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What a Concept!

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.

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