The GM Concept Cars

Sixty-two years of General Motors concept cars - from the weird to the weirder!

Courtesy of General Motors

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1938 Buick Y-Job Concept Car

The 1938 Buick Y-Job is generally considered the industry's first concept car. Created by General Motors Styling and Buick Engineering, it was designed by Harley J. Earl, GM's first design chief, and built on a production Buick chassis modified by Charlie Chayne, then Buick's chief engineer. Buick called it "Y" because so many makers dubbed experimental cars "X." Styling and mechanical features of the "Y Job" showed up on GM products, particularly Buick and Cadillac, throughout the '40s.

1951 Le Sabre Convertible

One of the most famous concept cars was the 1951 Buick LeSabre. Designed by Harley J. Earl's studio with styling cues from jet fighter planes and used by him for years as an everyday driver(!), the LeSabre offered a preview of the aircraft styling that followed in the '50s. The '51 LeSabre contained such technological features as a dual gasoline and alcohol fuel system and a moisture sensor which would raise the convertible top if it began raining when the owner was away from the car.

1952, 1956, 1958 Firebird

In support of GM Research's experimental turbine engine program, GM Styling in 1952 developed a needle-nosed, delta-winged vehicle, the Firebird I, (top) powered by a turbine engine. The fibreglass-reinforced plastic body was designed by Harley J. Earl. Four years later in 1956, a more refined four-passenger Firebird II turbine-powered car, which featured the first regenerative gas turbine, was introduced (centre). This technology allowed Firebird II to efficiently power accessories such as air conditioning and power steering. Firebird III (bottom) was built in 1958. A two-passenger, gas turbine-powered car, it was the first to feature a single stick control system which replaced the conventional steering wheel, brake pedal and accelerator. This drive- by-wire system was used in the first experiments with automated highways.

1955 GMC L'Universelle Truck

The GMC L'Universelle concept truck was unveiled in 1955 to show forward thinking in the area of delivery vehicles. The futuristic styling of L'Universelle influenced design in the '60s with the first compact passenger van from Chevrolet, which was built on a Corvair chassis.

1956 Golden Rocket Dream Car

Oldsmobile's 1956 Golden Rocket featured a seating system in which a roof panel was raised and the seat was elevated and rotated toward the entering occupant when the door was opened. Buttons on the steering wheel allowed the column to tilt downward, providing the driver with easier access.

1954 El Camino Dream Car

The Cadillac El Camino, first displayed in 1954 as part of GM's Motorama show, had a fibreglass body and a brushed stainless steel top which was a preview of Cadillac styling later that decade. The passenger compartment used a curved glass, aircraft-type bubble canopy.

1956 Centurion Dream Car

The 1956 Buick Centurian was an aerodynamic four-seat coupe with a patented rear-mounted television camera to provide a rear view to the driver. Front seats automatically slid back when the doors were opened for easier entry and also moved forward to provide entry and exit to the back seats. A cantilevered steering wheel positioned the steering shaft down the centre of the car, allowing more legroom for the driver.

1964/65 Futurama

The experimental small commuter car Runabout was unveiled at GM's Futurama at the New York World's Fair in 1964. A three-wheel hatchback, Runabout carried two passengers and had ample storage room. Also on display at Futurama was the Firebird IV, another sleek, turbine-powered car with strong aircraft styling cues. The GM-X Stiletto was an advanced, high-performance car with styling strongly influenced by aerospace design. It featured aircraft-type steering, a maintenance monitoring system with toggle switch controls, and a three-way speaker system for inside/ outside communications. It also debuted at the 1964 New York World's Fair.

1982 Aero 2000

The GM Aero 2000, one of the most aerodynamic automobiles ever developed, was unveiled in 1982 at the Epcot Center World of Design display. The experimental four-seater featured sliding doors, front wheel skirts top-hinged for access to wheels and tires, and a speed-regulated rear foil to reduce fuel-costly air turbulence. Many of the design concepts are evident in GM's electric car, EV1.

1983 Buick Questor

The Buick Questor was unveiled in 1983, GM's 75th anniversary year. The Questor demonstrated state-of-the-art electronic systems for future cars, including a laser key entry system and a voice-actuated radio telephone.

1988 Oldsmobile Aerotech

The 1988 Oldsmobile Aerotech, an experimental high-speed vehicle incorporating the latest in performance technology, was driven by three-time Indy 500 winner A.J. Foyt to a world closed-course speed record of 257mph (413 km/h).

1988 Pontiac Banshee

The Pontiac Banshee was introduced in 1988 to provide a glimpse at the high-performance sports car of the future. The Banshee name first appeared in the '60s as a code name for the forthcoming '67 Pontiac Firebird, companion to the '67 Chevrolet Camaro.

1989 Pontiac Stinger Concept

The Pontiac Stinger concept introduced in 1989, featured all-wheel drive, carbon fibre body panels and, with the exception of the windshield, removable glass panels. The distinctive aerodynamic grey-and-green body could be transformed from two-door enclosed transportation to an open-air vehicle for all-season fun, utility and convenience.

1997 Oldsmobile Alero Concept

The 1997 Oldsmobile Alero concept car was a popular attraction at auto shows and many of these styling cues were evident in the production model that later debuted.

2000 Oldsmobile Profile

The 2000 Oldsmobile Profile concept is new kind of sophisticated sports sedan with power sliding rear doors, sliding fold-flat split rear seats and comprehensive mobile communications. Driving control is reinforced by a supercharged all-aluminum twin cam V6, all-wheel drive and Oldsmobile's Precision Control System.

2000 Buick LaCrosse

The 2000 Buick LaCrosse concept is an innovative and stylish luxury sedan crossover with versatility - it's quickly converted to a carrier of oversized cargo when panels open to reveal its pickup-type bed. The interior showcases consumer-friendly advanced technology such as voice-activated controls and reconfigurable colour head-up displays for driver and front passenger.

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