10 Broken Promises by Automakers. Amazing Cars That We Never Got But Should Have
Concept Cars That Were Promised, But Never Materialized
Updated June 3, 2017
As it is the case with pretty much any industrial sphere, auto industry too is – when it’s all said and done – simply a business. And many business ventures are threaded by often unexpected turn of events which may or may not influence their outcome. Being one of the largest and most important industries overall, auto industry has given us thousands upon thousands of nameplates over more than century of production. Needless to say, with so many models and automakers around; some of their ventures were bound to end up with undesired consequences. This time we’re reflecting on vehicles that missed production by a whisker, or ended up axed at their very beginnings. All of them were promised as more or less revolutionary vehicles and hopes were correspondingly high. When it came to crunch time, however, those promises were broken and we never got to see or enjoy the results.
Tucker 48 remains one of the biggest automotive what-ifs to this day. Most automakers back in the day thought about playing it safe and continued production where they left off before the war. Preston Tucker had a different vision. He intended to revolutionize the market and eliminate the technological status quo that’s become a routine after the WWII. All his hopes and dreams were aimed at Tucker 48 – innovative sedan with safety features galore. With safety and new technology being the emphasis, Tucker 48 was supposed to get the standard disc brakes, four wheel independent suspension, fuel injection, numerous crumple zones, safety cage and all instruments at hand’s reach. Mind you, that was way back in 1948. Sadly, Tucker’s dream never became a reality. Instead, it became one of automotive industry’s unfulfilled promises.
Before introduction, Tucker 48 was supposed to be marketed with a $1,000 sticker. After it was made, though, selling price stood at $2,450. And all that without cornerstone features like the fuel injection, disc brakes, and direct drive transmission. These had to be dropped or Tucker 48 would have been much more expensive. Even the way it was, it was already out of average Joe’s reach. Only 51 units were made before the company folded due to bad image created by media at the time. Preston Tucker was brought to court for alleged stock fraud by Securities and Exchange Commission. Although SEC failed to prove their case, and Tucker was acquitted of all charges, the company never recovered and become extinct by March 3, 1949.
In the end, Tucker 48 powered by 166-horsepower Aircooled Motors’ horizontally opposed flat-six ended up being one very fine car that goes for seven digits today. Since only 51 of them were made, it’s not hard to figure out why this is the case. Tucker even bough Aircooled Motors in order to secure the supply of engines for his own company. Needless to say, aircraft engine producer needed to cancel most of their then-current contracts, and they held no less than 65% of the post-war US aviation market’s demand at that time. The irony is that in one fell swoop, Tucker doomed, not one, but two companies as Aircooled Motors never recovered from this imposed short absence from the market.
AMX/3 is probably the best AMC we’ve never got. Mid-engined sports car had tons of potential, but conservative AMC brass didn’t feel confident enough marketing something rather fresh and unusual to them, hence $2 million project was scrapped. Little is known about rather complicated development of the concept, and I’ll try to describe it in the following lines.
For starters, the idea comes from pushcar AMX/2 concept and AMC’s intention to reorganize the company. Declining sales forced them to do something, and AMC brass agreed that performance is the way to go. Richard “Dick” Teague, AMC’s then head of design was responsible for the AMX/2, but the brass wanted design competition for the AMX/3. Teague’s in-house team was pitted against then newfound Giorgetto Giugiaro’s ItalDesign. However, Giugiaro wasn’t all that interested and drew up a rather crude styrofoam mock-up that never stood a chance against Tucker’s fully developed fiberglass model. And that’s where ItalDesign’s contribution to the AMX/3 ends. Or is it?
At the same time, AMC was also looking for engineering help. BMW was their first option, but Germans initially declined the prospect of working on AMX/3 due to their own affairs. It was then Giotto Bizzarrini who took up that cup. Losing his own company only a few months prior to that, Bizzarrini, together with his colleague Salvatore Diomante, was eager to make another impact on the automobile world. But he was only one man, and needed help. It’s not exactly clear who hired whom, but Giugiaro’s ItalDesign got back into the AMX/3 project. It was actually Karmann who have secured the engineering project. They commissioned ItalDesign to oversee the project, and Giugiaro likely hired Bizzarrini to deliver the chassis. As I said, it was rather complicated.
