Oh, the concept cars: sometimes they amaze us, sometimes we wonder what the hell we are looking at. Most often, good ideas stick and becomes production cars. But what about all of those crazy and even idiotic projects that some manufacturers try to produce? I’ll show you some of the most shocking, stupid, and brilliant ideas that haven’t seen the light of day.

FORD SYNUS

Where should I start. So many things are wrong with this car. The first one – and maybe the most obvious – is the name Synus. It bears an awful resemblance with the word sinus – a nasal cavity. Why would you name your car after a cavity usually filled with snot remains a mystery.

If that isn’t enough to turn you off from this car, wait until you find out what inspired this concept. Apparently somebody at Ford (Jose Paris) is  really scared from the real world an expects the apocalypse any time now. The Synus is developed around the concept of a vault – the back part of the car is a safety shell where you can relax and enjoy a movie while mayhem takes place outside. The whole car is heavily armored and can be hermetically sealed.

However, if you are the type of person assembling a Zombie survival kit, you would have loved the Synus.

FORD NUCLEON

It’s trendy to talk about alternative fueling systems – hydrogen, electric cars, hybrids. Well, in 1958, the alternative fuel they had in mind was uranium. That is right – the Nucleon was a concept car based on the idea that you can run your vehicle in a similar way the nuclear submarine works.
The humongous body with the high rear fender fins was typical of the American cars at the time, but between them, Ford wanted to put a reactor. Imagine having  a small- scale nuclear power plant behind the seats. I bet the first thing that comes to mind is the economic benefits of the car – in theory, you would have to fill it up with fuel only once every 1,000 years. The other perk that this car could have brought is more careful driving. After all, if you get rear ended, you wouldn’t know, neither anybody in the a radios of 5 km around you… because of the nuclear explosion.

The Nucleon is definitely the most ambitious project Ford has ever began. Fortunately, they never produced a full-scale working prototype. The original small-scale model can be seen in the Henry Ford Museum.

1974 Fascination 2DR

Is it a car? Is it a plane? Is it a bus or a bike? Nobody knows. The Fascination is a massive three-wheeler, but its looks are not the only daunting feature of this car.

The 1974 Fascination 2DR was the brainchild of Paul M. Lewis – the creator of the  Airomobile. I’m not really sure what he was thinking about when he designed this vehicle. The Fascination was supposed to save us from the 1970s fuel crisis. Its engine is electric; however, we’re not talking about the simple Toyota-Priustype of electric. This one – the EMA – is one of the most complicated engines ever invented. While the general rule for electric engines is that they have two moving parts at most, the physics involved in EMA could confuse even the biggest brainiac. As EMA’s inventor clarifies, “the engine splits the positive, introducing a new manifestation of electricity.” There are five functioning prototypes, two of which are in car museums and three – in private collections.

Cadillac Sixteen

This is one of the good concept cars. The Cadillac Sixteen introduced the term ultra-luxury class. I’ll start from the inside of the car. The clock on the dashboard is a specially-made Bulgari, while the central part of the steering wheel is decorated with the Cadillac logo, carved into solid crystal. There are no fake plastics or wood imitation in the cockpit. The seats are hand-stitched with the highest-quality leather available. This six-meter-long piece of luxury could be enjoyed by four passengers. The rest of the space is occupied by a 16-cylinder 13.6 litre engine, developing at least 1,000 bhp.


The Sixteen a reverence to the original Cadillac Sixteen from the 1930s. The motoring press had high hopes that Cadillac would make a limited production of the model, but only three prototypes were created: one revealed in 2003, and two – in 2006.

Love them or hate them, concept cars are one of the most entertaining parts of motoring. They allow designers to experiment and have fun – sometimes with perfect results (the first Lamborghini was conceived as a concept car). Still, whatever they come up with is always intriguing to check out. 

Translated from Italian, “quattro” means “four”. In the car industry, however, it’s a name of a legendary car that changed the world of motorsports and the way we think about cars.

The Audi Quattro had a difficult beginning. It was the brainchild of German engineers Jörg Bensinger and Roland Gumpert. They got the idea for the four-wheel driven car after testing a military off-road VW Illtis. At the time nobody – even the chief Audi engineers – believed in the idea. The common perception was that AWD (all-wheel drive) was only applicable for military vehicles. Jörg and Roland, however, were determined to turn their project into reality.

In addition to the AWD, the two German engineers decided to give the new Audi a serious power plant – the turbo-charged 5-cylinder 2.2 liter engine – for an additional punch.

Three years after the Quattro project began, the car was completed. Audi realized that they needed a good way to promote the car and its unseen-at-the-time capabilities. It was a very good moment: the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) introduced Group B, allowing manufacturers to enter new types of cars into the World Rally Championship (WRC). Rallying history was about to be re-written after Audi entered the Qattro.

