Despite its 110-year history, the Chicago Auto show has never exactly amassed the same sort of panache held by other regular venues (it has, traditionally, placed emphasis upon trucks and SUVs). That said, there have been a handful of notable concept vehicles launched in the Windy City that continue to capture our imagination. Here’s a quick rundown of five examples.
-1979 Dome Zero P2
A small group of Japanese engineers and car nuts banded together in the early 1970s with a common goal: create a stunning sports coupe. The Dome group managed to produce a show car — the Zero — for the 1975 Geneva motor show (pictured), but failed to receive permission from the Japanese government to build a small batch of production cars. Believing U.S. type certification would be easier to acquire, Dome crafted the Zero P2 — which largely resembled the original Zero, save for the chunky, NHTSA-friendly bumpers. Reception to the car was warm, but ultimately, Dome decided to spend its cash reserves to pursue racing, not series production. Wouldn’t you do the same?
-2000 Ford Libre
Is it possible to craft a small, fun roadster from a mundane econobox? Ford proved it was possible with the 1989 Mercury Capri (which shared its underpinnings with the Mazda 323), but attempted to revive the magic with the 2000 Libre concept. The edgy four-seat roadster was built atop the Fiesta’s B-segment platform, and made use of its 16-valve Zetec four-cylinder engine. One neat trick was incorporating rear-hinged half-doors — like those used on extended-cab pickups — to allow ease rear-seat entry and egress. The Libre never met production, but the bespoke concept was sold at a Christie’s auction in 2002 for a solid $37,600.
-2006 Dodge Rampage
Trucks have long been a staple of the Chicago show, so it wasn’t too surprising to see Dodge push a new type of pickup concept into the Windy City’s spotlight in 2006. The Rampage show car envisioned a midsize, extended-cab pickup, but did away with traditional body-on-frame construction, and adopted a unibody structure, much like that of the Honda Ridgeline. Rear seats could fold into the floor, allowing the cargo box to be extended, while the bed itself contained an integrated loading ramp. Although a similar design was once reportedly scheduled to replace the Dakota, Ram executives appear to be on the fence about rolling such a vehicle into series production.
-2008 GMC Denali XT Concept
Dodge wasn’t the only automaker exploring the idea of a car-like pickup in an era of ever-tightening CAFE regulations. GMC played the same card with its 2008 Denali XT concept, which was a small, crew-cab pickup that blurred the line between car and truck. The XT was built from Holden’s Commodore, the same vehicle that birthed the late Pontiac G8 (and, almost, the G8 Sport Truck), but was wrapped in unique bodywork that blended muscle car, luxury sedan, and full-size truck into an attractive design. If that weren’t enough to capture your fancy, the XT also made use of a 5.3-liter V-8 mated to a version of the company’s 2-Mode hybrid system. GM still hasn’t offered such a vehicle for North America, but seeing as GM North American president Mark Reuss still wants to leverage Holden’s export capabilities in the near future, we wouldn’t proclaim a Denali XT-like vehicle to be impossible quite yet…
–2009 Chevrolet Corvette Centennial Design Concept
According to GM, the official title of this sharp-edged, slinky sports car is as displayed above, but many may know this conceptual Corvette by another name: Sideswipe. This vehicle served as the basis of an Autobot character byt that name in Michael Bay’s second Transformers film, which — like his first — was riddled with GM product placements. Although many Vette fans loved the way the Centennial Design concept merged cues from the C2 and C3 Corvettes (dig that split window, man!), GM officials maintained it bears little resemblance to the forthcoming seventh-generation Corvette. Pity.
Photos provided courtesy of the manufacturers.