Anyway, BMW got back as well later on, agreeing to thoroughly test the prototypes. They found the first prototype faulty due to weak and flexible frame. Second prototype, however, boasted torsional rigidity 50% higher than that of the benchmark Mercedes-Benz model. At some point, they even decided to upgrade the car by using their extensive resources and automotive connections throughout Germany. BMW’s last report dates from January 7, 1970, and the work still wasn’t done. However, AMC AMX/3 was showcased two months later, in Rome. Then it hit the new York Auto Show in April. And then it got cancelled. Abrupt and unfitting end to such an impressive work by select handful of brilliant minds, but that’s auto business sometimes. We’ll never know what might have happened to AMC had they decided to market the car.
Nissan MID4 and MID4 II
Nissan MID4 and MID4 II prototypes were the silent partners behind Japanese cars’ successes. True, they were only concept cars which never saw production, but technology utilized in their creation found its use in all subsequent Nissans like Skyline, 300ZX and Silvia. Furthermore, although they were intended as Ferrari and Porsche fighters, they could easily be related to another supercar that would make its appearance a few years later. It is as if MID4 prophesied the appearance of Honda/Acura NSX.
The project started in 1984 when Shinichiro Sakurai, then head of the Skyline team, started building the first prototype cars. He was involved with Skyline since nameplate’s inauguration in 1957 by the Prince Motor Company. Anyway, four MID4 prototypes were completed within a year, making them ready for 1985 Frankfurt Auto Show. They were powered by four-cam and 24-valve 3.0L VG30DE V6 tuned to 230 horsepower. Mid-engined prototype boasted 33/67 rear wheel bias, all-wheel drive that would evolve into ATTESA system, and then fresh all-wheel steering system that was to become known as HICAS.
Project would evolve into MID4 II powered by twin-turbocharged 3.0L VG30DETT V6 packing 325 horsepower. It was presented at 1987 Tokyo Auto Show, and by that time Nissan was on the verge of making a breakthrough in the name of entire Japanese auto industry. When they calculated the costs of such car’s production, however, Nissan brass reconsidered. Developed MID4 was viewed as perfect candidate for the Infiniti brand launch in 1989. Instead, Infiniti started out with more conservative M30. Although it ended up as one of numerous broken promises by an automaker, Nissan MID4’s legacy is everlasting through ongoing use of technology developed together with it.
Dubbed the XP-833 project, Pontiac Banshee became a series of prototype dream cars that were promised, but in reality, never stood a chance. Why? Because Chevrolet wouldn’t let them be. In mid sixties when Ford scored a major home run with the Mustang and Shelby was having extreme success with the Cobra, the last thing Chevrolet needed was in-house competition. Especially for the only true American two-seat sports car of the time and beyond – Corvette.
XP-833 was approved by John DeLorean in 1963, and heavily influenced by Corvair Monza GT presented that very same year. Bill Collins, former staff engineer of Pontiac’s Advanced Engineering, immediately started working on it. It was his dream come true ever since 1958 when he first arrived at Pontiac. Two prototypes were initially constructed. First one was a silver hardtop with 165-horsepower Pontiac straight-six engine. It used a basic one-barrel Rochester carburetor instead of the four-barrel version from Sprint package, hence the low output. The other one, however, was a white coupe stuffed with much more potent 326ci V8. On question whether he and his team had plans on using the 421ci Large-Journal V8, Collins replied:
“You’re talking to the guy who did the original GTO…what do you think? But we didn’t want to scare the corporation off initially by showing off too much. We’d have worked our way up to the big engines after the start of production.”
This is another reason why XP-833 was cancelled. It had potential. Tons of potential, actually. In mid-1965, when the prototypes were finally presented, James Roche, then GM chairman declined further funding. Risks of Banshee strangling, equal in terms of performance (if not worse), yet much more expensive Corvette were simply too great. Instead, it ironically served as C3 Corvette’s inspiration. Furthermore, it inspired the likes of Opel GT and 1967, and 1970 Firebirds. Banshee was finally resurrected in 2005 when Pontiac marketed their first true 2-seater sports car – Solstice (if you don’t count Fiero among such). Banshee II, III and IV concepts would appear in 1968, 1974 and 1988 respectively, but as we know, would never produce a direct offspring.
