Concept Cars That Never Made It is a five-part series that documents production concept automobiles from years and eras ago. Some are bewildering, while others are beautiful, and the only thing common between them is the fact that somewhere down the line, these concepts remained just figments of imagination and creative spirit, and never saw the light of day.
Bertone Lancia Stratos HF Zero (1970)
Probably the most fitting concept to begin this series with, the Lancia Stratos Zero was debuted for the first time at the Turin Motor Show in 1970, in what was claimed to be a war between Pininfarina and Bertone to see how low they could make their cars. The wedge-shaped design was absolutely ahead of its time, conceived by Marcello Gandini, who also went on to make Lamborghini’s Countach, a car that was inspired heavily by Stratos Zero’s radical shape. The concept came with a V4 engine that sat under a rather revolutionary looking triangular hood on the back of the car. In fact, the car was considered so desirable and beautiful, it even made its way into Michael Jackson’s 1978 film Moonwalker, becoming an absolute icon of cars that were ahead of their time.
Isuzu 4200R (1989)
Designed by Shiro Nakamura, who was also responsible for the famous Nissan GT-R, the Isuzu 4200R was a 350HP V8 engine powered product of Japan’s Bubble Era, when the economy was riding a high, resulting in wild technology, outstanding performance, and unbelievable price tags. Debuted at the 1989 Tokyo Motor Show, the Isuzu 4200R could seat two adults, two children, and (hear this out), came with a VHS player, a fax machine, and a satellite navigation system built right into its dashboard. It’s too bad that as soon as the 1990s began, Isuzu abandoned all passenger car projects to focus on making SUVs and trucks, something it still does pretty well even to this day.
Mercedes Benz C112 (1991)
The Mercedes Benz C112 was a frustratingly beautiful concept car. I say frustratingly beautiful because back in 1991, customers were literally begging for Mercedes to release it, with as many as 700 confirmed orders too, but a disagreement at the executive level caused Mercedes Benz to just ditch the project altogether, publicly claiming that the world didn’t need another high-speed sports car. The C112 was every bit beautiful, every bit powerful, and every bit Mercedes, with a V12 engine, gullwing doors, and overall aerodynamic design, courtesy Italian designer Sergio Coggiola. Apparently, the company was all set to launch what could have been one of Mercedes Benz’s greatest street-legal-race-cars, with the design even being thoroughly optimized to pass American crash tests. It’s just that the company didn’t bother. *sigh*
Lotus Etna Concept (1984)
Italdesign’s Lotus Etna also classifies as a frustratingly beautiful concept car that could have been Britain’s first true supercar back in the 80s, had the automotive company not been in financial turmoil. The Etna concept incorporated a new active suspension system from the company’s F1 cars, along with traction control, anti-lock brakes, active noise canceling, and a 4.0-liter “Type 909″ V8 engine derived from their racing motors, also boasting of 335 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque… figures that were pretty impressive for the 80s. The Etna, however, got scrapped when General Motors bought 91% stake in Lotus in 1986. A shame, really.
Daihatsu X 021 (1991)
Coming from Japan’s oldest automobile manufacturer, the Daihatsu X 021 was presented at the 1991 Tokyo Motor Show and was touted to be a rival to Mazda’s Miata (a car that went on to become an icon for the brand). The X 021 was smaller, lighter, and faster than the Miata, built on an aluminum spaceframe and wrapped in fiberglass, along with a 16-valve 1.6-liter 140HP engine that could propel the car at speeds of 125 mph. The company decided to abandon the project to focus on domestic sales, launching the less aggressive, more friendly looking Copen roadster.
Ferrari 125 S (1947)
The first ever vehicle to hold the Ferrari logo, the 125 S may have been Enzo Ferrari’s second car, but was the first car under his brand. It came with a V12 engine, a trait that all future cars carried too, and a 5-speed gearbox, envisioned by Enzo himself. Celebrating its 70th birthday in March last year, the car may have kickstarted one of the most successful sports car brands of all time, but the reason we classify this legend as a concept is that only two models of the 125 S were made.