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12 concept cars that became real

  1. It had a silly name. It had butterfly doors. It had levels of aero-efficient body layering that’d put a Sara Lee cake to shame and a three-cylinder engine with a pair of electric motors. In a BMW!

    But as astonishing as that original ‘Vision EfficientDynamics’ concept was, it was accompanied with a general mood of: ‘Yeah, but it’ll never look like that’. BMW itself even admitted the car only ‘previewed styling ideas’.

    Fast forward a few years, and it seems that preview was actually a facsimile. Because the new BMW i8 is finally amongst us, and… the only thing changed the original 2009 concept car is the silly name.

    OK, so a few other details have altered, but by and large, this slice of the future looks like - in the words of TG’s Paul Horrell - an escaped concept car. Excellent, therefore.

    But it’s a rare thing for manufacturers to promise the future and actually deliver it. So the BMW i8 now slots into the esteemed annals of Production Cars That Look Pretty Much Identical To Their Concept Car Previews. A catchy title, you’ll agree. Click through for some of the most iconic, and feel free to chime in below with your own suggestions.

  2. Jaguar C-X16

    Jaguar teased a sub-XK concept as far back as August 2011, and followed it up with a full-blooded reveal of the C-X16 concept at that year’s Geneva Motor Show. Two thoughts sprung to mind almost immediately: a) that it was bloody gorgeous, and b) that Jaguar should make it immediately.

  3. Jaguar F-Type Coupe

    And here it is. Meet the new F-Type Coupe.

  4. McLaren P1

    McLaren teased its ‘successor-to-the-F1’ for months before its final reveal at the Geneva Motor Show. We sat. We stared. We thought, ‘how on earth will the production car ever be as bonkers as this?’

  5. McLaren P1

    Well, somehow, using tenets of The Force even Vader himself would be ashamed of, McLaren managed to shoehorn all that astonishing tech and face-chewing aero into a road-legal car. Then, foolishly, gave it to Top Gear to drive. Some squeaking may have occurred.

  6. 918 Spyder concept

    Porsche decided to dispense with the traditional concept-car dance for the 2010 Geneva Motor Show: no pre-show teasers or hints, just a bloody big car announced at a bloody big motor show that was a bloody big surprise.

  7. Porsche 918 Spyder

    A good looking surprise, too. It had a monocoque bodyshell with carbon fibre reinforced plastic and a sprinkling of aluminium and magnesium. Which is all fine and dandy, except when we started seeing the production cars race around the Nürburgring, they were liveried in Martini colours. Some more squeaking occurred.

  8. Land Rover LRX concept

    This was the preview to the Evoque; a car LR described as a cross-coupe, and the first study from then-new Land Rover design chief Gerry McGovern.

    It went down rather well. The only lingering uncertainty was how much of the three-door LRX’s lovely lines would actually make it to the street.

  9. Range Rover Evoque

    Just about all of them, as it turns out. Well done, Land Rover.

  10. Nissan GT-R

    Look back at the blunt-edged, almost Bentley-esque Nissan concept car from the 2001 Tokyo Motor Show, and you’d think, “yeah right, that’d never make it to the real world”.

  11. Nissan GT-R

    Fast forward to 2007 - including another 2005 GT-R prototype - and you’d be obliged to think again. OK, so some of the concept’s blunt edges were toned down, but overall the GT-R remained pretty much the same throughout its long gestation period. Then it emerged, and became one of the fastest cars… in the world.

  12. Audi TT concept

    Our list wouldn’t be complete without the iconic Audi TT. A benchmark for Audi’s design team, it first appeared at the 1995 Frankfurt Motor Show, with a certain Peter Schreyer credited as a contributor. Sure, the TT used advanced construction, but it also looked fantastic.

  13. Audi TT

    Then the real thing arrived in 1998 - and looked pretty much identical to its concept brother. Job, and indeed, done.

  14. Alfa Romeo 4C concept

    With technology and styling derived from the bite-the-back-of-your-hand beautiful Alfa 8C, we never dared hope the lovely little 4C, which first premiered as the concept at the 2011 Geneva Motor Show, would ever reach the road wearing the same skirt.

  15. Alfa Romeo 4C

    Turns out, we were wrong. Well, almost. Though the production car took on the concept’s body, the lights… oh Alfa, the lights! The one blemish on an otherwise stunning piece of design. Thankfully, Alfa announced recently it would offer the 4C Spider’s less-complicated lamps as an option on the Coupe. Yay!

  16. Honda VV

    Detroit, 1999: Honda first unveiled the ‘VV’ hybrid concept car, itself preceded by the JV-X of 1997. It had a 1.0-litre three-cylinder engine with an electric motor and battery pack, but also, um, a lime-green body made of plastic and aluminium that looked very, very unique.

  17. Honda Insight

    Fast forward to later in 1999, and we got the very first Honda Insight - which looked pretty much identical. And pretty damn strange by the standards of the day. Economical, though.

  18. Citroen C Sportlounge

    It was as early as 2005 that we first got wind of Citroen’s desire to showcase a new, premium-feel grand tourer. We’re told the driving position was inspired by aerospace technology and was designed to resemble a cockpit.

    The outside? A ‘sporty four-door coupe with grand tourer spirit’.

  19. Citroen DS5

    Considering it took another seven years to see it emerge as a production car, it’s quite astonishing that the DS5 carries over so much of the C Sportlounge’s design lines.

  20. BMW Z07

    Harking back to the beautiful old BMW 507 from the late 1950s, this 1997 Tokyo Motor Show concept was a car designed by Henrik Fisker (yep, him) and led by Mr Flamer himself, Chris Bangle. It was only ever created as a styling exercise, to remind the world that BMW could do beautiful, too.

  21. BMW Z8

    But fast forward to 1999, and out pops the BMW Z8 - a near carbon copy of the Z07 concept before it. Although the drive never delivered quite the purity BMW would have hoped for, the design remains a modern classic. Pick one up now, and treasure it.

  22. Cadillac Eldorado concept

    Like skyscrapers and country clubs, Cadillacs were the visual vernacular of post-war American decadence. And from 1953 the Eldorado was the manufacturer’s finest offering.

    The concept that previewed it was the El Dorado (Spanish for ‘the gilded one’) Golden Anniversary - a convertible that celebrated half a century of Caddy’s shiny massiveness with a 5.4-litre V8, much chrome, and paint that incorporated crushed fish scales for its pearlescence. And for it to reach production, GM changed… nothing.

  23. Cadillac Eldorado

    It was based on a normal Series 62, but the drop-top nearly doubled its pricetag to $7,750. But only 532 were made, pretty much by hand, so the chances of seeing another were at comfortably long odds.

    As you can see, former US President Dwight D Eisenhower was a big fan.

  24. Chevrolet Corvette C1 concept

    C is for Corvette, 1 is for 1st. And true to sixties GM form, the concept that previewed the inaugural ‘Vette was pretty much exactly the same as the production car.

  25. Chevrolet Corvette C1

    Thing is, sporty stuff was new territory for the The General, and eager to capitalise on an enthusiastic public reaction, which wasn’t shy of fist-biting spasm, it rushed the project through. Which culminated in a pretty rubbish car.

    Only 300 were built, and came fitted with a 3.9-litre straight six, two-speed auto, and fibreglass panels (used because quotas, left over from the war, limited steel’s availability).

    We missed any? Have your say in the box below

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