2001 Volkswagen Microbus concept
Concept cars are a mixed breed. Sometimes, they're the real thing slightly disguised, and sometimes they're way-off abstractions in the Tomorrowland vein.
In a handful of cases, concept cars are annoying knock-offs of the boy who cried wolf, without the bit that makes the fairy tale appealing. You know, the part where the boy gets eaten.
Now, to be fair, there's more reality in most any concept car than in an episode of Operation Repo. We can't remember how many times Honda or Lexus has placed a production-ready car on an auto-show stand and called it a "concept"--think Model X, LF-A. And even among the purest flights of fancy, there are some ideas that spring to life from them.With auto show season in full swing, we're already hearing new talk about old trial balloons that have floated overhead, sometimes for most of the past decade, promising to take up real production-line space but never following up on those empty threats. These are the ones we'll have a hard time believing are real until someone can actually document a registration down at the local DMV.
The list of repeat offenders isn't too long, and some of them truly are lovely to contemplate. Still, we don't want to hear any more from these six concepts until they're ready to do something, or get off the pot. Or until they're eaten.
This week's prattling on about a new Microbus has only reminded us of the long, sad history of VW concept vans. Yes, we were there when the 2001 concept captivated Detroit (!). And then it went dormant. A decade's worth of teasing didn't help--and neither did the 2009 Routan, an anti-Bus if there ever were one. Back in 2008, we gave you plenty of reasons to doubt the return of Microbus, but now it's VW teasing once more. With a new mid-size sedan coming, it's not out of the question that a big crossover with a Microbus badge might emerge from Chattanooga--but that flat-faced front end is a killer to recreate. And if it can't be done, is the result really a Microbus?
2003 Cadillac Sixteen concept
A long time ago, in a land far, far away--Detroit--the Cadillac Sixteen swept auto journalists off their feet before giving them a peck on the cheek and never calling again. The lovely Sixteen bore the proportions of a classic sedan, and a V-16 engine underhood summarized an era of excess that the EPA used to sharpen its fuel-economy fangs. A glass roof and crystal details gave the whole thing a Hall of Mirrors feel that to date, has been mostly smoke and mirrors. In 2007, then GM product chief Bob Lutz pronounced the Sixteen dead--and then short-term GM CEO Ed Whitacre suggested a top-flight Cadillac might still be a portfolio need, a story that still makes the rounds today. Until GM's well clear of Federal funding, and until the Volt is a stable sales success, we're pushing this one on the back burner, crystal trim notwithstanding.
2007 Ford Interceptor Concept
It's the face of Ford today--well, the Fusion, the Taurus, the Flex and the F-150. But the Interceptor was going to be Ford's answer to the Chrysler 300. Some of our sources suggest a Mustang-derived rear-driver was well along before Ford hit the financial skids in 2007, but today it sits abandoned in the vaults, like those mythical Prince tracks we may never hear. Sparing us the Interceptor kept the Crown Victoria on life support, but it may have helped keep Ford alive. Hints and rumblings of big rear-drive four-doors for Ford and Lincoln keep surfacing, but until we see one with the new 6.2-liter V-8 and 20-inch treads, we're not taking any more linkbait.
2010 Pontiac G8 ST
Consider yourself jaded? Not after February 2008, when all hipster walls were broken down by the sight of 50 Cent and Bob Lutz, side by side, bangin' out the reveal of the Pontiac G8 ST. An El Camino for the new day, the ST never would see the light of day, since its old brand would die first. The idea of selling the Aussie-built pickup still holds sway in the blogs and in some of the more important corners in GM's Renaissance Center, but until we can do business up front and party in the back, we're with Garbo--just let us alone.
Saab Aero X Concept
It was crafted in the not-so-distant past, when Saab still had access to the GM parts bin. The stunning Saab Aero-X concept lifted Corvette chassis bits and stuffed in a twin-turbo V-6 when it bowed at the 2006. And then it kept showing up to auto shows long after its name was removed from the VIP list. Saab's transition into Spykerdom now complete, there's new talk of building the look on a C8 Aileron chassis, but those rumors are largely the work of Spyker CEO Victor Muller.
2000 Jaguar F-type
What better way to show off Ford's mastery of the Jaguar domain, than with a new E-Type successor? The cleverly named F-Type hit Detroit like the blizzard of the year before in 2000, and everyone in the exceedingly cramped rotunda built inside Cobo Hall was convinced it was headed for production. Sister site TheCarConnection even called the F-Type a concept that should have been built. It's 2010 now, and...um...where's our F-Type? New Jaguar owners Tata are hinting at a new sportscar slotted below the XK, but...stop us if you've heard that one before. No, really, make us stop.