Car designs can be hit and miss at times. Interestingly, some vehicles were considered weird, odd in the past that were appreciated, or even dubbed iconic decades later. Visionaries designers and engineers from the past tend to have a direct impact on our present. And today, we are going to take a look at and appreciate some interesting futuristic car designs from the past that are certainly bold and inspiring.
"Futuristic" always bordered on weird, but that is why we love them
The automotive world tends to shun anything too extreme when it comes to the cars that actually make it on to our roads. Sadly, some of the coolest concepts, oddest designs, and futuristic-looking vehicles tend to get left on the wayside. Interestingly, some futuristic cars from the past become historic, even iconic, becoming a place a reference for designers of the present. The 1970 Ferrari Pininfarina 512 S Modulo was said to look like a UFO. Now, you can see the DNA of Pininfarina in some of Ferrari's latest models. The 1942 Oeuf Electrique looked like a bubble on wheels. Yet, you cannot help but think that the modern smart cars took some of their design inspiration from the Oeuf. Our point? Today's weird futuristic cars can become tomorrow's present-day classics.
Do concept cars ever get made?
Yes and no. Concept cars are big hits at auto shows, usually showcasing the innovative technologies and futuristic designs that an automaker has planned for its other vehicles down the line. Think of a concept car as an amalgamation of everything an automaker could potentially do in the next two, five, or ten years. However, most concept cars cost millions of dollars and have a very rare chance of making their way to the production line. Nonetheless, it is common for a car company to take the design from a concept vehicle and apply it to future iterations of flagship vehicles.
What are some futuristic car designs from the past?
So without further ado, here are 17 amazing futuristic car designs from the past. The following list is far from exhaustive and is in no particular order.
1. The Galileo concept car was ahead of its time
The Galileo concept car is a great example of futuristic-looking car design from the past. Designed in 1957, this crazy 50s car design must have looked like something from another planet at the time. Designed by one man, Joseph Gallileo, the car never made it past the concept stage. The frame was based on a 1949 Ford, and Galileo built the main bodywork out of fiberglass.
2. The Duesenberg Coupe Simone Midnight Ghost is something else
The very epitome of art deco design, the Duesenberg Coupe Simone Midnight Ghost was a true work of art. It was designed and built between 1937 and 1940 and has since become a legend among car enthusiasts. The car was made by the American car body designer Emmet-Armand with the chassis based on the Duesenberg Type J. The design has stood the test of time and could probably pass as a new design today. You probably did not even know that this car even existed.
3. The Ford Thunderflite concept car is quite beautiful
This car really does look like something out of the Jetsons! Based on the 1961 Ford Thunderbird, the Thunderflite concept car was actually designed in the 1990s. In this sense, it is something of a retro-futurist vision of car designs yet to be realized.
4. The "Car of Tomorrow" is a product of its times
The "Car of Tomorrow" designed by John Conrad Berkey is a fantastic vision of the future from the 1970s. Featuring apparent anti-gravity egg-shaped passenger pods, we would question the actual need for the rest of the vehicle if it were ever realized.
5. The 1958 Sir Vival is a very interesting design indeed
This two-piece concept car from the 1950s is like nothing you've ever seen before. It was designed and created by Walter C. Jerome who was on a mission to make the world's safest car. Its most notable features were its two-piece engine and cab and a driver's turret, because why not?
6. The 1970 Ferrari Modulo 512 concept car is awesome
Designed in 1970, the Ferrari Modulo 512 concept car was a very sleek vision of future car design. This was a one-off supercar that was created for the 1970 Geneva Motor Show. It was powered by a 550 hp, 5-liter V-12 engine and could reach 0-60 mph in 3.1 seconds (96 km/h). It had a top speed of 220 mph (354 km/h).
7. Here is another interesting vision of a future car design
Designed by the father of streamlining and futurist Norman Bel Geddes, this car design really is very bold. Like most of his designs, this one also never reached production.
8. The Schlörwagen was another interesting futuristic car design
Designed in 1937 the Schlörwagen was a rear-engined 7-seater vision of future car design. The design of the vehicle was apparently inspired by the shape of an airplane's wing in cross-section.