First a disclaimer. As all of you know, Jeep Gladiator was actually a full production model for almost a decade before it was replaced by Jeep J Series Pickup which would add additional 17 years to its production cycle. Throughout its lengthy run, Gladiator pickup was based on Wagoneer’s SJ platform. Ever since its discontinuation in 1988, people have been calling for a replacement. It’s a simple idea, really. Jeep has both the means and a know-how in order to build a pickup truck. I wonder why and how they haven’t done this by now.
But they haven’t. Which leads us to the Jeep Gladiator I’m actually presenting here. The 2005 Wrangler-based Detroit Auto Show concept which still counts as the closest thing to the new Jeep pickup that we’ve gotten our eyes on thus far. Open-air canvas roof, foldable windshield, removable doors… All of Wrangler’s hallmark design features were present. Gladiator concept even had the small diesel engine with 163 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque, although it exhibited a rather paltry payload of 1,500 pounds. But it was never intended for production.
At this point, however, new Jeep pickup is basically a . We just have to wait and pray that nothing unforeseeable, that could hamper pickup’s arrival, happens. FCA has finally promised us the long awaited truck. At first, reports suggested 2018 as the initial release year, but that date has lately been moved time and again. Right now, late 2020 seems like the most realistic option. Let’s wait and see if Fiat-Chrysler delivers their promises.
The sweet thing you see in the picture below is actually Volkswagen Concept BlueSport – a mid-engined roadster presented at the 2009 Detroit Auto Show. So, what does it have to do with Porsche? Well, although based in Stuttgart, Porsche is owned by the Wolfsburg-based company. And Volkswagen sure does love platform sharing.
Sports car smaller than the Boxter is one of the precious few ways Porsche can take in the near future. Moreover, they once had a car comparably small. It was the polarizing Porsche 914 from the seventies. Although Porsche explored this option multiple times, they obviously never decided to give it a go. Last time they opted for a smaller SUV instead, hence we got the baby Cayenne – Porsche Macan. But idea of entry-level Porsche roadster is persistent. It stuck through all the hardships and now that entry-level SUV spot in Porsche’s lineup is filled, it’s yet again the most obvious gaping hole in their portfolio. Only Detlev von Platen’s words from 2014 don’t seem that encouraging to this idea’s advocates.
“We’re not talking about entry models at Porsche. Our entry model is our pre-owned program.”
As for the Volkswagen concept, it was right there in production mix until 2012. In the end, however, Volkswagen brass concluded that Volkswagen roadster probably wouldn’t be able to steal large enough chunk of Mazda Miata’s market. It would have been more expensive than the Japanese icon, and let’s not forget the concept actually sported 2.0L turbo diesel engine with 180 horsepower. That was a problem of its own. The idea of a new German-built roadster will likely stick around for some time, and seeing more than one brand (including Porsche) capitalizing on it, would be nice indeed.
New Lancia Stratos
Revived Lancia Stratos is no joke. Today, you can easily buy yourself a provided you have enough money and don’t mind the fact it’s ultimately not the real deal. But prospect of having the actual next gen version of the iconic rally car is beyond mere dreaming. We have Michael Stoschek – German millionaire and owner of Brose Fahrzeugteile to thank for that.
Stoschek is the man behind the New Lancia Stratos project. He has backed production of 40 extremely expensive limited run copies, but the project got put on hold. It was none other than Ferrari who cancelled their backing to the project a few years back. New Lancia Stratos was actually based on Ferrari F430 or F360 (both of which are now long gone from this world), and converted into next gen Stratos in Pininfarina’s workshop. First prototype was even tested by then Ferrari’s president Luca Cordero di Montezemolo. Di Montezemolo found the car more than satisfying, but apparently Fiat didn’t want to allow one of their most iconic nameplates to be produced out of home. Pininfarina also declined further involvement due to their ties with Ferrari (and Fiat). Stoschek is now forced to seek bodywork builders among companies not dependent on Ferrari.
Is it yet another one of broken promises – only time will tell. Given Stoschek’s more than adequate financial means and nothing short of sheer fanaticism when it comes to Lancia Stratos, my bet is he’ll try and find a way around the above described issue. However, every man has his limits. I’m afraid even the likes of Stoschek may eventually decide to gracefully withdraw when faced against bureaucracy on the grand scale. And there’s no grander scale than that of top players in the automotive world, I’m afraid.
Jaguar C-X75 probably came at a wrong time. Hypercar hybrid-electric concept was arguably the most advanced Jaguar ever devised, but that also meant high production costs and corresponding price tag. And 2010, when the world only just started recovering from the recession, probably wasn’t the best of times for such an undertaking. Still, Jaguar C-X75 at least made an appearance in 2015 – Spectre. As a villain car no less.
