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11 Jul 2017

Every year at motor shows throughout the word we see manufacturers reveal stunning, crazy and fanciful concept cars that almost never see production. Sure, lots of them look like they came from a sci-fi movie and could obviously never be produced, but there are sometimes concepts that look almost like they could be on the road today, a tantalising look into a future model. And sometimes they do get made, but more often than not these exciting concepts stay in the design studio and never get any further. So I’ve chosen my top concepts that I really wish had made production but never did…

Nissan 1Dx

This first concept is a real favourite of mine – in 2013 Nissan showed two concepts – the 1Dx and the 1Dx Nismo you can see above (the Nismo is the white/red/black one). They are small, two-plus-two coupes that have clear influences from the early Datsun 510 coupe. They’re unashamedly retro, but also manage to look futuristic which is impressive. They have a high waistline, bluff nose and stubby rear end whilst being fairly wide (the Nismo even more so) so have a great stance. They were RWD and powered by familiar Nissan downsized turbo lumps. As a rival to the Toyota GT86/Subaru BRZ these would’ve been perfect and would undoubtedly have been a huge hit for Nissan in the £25,000 price bracket, but for some reason they never went into production and likely never will.

Lamborghini Estoque

I’m going back in time a fair bit now to 2008 – not that you’d guess by looking at it – for the Lamborghini Estoque concept. When this concept was launched it was all set for production in 2012 with the Gallardo’s 5.2 litre V10 and would go on sale for around £150,000 sharing its structure with the Audi A8 of the time. It was going to be a rival to the Aston Martin Rapide and top level Porsche Panamera Turbo models and would seat four in comfort while still having that Lamborghini flair and performance you would expect. But for some reason the board at VW Group decided to send their money elsewhere and the Estoque was canned. This is likely because the global market for big saloons is reducing, with the shift to premium SUVs the main reason – see Bentley Bentayga, the forthcoming Rolls Royce Cullinan and of course Lamborghini’s Urus which has been seen testing recently. It’s a real shame though as I think the Estoque is a stunning saloon and far more suited to Lamborghini than an SUV.

Jaguar C-X75

This has to be the biggest confusion in this list – nobody can understand why this stunning Jaguar concept was never made - only Jaguar know. Okay there would have been some changes made – the original C-X75 concept had turbine power that fed power to electric motors – this would inevitably have made way for either a V8 or hybrid V6 power plant in production. But one simple fact remained – the C-X75 looked unbelievably stunning – low, wide, a proper supercar shape that fitted in well with Jaguar’s design language and would have acted as a great halo model for their sports cars. It even featured in the last James Bond film as the bad guy’s wheels and looked incredible driving through Italian streets in the metallic orange paint job above. But despite there being a huge number of enquiries to buy one, Jaguar decided against putting it into production as they channel their funding to electric development. But I think they could have sold a couple of hundred at £500,000, hand made by their SVO division. It’s a shame we’ll never see how good it could have been.

2001 VW Microbus

Now this is a real bugbear of mine – this was the original Microbus concept from 2001 but VW have been teasing with new and updated concepts for a reimagined Microbus ever since – this year saw the 7th iteration! There’s a huge following for the VW Camper and a new Microbus would be a fantastic way to tap into that nostalgia and this 2001 concept could even have made production fairly cheaply as it was little more than a reskinned Transporter. More recent versions have been smaller with hybrid or EV power and have bespoke floorpans, bodies and are pretty much new models which in my eyes means they’ll never get the green light as they’ll always be a niche product. By basing the 2001 concept on a production model they could have had a cult vehicle, priced higher than normal to tap into the lifestyle market like nothing before it. There’s still a tiny hope that VW will make something like it in the future, but I’m not holding my breath.

Mini Rocketman

First off – ignore the name - yes, it’s ridiculous but it’s also not at all important. What is important is that this was a Mini concept from 2011 that promised to silence all those who had been saying ‘the BMW Mini doesn’t deserve the name’ since the relaunch. It was a new model to sit below the normal Mini in the range and was extremely close to the original Mini in size. Okay it didn’t have four seats, rather an interesting 3+1 layout where the 1 was for children only, but it’s amazing that they managed to get within a foot of the original at all with modern regulations. With small three-cylinder engines and an EV model the Rocketman could have been a huge seller in cities and congested towns, but BMW decided to shelve the idea. I really hope it makes it off that shelf at some point because it deserves production a lot more than the awful Clubman!

Lotus Esprit

Ah yes, the ‘new Esprit’ – seen as part of previous Lotus CEO Dany Bahar’s ever-so-slightly-bonkers new vision for the company in 2010. At the Paris Motor Show that year, Bahar unveiled a 5-yr plan that included six full-size models of the new range which was set to all be launched before 2016. There was a new Elise, slightly larger Elan, an Elite 2+2 convertible, the Eterne saloon, a city car and the focus here – a new Esprit. Those with fuzzy memories might not remember the old Esprit which was a wedge shaped supercar that was raw, exciting and stylish, but never really worked very well. The new Esprit was the most exciting of the new cars as it was aimed directly at the Ferrari 458 and Lamborghini Gallardo – a carbon bodied 2 seat supercar with stunning looks and Lotus’ legendary handling. For power they went back to Toyota (who supply their current 4cyl and V6 engines) and used Lexus’ V8 from the IS-F but with 550bhp. Combined with the predicted 1300kg weight and you had a 200+mph supercar that was potentially around £30,000 less than the rivals. But then everything went wrong for Lotus – Bahar was suspended then removed and those who actually ran Lotus (accountants) decided that the elaborate and extensive plan could never work and the whole thing was scrapped. I still think it’s a huge shame they didn’t just stick with the Esprit, as I think it looks fantastic and with the type of handling that Lotus is known for it could even have beaten the 458.