We're taking a look at 10 weird and wonderful show cars. Could anything like this become a car of the future?
Concepts, or show cars, give manufacturers the chance to offer a glimpse of the future.
The more serious concepts are unveiled at motor shows and major automotive events to test customer reaction.
Often the crazier ones grab the headlines, but they generally go back to the drawing board. On the other hand, if a concept car's reception is highly positive, it’s likely that something closely resembling it will go into production within a few years.
We’ve taken a look back through the archives to dig out a few of the more bonkers show cars. They look weird now, at least, but who knows what the future might hold?
You can always count on Swiss car design think tank Rinspeed to steal the show and that's exactly what they did at the Canadian Auto Show in February 2017. A self-driving electric concept for the city, the Oasis features a small garden behind the windscreen! In fact, Rinspeed called it a "Garden plot on wheels for the urban jungle".
Designed primarily as a ride-sharing shuttle, the two-seater features large glazed areas, covers over the wheels and a tiny turning circle, while the steering wheel folds flat and turns into a keyboard.
The @Ant concept was a futuristic electric vehicle presented by Chinese car maker Chery at the Beijing Motor Show in 2012. Inspired by the structure and social interactions of ants, @Ant proposed a vision for future mobility where vehicles can be both virtually and physically interconnected.
The idea is that the cars can ‘see’ each other when they’re in the same area and they’ll connect if they’re going to the same destination.
Created in 2005, the Peugeot 20Cup three-wheeler is a weird motorbike/roadster hybrid. Made from carbon-fibre, it combines a two-seater cockpit and a front end from the Peugeot 207 with a motorcycle rear.
Weighing just 500kg, it was powered by a 1.6-litre turbo petrol engine developing 168bhp. Are you surprised this mutant didn't catch on?
Toyota showed off its ‘i-unit’ concept at the Tokyo Motor Show in 2004. The ‘i-unit’ had a compact size enabling the passenger to move among other people in an upright position in low speed mode, plus a low centre of gravity that ensured stable handling when the vehicle was reclined in high speed mode.
Weighing just 180kg, the rear wheels were powered by electric motors, and the device was steered via the front wheels. The vehicle is controlled by two joystick-like devices at the front of the armrests and uses drive-by-wire technology.
GM Firebird III
Just to show that crazy concepts have been around for a while now, we're going back to 1959 for the Firebird III from US car giant General Motors.
With space age looks, it was made of fibreglass and featured seven short wings and tail fins – all tested extensively in a wind tunnel. The two-seater was powered by a 225hp gas turbine engine and the driver steered with a joystick positioned between the two seats.
The French have had their fair share of amazing concepts. This Citroen Karin from 1980 is the perfect example. It caused a sensation when it made its debut at the Paris Motor Show with its pyramid-shaped body and central driving position – McLaren F1-style.
Looking back, the Karin may well have been the pinnacle of the wedge car designs so popular in the 1970s.
Mercedes-Benz bionic car
First unveiled at the 2005 Innovation Symposium in Washington DC, Merc's bionic car concept boasted near-perfect aerodynamics.
Created by engineers, designers and biologists at Mercedes-Benz, the two-seater's template was a sea dweller from tropical latitudes – Ostracion Cubicus – more commonly known as the boxfish.
Despite its unusual-looking shape, the fish is extremely aerodynamic and can therefore move using a minimal amount of energy – ideal for a car designed to achieve the best possible levels of energy efficiency and passenger safety.
Nissan Pivo 2
Nissan’s Pivo 2 concept was introduced to the press at the 40th Tokyo Motor Show in 2007. This electric microcar is all about rotation. Rather like a state-of-the-art supermarket trolley, the wheels rotate, allowing it to drive in any direction. The cabin rotates too, which lets it pull up next to a parking space and drive in sideways.
All in all, it’s enough to make you dizzy just thinking about it. Oh, and it also has an in-built robot companion. Its job is partly to cheer you up, because a "happy driver is a safer driver".
Toyota’s designers and engineers are encouraged to let their hair down. Take the Kikai’s inside-out concept, first shown at the 2015 Tokyo Motor Show. As Toyota explained, it “takes the machinery normally hidden beneath a vehicle’s bodywork, and reveals it”.
Inside, it’s got a single central driver’s seat, in front of a bench seat for the passengers. At the rear, and fully exposed, sits the hybrid powertrain combining an electric motor with a 1.5-litre petrol engine. Imagine taking the Kikai to a car wash...
And finally, another French fancy – this time from Renault. A bold and elegant four-seater luxury cabriolet, the Nepta debuted at the 2006 Paris Motor Show.
Everything went well until the designers decided to fit a pair of giant gull-wing doors. Electrically-driven, they pivot on an aluminium strip running down the centre of the car's bonnet to a point just behind the rear seats.