Promised for production in 2011 (250 limited run costing north of $1.15 million each) and abandoned in late 2012, Jaguar C-X75 wasn’t at all far from actually making it. It featured four 194-horsepower electric motors (one on each wheel) generating around 780 total horsepower and 1,180 feet-pound of twist. Job of feeding the motors with electricity fell on Bladon Jets-built micro gas turbines which, together with 15 kWh lithium ion battery pack, allowed for 68 miles of all-electric range. Furthermore, they could have run on a range of fuels like regular and bio diesel, compressed natural gas, and liquid petroleum. In this range extender mode, turbines delivered 559 miles of total range. This is where another problem enters the fray.
It wasn’t only the economic crisis that had doomed the C-X75. Those turbines heated up very quickly, and they heated up good. So good in fact, that Jaguar employed people from Williams Advanced Engineering for help. They scrapped the turbines and installed highly-boosted in-line four cylinder engine instead. Sadly for them, by that time, the project was dead. Last but not the least; there were five prototypes built for purposes of filming the Spectre. Although they’re visually the same as the concept, they’re miles apart mechanically. Bond C-X75’s were all powered by Jaguar’s 542-horsepower 5.0L supercharged V8’s stuffed in the middle. These too, were built by Williams F1 team.
Chrysler ME Four-Twelve
When Deimler and Chrysler married in 1998, it was evident that latter of the two would need to catch up to the former in terms of technology. With that in mind, a small team of engineers under the helm of SRT chief Dan Knott set out on creating a concept that would elevate Chrysler in status in an instance. The concept was dubbed Chrysler ME Four-Twelve and it was presented to public at the 2004 Detroit Auto Show.
It was unlike anything Chrysler had ever built up to that point. It was a true-blooded supercar with performance to match. Not only that. Unlike most American supercars built over the last few decades, this one could actually topple its European counterparts. And with ease. Chrysler ME Four-Twelve was powered by Mercedes-sourced 6.0L quad-turbocharged V12 capable of generating 850 horsepower. It apparently accelerated to 60 in less than 3 seconds and achieved the top speed of 248 mph. That would have made it the fastest production car in the world at that time. Faster even than Ferrari Enzo. But it never made it into production.
Instead, two prototypes were made and that was that. Deimler-Chrysler brass figured out they wouldn’t be able to sway enough people into making, what would be around $500,000 investment, for a supercar with a badge devoid of supercar history. They have made plenty of promises over the years and broken some of them in the process. It’s only a pity that Chrysler ME Four-Twelve had to become one of broken ones.
Ever wondered where Zora Arkus-Duntov’s mid-engined Corvette dream car comes from? It stems from what would become known as the Aerovette concept. It all started in 1969 when Duntov created two XP-882 concept cars with that coveted engine configuration. John DeLorean quickly killed off the project due to high production costs and impracticality. However, he was forced to reconsider his actions when Ford made their new move. Blue Oval started marketing DeTomaso Panteras which too, were mid-engined. DeLorean realized Chevy had to answer the challenge and he already had the perfect car. So he ordered one of the prototypes tidied up for the 1970 New York Auto Show.
The work continued, but under the new code name XP-895 and Bill Mitchell’s supervision. You might also remember that GM developed their own rotary engine at that time. You guessed it right. XP-895 would get the four-rotor Wankel engine instead of its predecessor’s big-block V8. This is also the time when Aerovette name first enters the fray. Duntov wanted additional body for the XP-895 chassis, and GM design team answered the call. Exactly who of them is responsible for the meticulous Aerovette, is not known. What is evident, however, is the fact that Aerovette had heavily influenced all future Corvettes.
Then came the oil embargo and GM killed off its rotary program. In the process, they also killed off the Aerovette that became known as the Four Rotor Car. After three years, however, Bill Mitchell again decided to brush the dust away from it. Aerovette would emerge yet again in 1976, but this time with a 400ci small-block Chevy V8 stuffed in its midsection. With drag coefficient of 0.325, Aerovette was “the thing”. It was all over the mags of the time, and it finally got the green light for 1980 model year. By then, however, Duntov, Mitchell, DeLorean, and Cole were all retired or gone from GM. Mid-engined Aerovette simply wasn’t meant to be.