We’re all familiar with the nursery rhyme called “This Little Piggy” right? Does this sound familiar: “This little piggy went to market, this little piggy stayed home, this little piggy had roast beef, this little piggy had none, this little piggy cried ‘wee wee wee’ all the way home…” Ok, by now if you’re still reading this you are thinking to yourself “what the heck does all this have to do with cars?” either that or you’re thinking “this guy has gone completely mad!” Well you might be right on both counts as I will soon explain.
The “piggys” going to market in this context are the concept cars that so many manufacturers dangle like a carrot in front of the viewing audience to excite our collective car senses, arouse our vivid mechanical dreams and whet our automotive appetites. These prototypes are often the only indication consumers have that there’s somebody with imagination at the wheel of these major, mega, car conglomerates. The mostly pedestrian selection of mundane motor vehicles seen on the street today are largely a reflection of the apathy (i.e. mediocrity) found in our society at large. While mostly functional, modern automobile design consists of general, uninspired, average and redundant variations on the same theme, the difference in branding offering the only variety. Each manufacturer presents something for everybody to collectively like or dislike…agree or disagree, everyone’s entitled to their own opinion, Pontiac Aztec owners included. But one thing that most can collectively agree upon is the detectability of the often futuristic concept cars. These visions that seem to be lifted from the pages of a science-fiction novel often end up gracing the pages of our favorite automobile magazine or automotive blog.
Best case scenario we get to see a working prototype, but most commonly after we get our collective hopes up in anticipation of a newer model or our favorite concept car, the reality sets in that our favorite pending pet project will never see the light of day. Concepts like a dream get deferred when these projects are abandoned before production starts, often due to lack of funding or due to designs that are so radical and so fantastic that there is no conceivable way to translate the effluent lines and renderings on paper into a tangible solid reality. Those seldom seen prototypes become extinct like the 1948 Tucker Sedan, the DeLorean, and the Dodo bird. Often we can blame the analytical corporate suits and bean-counters for their lack of vision (and their proficiency with a slide rule and cost analysis software) for nixing many a project coming down the pipeline. Market volatility and consumer indifference round out the rest of the usual suspects way-laying development and contributing to why our automotive wet-dreams never become a reality. Like that cute girl in high school that you always wanted to date but never worked up the nerve to ask out, it’s too late, game over, class dismissed, but back to the matter at hand.
Many of the prototypes and concept cars with the potential to proactively alter the way we think and relate to not only our cars, but also the automotive industry as a whole, stall out in some pre-production phase as auto makers impulsively shift focus in reaction to increasing government legislation, fickle consumer indifference, to copy the latest trend, or to jump on the popular band-wagon, as opposed to setting the bar higher and bucking the trend becoming true visionaries and trail blazers with a clearly defined vision of what the future could be, but again, I digress. So without further ado, here is our list of proto-typical, future-conceptual cars that we feel are desperately needed today! These car might just save the world…or at least our sanity and along with it a few barrels of crude oil.
1. Mazda Furai concept car designed and manufactured by Mazda
Dubbed the “sound of the wind” by designers, the Mazda Furai with it’s dramatic lines and complex curves sets the tone for what future-present cars should be. Embodying the idea of flow, or “Nagare” design as Mazda calls it, the Furai concept car holds fast to Mazda’s history of incorporating the spirit of “Zoom-Zoom” and the “Emotion of Motion” in their best selling cars, such as its popular predecessors the RX-7 and RX-8. These cars that look fast just standing still! The Mazda Furai concept (pronounced ‘foo-rye’ in Japanese) celebrates the culmination of over 40 years of Mazda’s research and development in motorsports.
Why we need this car today:
Mazda partnered with BP oil and the Furai was designed with ethanol power in mind. The Furai’s three-rotor 450hp mid-mounted wankel engine uses BP E100 ethanol as it’s fuel of choice. With the increasing popularity and availability of “green-energy” solutions and the usage of alternative fuels on the rise, such as E10 and E85 ethanol/gasoline blends, the Mazda Furai concept would be a welcome addition to the flex-fuel and green-fuel segment of the market, adding some much needed excitement to the rather hum-drum assortment of hybrid vehicles currently offered. Besides, we miss the 3rd gen, FD3S Rx-7’s sexy lines and curves and the Furai would pick up the slack where the RX-8 fell short.
2. Toyota FT-HS (HSC) Concept (a.k.a. the new “Supra”) designed by Calty Design Research and manufactured by Toyota
“A long time ago, in a galaxy far far away” there existed a sports car of mythical proportions and it was called the MKIV 2JZ Toyota Supra. Ok, so it wasn’t that long ago (for some of us it just feels that way) or even that far away for that matter…it was in Japan, circa 1997 that the last samurai, I mean last Toyota Supra rolled off the assembly line…and in the wake of its passing the world let out a collective sigh of sadness. For more than a decade, die-hard Toyota Supra loyals have waited…impatiently, but waited just the same, for Toyota to revive one of the most popular sport compact cars of all time. In 2007 the Supra faithful received a faint glimmer of hope that their waiting has not been in vain in the form of the Toyota FT-HS.
Officially named the “Future Toyota-Hybrid Sports” Concept or FT-HS for short, the designers at Toyota proposed a rear-wheel-drive hybrid sports car that would output around 400 horsepower. Touted as a “new kind of sports car for the 21st century” Toyota hopes to combine “economy and emotion” in a complete sports car package with a performance aspiration of zero-to-sixty in four seconds and at a price in the “mid-$30,000 range.” Lofty aspirations indeed for a company that has been sorely lacking a halo sports car offering since 1997, when the last Supra model was dropped from the dealership line up, a decision that Toyota must undoubtedly regret in light of it’s recent financial worries in the wake of the massive accelerator pedal recall aka “Pedal-gate”. In a year marked by slow sales and waning consumer confidence, a new Supra-type car could be the light at the end of the dismal recall tunnel for Toyota, bolstering sales and helping to offset some of the negative stigma and stem the tide of customer attrition that Toyota has garnered of late…at the very least it could serve as a very pleasant distraction: “hey look over there, is that the new Supra?”
