 New York Auto Show, but debut was canceled.

206 Dino Berlinetta Competizione

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Concept cars that actually run are rare. Rarer still are concept cars based on race-proven chassis. So the 206 Dino Berlinetta Competizione is tantalizingly close to reality.

Designer: Pininfarina
Debut: Frankfurt Auto Show, 1967

Nardi Raggio Azzurro I

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Double-bubble windshield aside, the Azzuro I’s design was relatively reserved. It was built using lightweight alloys and combination of race proven mechanicals and would have made one elegant and capable road car.

Designer: Giovanni Michelotti
Debut: Turin Auto Show, 1955

Bentley EXP 10 Speed 6 Concept

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The EXP 10 does a damn fine job of harking back to Bentley’s illustrious past despite being a distinctly modern (and stunning) sports car. It’s a good thing then Bentley has said it will go to production sometime between 2018 and 2020.

Designer: Bentley
Debut:Geneva Motor Show, 2015

Pontiac Club De Mer

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If it weren’t for America’s insatiable appetite for big-bore land yachts in the ’50s and ’60s, a competent little roadster with a powerful engine like the Club De Mer would have been one for the history books.

Designer: Harley Earl
Debut: General Motors Motorama, 1956
More Classics Worth Remembering

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When automotive designers and engineers get together and put forward the best they have to offer, cult followings and icon statuses just come naturally. Read the Story