What a Concept!

  • Photo by Shooterz.biz/RM Auctions
    In 2011, the 1960 Plymouth XNR received the Gran Turismo award at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance. It was also nominated for the Restoration of the Year award, as part of the International Historic Motoring Awards. Photo by Shooterz.biz/RM Auctions
  • Photo by Shooterz.biz/RM Auctions
    The 1960 Plymouth XNR was designed by Virgil Exner and sports a handbuilt steel body crafted by Italian coachbuilder Carrozzeria Ghia. It sold for $935,000 through RM Auctions in 2012. Photo by Shooterz.biz/RM Auctions
  • Photo by Shooterz.biz/RM Auctions
    The 1960 Plymouth XNR was designed by Virgil Exner and sports a handbuilt steel body crafted by Italian coachbuilder Carrozzeria Ghia. It sold for $935,000 through RM Auctions in 2012. Photo by Shooterz.biz/RM Auctions
  • Photo by Shooterz.biz/RM Auctions
    The 1960 Plymouth XNR was designed by Virgil Exner and sports a handbuilt steel body crafted by Italian coachbuilder Carrozzeria Ghia. It sold for $935,000 through RM Auctions in 2012. Photo by Shooterz.biz/RM Auctions
  • Many concept cars were never built for use, but such is not the case for the 1954 Dodge Firearrow. This particular example—the third of four models built—recorded a closed-course speed record at the Chelsea Proving Grounds in 1954. It sold for $852,500 through RM Auctions in 2011.
  • Many concept cars were never built for use, but such is not the case for the 1954 Dodge Firearrow. This particular example—the third of four models built—recorded a closed-course speed record at the Chelsea Proving Grounds in 1954. It sold for $852,500 through RM Auctions in 2011.
  • Many concept cars were never built for use, but such is not the case for the 1954 Dodge Firearrow. This particular example—the third of four models built—recorded a closed-course speed record at the Chelsea Proving Grounds in 1954. It sold for $852,500 through RM Auctions in 2011.
  • Photo by Richard Truesdell/RM Auctions
    The 1941 Chrysler Thunderbolt is one of the few original concept cars built before World War II. The car, which sold for $935,000 through RM Auctions in 2011, was the first convertible designed with a fully retractable hard top. Photo by Richard Truesdell/RM Auctions
  • Photo by Richard Truesdell/RM Auctions
    The 1941 Chrysler Thunderbolt is one of the few original concept cars built before World War II. The car, which sold for $935,000 through RM Auctions in 2011, was the first convertible designed with a fully retractable hard top. Photo by Richard Truesdell/RM Auctions
  • Barrett-Jackson was the first auction house to sell a concept car when, in 2005, it brokered the sale of a 1954 Oldsmobile F-88, which sold for $3.2 million.
  • A year later, the company auctioned off a 1954 Pontiac Bonneville Special for $3 million.
  • In January, Barrett-Jackson again made headlines, selling a 1954 Plymouth Belmont convertible for $1.3 million.
  • The 1954 Packard Panther-Daytona roadster, which sold for $700,000 through RM Auctions in 2009, is representative of Packard’s attempts to stay relevant and competitive with America’s conglomerated auto manufacturers during the 1950s.
  • The 1954 Packard Panther-Daytona roadster, which sold for $700,000 through RM Auctions in 2009, is representative of Packard’s attempts to stay relevant and competitive with America’s conglomerated auto manufacturers during the 1950s.
  • The 1954 Packard Panther-Daytona roadster, which sold for $700,000 through RM Auctions in 2009, is representative of Packard’s attempts to stay relevant and competitive with America’s conglomerated auto manufacturers during the 1950s.
  • Photo by Shooterz.biz/RM Auctions
    The 1964 Dodge Hemi Charger concept, once owned by Joe Bortz, was restored with one of Chrysler’s 15 original Hemi racing engines. It sold for $715,000 through RM Auctions in 2011. Photo by Shooterz.biz/RM Auctions
  • Photo by Shooterz.biz/RM Auctions
    The 1964 Dodge Hemi Charger concept, once owned by Joe Bortz, was restored with one of Chrysler’s 15 original Hemi racing engines. It sold for $715,000 through RM Auctions in 2011. Photo by Shooterz.biz/RM Auctions
  • Photo by Michael Furman/RM Auctions
    The 1955 Lincoln Indianapolis Exclusive Study wowed spectators and judges alike at the 2013 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance. It received the Lincoln Trophy, for being the most dramatic Lincoln at the show. Photo by Michael Furman/RM Auctions
  • Photo by Michael Furman/RM Auctions
    The 1955 Lincoln Indianapolis Exclusive Study wowed spectators and judges alike at the 2013 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance. It received the Lincoln Trophy, for being the most dramatic Lincoln at the show. Photo by Michael Furman/RM Auctions
  • Photo by Michael Furman/RM Auctions
    The 1955 Lincoln Indianapolis Exclusive Study wowed spectators and judges alike at the 2013 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance. It received the Lincoln Trophy, for being the most dramatic Lincoln at the show. Photo by Michael Furman/RM Auctions
  • Photo by Shooterz.biz/RM Auctions
  • Photo by Shooterz.biz/RM Auctions
  • Photo by Shooterz.biz/RM Auctions
  • Photo by Shooterz.biz/RM Auctions
  • Photo by Richard Truesdell/RM Auctions
  • Photo by Richard Truesdell/RM Auctions
  • Photo by Shooterz.biz/RM Auctions
  • Photo by Shooterz.biz/RM Auctions
  • Photo by Michael Furman/RM Auctions
  • Photo by Michael Furman/RM Auctions
  • Photo by Michael Furman/RM Auctions
  • Shaun Tolson