Why we need this car today:
Two words: Toyota Recall. For a new Supra-caliber car we would be willing to overlook Toyota’s recent gas-pedal gaff and let by-gones be by-gones…besides, who would ever complain about a sticking accelerator in a world class sports car? Most true spo-com enthusiasts probably wouldn’t even notice: “why no officer, I did NOT know I was doing 100 mph, must be this darn Toyota accelerator…” Seriously though, the Toyota FT-HS Hybrid Sports Concept is rumored to be powered by a hybrid powertrain, possibly even a hybrid-electric motor (think: the love-child of mating a Toyota Prius with a big-block V8). Hey, it could work…stranger things have happened.
3. Acura Advanced Sports Car Concept/Honda FC Sport Concept (read: the new NSX) designed by the Acura Design Center and manufactured by Honda Motor Company
Introduced in the early ’90’s, the NSX (New Sportscar ‘Xperimental’) prototype was Honda’s first foray into the exotic supercar market. The NSX was Honda’s technological and performance showcase and the Pininfarina designed NSX quickly became a fixture among the sport compact elite as an “affordable” alternative to the traditional staple of established exotic super cars by brands such as Lamborghini and Ferrari. Rumor has it that the NSX even inspired F1 designer Gordon Murray’s McLaren F1 Supercar concept. In 2005 production of the NSX was discontinued with Honda citing economic issues and their desire to re-design the then dated and aging platform. Loosely based on Honda’s formula one efforts, an F1-derived V-10 was originally purported to be tapped for duty in the new NSX, but amid economic woes and recent changes in the marketplace, one of Acura’s existing 3.4-liter, V-8 powerplants or even possibly a hybrid/electric motor are considered more likely candidates. Additionally, Honda has recently released information on their FC Sport Concept car which threatens to be a “true no-holds-barred supercar” powered by a “high-torque electric motor” designed to rival even the greatest of modern sports exotics! The “FC”in FC Sport is short for “Fuel Cell”, utilizing the same technology as the FCX-Clarity Fuel Cell Electric Vehicle which is an alternative fuel, zero emissions car. Factor in Acura’s Super Handling All-Wheel Drive (SH-AWD) technology and what do you have: The makings of an ultimate alternative energy exotic super sports car wonder wagon! Now try saying that three times fast!
Why we need this car today:
Honda/Acura desperately needs to develop a new sports car to continue the legacy of it’s award-winning NSX supercar. Who better than Honda, whose slogan is “The Power of Dreams” to translate their vision for a new, NSX-type concept car into a reality? If Honda Motor Co. was a kid in your high-school year book, the caption under the picture would read “Most Likely to Succeed” and true-to-form this Japanese powerhouse of manufacturing has been going strong for a long time. With the recent demise of the Honda S2000, it’s high time for another Honda Halo-car to step up to the plate…can you say “Home Run”?
4. Dodge Zeo Concept designed by Chrysler Group LL (Chrysler Dodge Jeep)
The Dodge Zeo, short for “Zero Emissions Operations” Concept vehicle is likely to be the Chrysler Group’s newest crowning achievement with it’s entry into the increasingly popular hybrid vehicle market. Labeled by the manufacturer as a “next generation muscle car” the Zeo electric sports car follows in the footsteps of the now well-established all-electric exotic Tesla Roadster. Designed as “four-passenger sport wagon” (think Subaru Forrester, WRX hatchback, etc.) the Dodge Zeo is a happy concession, seeking the middle ground between environmentalists and enthusiasts alike. Reportedly the Zeo’s electric, lithium-ion battery powerplant can last up to 250 miles before needing recharging and goes from 0-60 miles per hour in under six seconds.
Why we need this car today:
The fact that this car has an all-electric motor is definitely a step in the right direction for both Chrysler and those wanting to end our dependence on fossil fuels; besides it would be fun to hear people ask “Does That Thing Have A Hemi?”
5. BMW GINA light visionary model concept/BMW Vision EfficientDynamics Concept designed by BMW Group Design
The BMW GINA which stands for “Geometry and Functions In ‘N’ Adaptions” is an experiment in abstract thinking that at first glance is so outside the box it seems to defy logic. The GINA concept with it’s variable geometry technology can change the shape of the vehicle surface through a series of manipulations achieved via the textile fabric skin and metal/carbon fiber supporting sub-structure. Couple the GINA concept with the BMW Vision concept car and it becomes readily apparent that someone over at BMW is thinking in the right direction. Intended as a 2+2-seater with full-hybrid technology, the BMW Vision concept vehicle would combine the performance of a BMW M series, with a low emission, fuel efficient engine and would probably outperform even the most economical internal combustion engines around today. BMW’s combination of ActiveHybrid components and outstanding aerodynamic qualities ensure that enjoyment and overall driving experience increases, even as fuel consumption and emissions decrease. While no slouch in the power department, the engine provides a maximum speed governed to just 155 mph, reaching 0 to100 km/h in 4.8 seconds. Average fuel consumption is a reported 62.6 mpg, and the CO2 emission rating is 99 grams per kilometer or better when driving in “all-electric mode”.
Why we need this car today:
A BMW M-series vehicle with the potential for 62 mpg!!! Enough said, where do we sign up?