9. The Studebaker Manta Ray concept car is a very 50s vision of the future
Designed in 1951, the Studebaker Manta Ray concept car was a very interesting vision of the future. Like many concept cars, it never made it to production, but it would certainly have turned many heads if it had.
10. This futuristic car design by Ford looks more like a Transformer toy than a car
Designed in 1966, the Ford Ranger II concept car was well ahead of its time. Featuring a streamlined windshield, high-intensity headlights, and a rectangular design it was an interesting vision of the future.
11. This 1930s design is full of fun
Looking like a kind of flying Noddy Car, this future flying car design is certainly fun. Called the "Giro-Car" it only ever existed as a concept illustration for the magazine Modern Mechanix and Inventions. We cannot get enough of vehicles like this.
12. The Chevy Express was a turbine-powered concept car
The 1987 Chevrolet Express not only had an interesting design but was also supposed to be powered using a gas-turbine. It was accessed using a fully openable roof section.
It had drive-by-wire controls, instrumentation, and three dash-mounted screens. Cameras were also used in place of side and rear mirrors.
13. The Bubble Car is something of a classic today
The Bubble Car was very aptly named. Literally looking like a bubble on wheels, the car certainly was an interesting take on the future of car design.
14. How could we forget Lady Penelope's FAB 1?
To any fan of Thunderbirds, Lady Penelope's FAB 1 was an amazing vision of cars to be in the future. Lady Penelope's specially designed, bright pink high-tech Rolls Royce is something of an icon in the annals of popular culture.
15. Meet the 1930s version of General Grievous' personal wheel bike
If you thought the wheel bike used by General Grievous in Star Wars: Attack of the Clones was an original design, think again. A similar concept had been dreamed up as far back as the 1930s. This motor-driven hoop was a very unique take on the future of transportation.
16. Here's another future car design offering from Ford
The 1958 Ford X2000 concept car is another fantastic futuristic car design of the past. The picture above is from a 1990s recreation of the design based on a 1962 Mercury Monterey.
17. The 1958 Ford Nucleon concept car wouldn't look out of place in the game Fallout
The 1958 Ford Nucleon concept car was envisaged to be a fission nuclear-powered car. This was of course never actually realized, but we applaud the ambition of the designers.
18. 1955 Chrysler Ghia Streamline X "Gilda"
The car also feels like it belongs in an episode of the Jetsons. The 1955 Ghia Streamline X Coupé was built at the request of Chrysler executive Virgil Exner. The stylish vehicle also had some ambitious styling for its time. So much so, the 1955 Ghia toured around Europe and the U.S. as a show car. If you were to step into the car you would notice that the coupe takes some design cues from higher-end Italian during its time like Ferrari and Maserati.
19. 1960 Ford Fairlane “Spaceliner”
This car screams 1960s. This car is basically what would happen if George Jetson and Adam West's Batmobile had a lovechild. As the name implies, the 1960s Spaceliner looks like a spaceship. The distinct "bubble top" of the futuristic car is a relic of the 1950s as it was popular in many Detroit design studios. Imagine pulling up to a dinner for a milkshake and burger in one of these.
20. 1935 Bugatti Type 57S Competition Coupe Aerolithe
We love the 1935 Bugatti Type 57S Competition Coupe Aerolithe because we can see how influential this futuristic car from the past has become. Bugatti has become synonymous in the auto world with beauty and power. The Type 57S was a sensational hit when it made its debut in the mid-1930s, taking some inspiration from the current Art Nouveau movement. Gatsby probably would have owned one of these.
21. Anti-Gravity Car (1979)
This car may have been way ahead of its time. Famed American industrial designer and neo-futurist concept artist, Sydney Jay Mead imagined a future in which we have bested the gravity, allowing us to create vehicles that look more like a spaceship than the car you have in our garage. Before his passing, Sydney Jay Mead designed vehicles for Blade Runner, Aliens, and Tron.
If you liked this list, these amazing designs are the future of cars according to 11-years-olds.