For about a decade, American auto manufacturers delivered a new car of the future each year. Some were fully operable, while others were static exercises in automotive design, sometimes lacking many of the necessary mechanical components that would make them functional. But that didn’t matter; and for modern-day collectors like Bortz, it still doesn’t. “You had the finest designers producing their finest work and it was unregulated,” he says. “Designers could do anything they wanted; they had free rein. They didn’t even have to make the cars profitable. The design was really all it was about.”

While most concept cars were all about design, two cars were exceptions. The 1955 LaSalle II, both the roadster and the sedan, included advancements in engine configuration that were as revolutionary for their time as some of the designs. Their V-6 engines included overhead cams, fuel injection, and other technologies that GM ultimately chose not to implement. Yet later, in the 1960s, European manufacturers incorporated those same advancements, which, from a performance standpoint, elevated European models over their American counterparts. “Had they grasped onto that,” Bortz says of GM, “the future of the automotive industry would have been different.”

Regardless of their designs or their engineering, most dream cars were ordered to be destroyed following their nationwide tours, but those orders were not always followed. Some cars survived and were hidden away in garages, sometimes by the designers themselves. Other examples were designated as permanent display pieces in the manufacturers’ respective museums, which is where they still reside. It wasn’t until the mid-1970s or later that some of the privately owned models resurfaced, but it took another 30 years before a true collector’s market was born.

From Around the Web...
Once owned by the famed fighter, the 1,000 hp supercar has only 1,668 miles so far…
The seventh-generation 5 Series gets a facelift and a slew of new in-car tech…
Once owned by one of Hollywood’s leading legends, this cycle is sure to sell for six figures…
Available for the Wraith or Ghost, the package provides more aggressive styling and performance…
We tag along during final testing of the sports car prototype in Las Vegas…
The marque’s five 450 hp models include cabriolets and coupes with plenty of extras as standard…
Many of the most significant debuts coming out of the Motor City were in the crossover and SUV...
The sedan surges from zero to 60 mph in 3.4 seconds on its way to 209 mph…
With a two-month turnaround time, you can have your new weekend driver in time for spring…
Automakers from around the world gathered in Las Vegas to show off their most exciting new tech…