At the hands of masters like Stig Blomqvist and Michel Mouton, Audi won the first two championships it took part in. This brought enormous fame to Audi and the demand for road-going versions of the car increased dramatically. Just to put this in perspective, before the first racing season, Audi conducted a survey in France asking people what they though about their company. Seven percent of the French people replied that it was a washing machine.

In the years that followed, Audi continued to take an active part in WRC, producing one of the most famous and recognizable rally cars of all time – the Quattro S1E2. The additional spoilers and flared wheel arches gave the car a more aggressive look, while the shorter wheel base made the car more agile through the corners. The Audi engineers also managed to boost the engine power to 470 bhp.

The S1 had one very distinctive feature – its sound. Spectators could hear the revving engine of this beast from three miles away. You know S1 is something special when you hear the whine of the transmission, the chattering of the turbo on the overrun, and the occasional bang from the exhaust between gears. As if it was truly a fire- breathing dragon.

Unfortunately, the car didn’t have a long run. Audi pulled out from rallying after the 1986 Portugal race, when the Portuguese national champion  Joaquim Santos (driving a Ford RS 2000) ran into a group of spectators, killed three people, and injured more than 30.

A year after Audi left the WRC, the Quattro had its most memorable moment. It took on the famous Pike Peaks Hill Climb in Colorado, USA. The car was the Pike Peaks version of the S1, which had even more power – 590 bhp (unofficial figures claim more than 620 bhp). Walter Röhrl manged to set one of the fastest times ever recorded on the all-gravel track at the time.

The Quattro was pulled out from production in the end of 1990. Since then, “quattro” is used to mark Audi’s 4WD cars, while the original Quattro is referred to as “Ur-Quattro.” There were rumors about a new Quattro in the making, and Audi even went to the lengths of making a concept Quattro and giving it to the motoring press for testing.

As much as I would like to see and drive a new version of the Quattro, I think Audi shouldn’t make another one.  It’s like one of those movies – the first one is a masterpiece but than they make a sequel and it’s just not good enough. This is one of the cars that should remain in the past: a mythical beast that only few were able to tame.

There will be a lot of Finnish drivers that I will write about in this blog, but I wanted to start with one of the maddest of them all. Juha Kankkunen – a four-time world rally champion, Dakar winner in 1988, and winner of Race of Champions in 1988 and 1991. The only rally driver to win championships with 3 different manufacturers.

Juha was born on 2 April 1959. He lived in a farm in central Finland, near the roads where the 1,000 Lakes rally takes place. His father was a hobby driver and thaught Juha to drive on ice. Juha already knew how to drive on snow and ice when he was – how old you think – fifteen? Sixteen? No. He was seven. If this is not impressive enough, he owned his first car when he was 12 (nice laws they have in Finland). During the next couple of years, between high school and weekends of frozen powersliding, he received lessons from a family friend. This friend was no other than Timo Makinen – a legendary rally driver who brought fame to Mini.

Juha’s first professional competition was in the 1979 1,000 Lakes rally in which he finished 14th. During the next couple of years, he took part in various local rallies and was eventually spotted by the Toyota team. He signed with them for the 1983 season and entered the Group B World Rally Championship. At the time, Toyota wasn’t explointing the newly-introduced Group B regulations which allowed into the race evolution models of the production cars with 4WD (four wheel-drive) and turbo- and super-charged engines.  This left Juha with a less-powerfull 2 WD (two wheel-drive) car. He stayed with Toyota for two years, always finishing in the top seven (except for Rally Cote d’Ivoire in which he failed to finish). The biggest surprise was his victory in the Safari rally in 1985. That made him the first rally driver to win the African event from his first attempt.

In 1986, he dived into the deep waters of rallying, signing with Peugeot and competing with a proper Group B machine. That season, the tragic death of Henri Toivonen marked the end of the Group B rallies which were notoriously dangerous both for the drivers and the spectators. Initially disqualified from the last rally (USA), the Peugeot team filed legal complaints against FIA, claiming unfair scrutinity over the cars. They were allowed back and Juha managed to take the last Group B title from Markku Alen.

After the Group B ban, Juha signed with Lancia, driving the legendary Delta HF, and won the 1987 championship. In the following years, he repeatedly switched from Toyota to Lancia and back again, winning the 1991 and 1993 championships. Later in his career, he also competed for Subaru and Hunday. Juha retired from active rallying in 2001 with a total score of 23 rally and 700 stage wins. Still, this wasn’t enough for him. In 2011, Juha set the world speed record on ice, achieving 330.695 km/h (205.5 mph).

These days, Juha splits his time between his house in Monaco and his farm in Finland. He is famous for his car collection which includes six Ferraris (rare ones like 288 GTO ) and three genuine Group B monsters – Peugeot T16, Lancia S4 and Audi Quattro S1 (E2). Recently, he published an autobiography titled My Road.