Nine of the best supercar concepts from the 2000s
The Noughties gave us some incredible concepts. Here are some of our faves
Chrysler ME Four-Twelve
Chrysler and Daimler merged in 1997 (then un-merged in 2007). So in 2004, when Chrysler needed an engine for its mid-engined supercar concept, it wisely decided to borrow one from its partners in Stuttgart. Which is how the ME Four-Twelve came to be powered by Mercedes’ legendary ‘M120’ 6.0-litre V12. As seen in countless 600-spec Mercs throughout the 1990s and, yes, the Pagani Zonda.
For the Four-Twelve Chrysler added FOUR turbochargers for a remarkable 850bhp and 850lb of torque. Even though it was only rear-wheel drive (yikes), Chrysler claimed it could hit 60mph in 2.9 seconds, 100mph in 6.2 seconds and reach a top speed of 248mph. It had a seven-speed twin-clutch gearbox, a carbon-fibre and aluminium honeycomb chassis and very clever suspension.
Chrysler built two. One worked, to a degree. Production was apparently considered but eventually ruled-out in 2005.Advertisement - Page continues below
You’ll have heard of this one. One of the Noughties' most famous concepts, the Cien (which was built to celebrate Caddy’s 100th birthday in 2002) has appeared in at least two Hollywood movies and several video games.
Designed in the UK, and with Prodrive responsible for the one (kinda) working prototype, the Cien had an experimental 7.5-litre 750bhp, 450lb ft V12 with direct-injection and cylinder deactivation. Its body and chassis were both made from carbon composites.
Honourable mention here for another GM concept from the Noughties – the EcoJet. The collaboration between General Motors and Jay Leno was based on a modified Corvette chassis, but used a Honeywell LT-101 turbine engine running on bio-diesel instead of the customary V8. The Cadillac-esque body is made from carbon and Kevlar.
Maserati Birdcage 75th
Built to celebrate Pininfarina’s 75th birthday in 2005, and in homage to Maserati’s Tipo 60/61 racers of the late Fifties, the astonishing Birdcage 75th was built on the carbon chassis of a GT1 competition-spec Maserati MC12. It even had the MC12’s V12, turned up to around 700bhp.
Designed under the watchful eye of Ken Okuyama, who also did the Ferrari Enzo, the Birdcage’s party trick was its colossal Perspex canopy, which raised up to reveal a minimalist cabin with built-in tech from Motorola. The sole prototype, which could move under its own steam, had no form of air conditioning. So it got a bit hot in there.Advertisement - Page continues below
Named for the legendary racing driver, who died chasing a 268mph speed record in a 16-cylinder Auto Union in 1938, 2000’s Audi Rosemeyer Concept was a tribute to its pre-war racers. The prototype didn’t actually work – it was just a model – but Audi projected a top speed of 217mph thanks to an 8.0-litre W16 engine.
Sound familiar? You could reasonably argue the Rosemeyer was an early look at the tremendous engineering achievement that was the Bugatti Veyron. The Rosemeyer was one of several W18/W16-engined hypercar concepts the VW Group trotted out in the late Nineties/early Noughties. Maybe Mr Piech was just trying different badges on for size, before finally settling on Bugatti.
Ford Shelby GR-1
Ford and Shelby got together for a couple of suitably serious concepts in the mid-Noughties. The Cobra Concept came first in 2004 – a no-nonsense roadster with a 6.4-litre V10 and manual gearbox. But we’ve always fancied its successor, the GR-1, that little bit more.
The Cobra Concept paid tribute to the, erm, Shelby Cobra. The GR-1, on the other hand, took inspiration from the Shelby Daytona Coupe. The two cars were built on the same platform and used the same prototype all-aluminium V10, but the polished-aluminium Coupe was just that little bit prettier.
Could have been a reality – a replacement for the GT of the era – but Ford couldn’t make the sums work.
Image: RM Auctions
Oh what might have been, had the Furai not burnt to a crisp on a Top Gear photoshoot in 2008, mere months after its debut at the Detroit Motor Show. Based on a LMP2-spec Courage chassis, the 450bhp rotary-powered Furai was fifth in a line of concepts then Mazda design boss Laurens van den Acker used to established the company’s new ‘Nagare’ design language.
Mazda claimed it never intended to take the Furai racing, but who knows what might have happened had that fateful day in August 2008 not ended on such a fiery note. The Furai’s remains were shipped back to Mazda’s US design studio, never to be seen again.
Audi e-tron Concept
Almost as soon as Audi launched the first-gen R8 back in 2006, it set about working on an all-electric version. The R8-based e-tron Concept (pictured) was revealed in 2009, with four electric motors, a 53kWh battery, limited 124mph top speed and around 150 miles of range.
It was initially set to go on sale towards the end of 2012, but in the end Audi only ever built ten prototypes. It’s thought battery tech hadn’t advanced as quickly as Audi had hoped by the start of 2013, in terms of range, performance and charge times, so it killed the project.
That said, Audi did sell an electric version of the second-gen R8. Briefly, and very quietly. Announced in 2015 and available only “upon customer request” in Europe (i.e. direct from Audi HQ, not through a dealer), the R8 e-tron could do 0-62mph in 3.9 secs and had a 280-mile range. It was canned after a year, with fewer than 100 sold. Might have had something to do with the price, which was allegedly more than $1million.
Honourable mention here for the V12 diesel first-gen R8s Audi worked on, back when diesel was the Fuel of The Future and Audi were winning with it at Le Mans. They never made production either – boo.Advertisement - Page continues below
GT by Citroen
Keen gamers will remember this one. Citroen’s collaboration with Polyphony Digital, creators of Gran Turismo, launched at 2008’s Paris Motor Show. Designed specifically to feature in Gran Turismo 5 for the Playstation 3, the ‘GT by Citroen’ Concept remains an astonishing looking thing.
In the game it was electric, but the fully functioning concept had a Ford V8 with well over 600bhp, a race-spec seven-speed sequential gearbox AND a set of numberplates. Yes, really.
Citroen apparently came pretty close to making a handful – maybe six cars with a price tag well in excess of £1million – but decided against it in the end.
BMW M1 Hommage
Built to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the M1, and pay tribute to BMW’s E25 Turbo Concept from the 1970s, the M1 Hommage was revealed at the Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este in 2008. And isn’t it lovely. Conceived purely as a design exercise to show “just how highly BMW design cherishes the brand’s heritage, and also demonstrates how this legacy can be turned into ideas for the future”, production was never a possibility. BMW never even released tech specs, projected or otherwise.
It did kick start the excellent ‘Hommage’ series of concepts, mind, that also gave us the excellent 328 Hommage and Concept Mille Miglia among others.Advertisement - Page continues below