The Germans have produced some incredibly interesting concept cars over the years. For this week's top 10, we will take a look at 10 of their most interesting.
The rules for the list are as follows: no concepts produced after 1985 are up for consideration, and any cars considered must be either prototypes or true concept cars – not custom-built coaches for individual buyers. Also excluded were homologation cars, like the Porsche 904. Besides, a car like that deserves it's own space in a future piece.
Here they are. Enjoy.
The 1939 Porsche Type 64
Many consider the Type 64 to be one of the first true Porsches. The heavily reinforced chassis provided a foundation for the formed aluminum skin. The body design was molded in a wind tunnel. Three cars were built, and in one of them the flat four engine was reworked to produce around 100 hp. It was built purposely for the 1939 Berlin to Rome race as a public relations tool.
Even though the proportions changed, it is not difficult to see what would ultimately become the 356 and other early Porsches in this purpose built car.
The 1939 Mercedes-Benz T80
Perhaps one of the most unusual concepts, the T80 was a six wheeled vehicle built by Mercedes, and designed by Ferdinand Porsche for the purpose of breaking the world land speed record.
The car was targeted to achieve a speed of over 340 mph, but never made the attempt before the outbreak of World War II. Even prior to the war, Hitler envisioned the T80 as a powerful propaganda tool, and even increased the target speed of the car to 470 mph. Powered by a 44.5 L inverted V12, a heavily modified engine extracted from a military grade fighter, the car produced 3,000 hp. The record run was set for January 1940, but the war began on September 1, 1939. The car was garaged, never having attempted the record at all.
The 1969 BMW 2800 Spicup concept
Marcelo Gandini, working for Bertone day at the time, designed this concept for BMW. While it was based on a BMW 2500, outside of a highly modified chassis, the only parts carried over from the original car were the gauges and pedals.
The concept was powered by a 2.8 L six-cylinder engine producing 170 hp through a four-speed manual pushing power to the rear wheels.
The fully functional prototype proved very entertaining, but was too big a leap for BMW, relative to its product lineup and strategy at the time.
The 1969 Opel CD concept
Opel's own in-house designers, under the guidance of long time General Motors designer Chuck Jordan, created the CD concept.
The CD concept was largely an exercise in aerodynamics, even spending some time in the wind tunnel – pretty common for production cars, but highly unusual for concept cars, especially in the late 1960s. It featured a canopy-like cockpit, with one piece of glass acting as both the windshield and side windows.
The 1970 Porsche Tapiro concept
The Giugiaro designed car, built on a 914 platform, was considered a potential solution for mass production for Porsche. The very abrupt and straight lines were an indication of a larger design trend that was coming. Gullwing doors were used for both passengers as well as the engine.
As an interesting aside, the Tapiro concept car was purchased by a private collector years ago, and in the 1980s, was found completely burned after it was involved in an accident.
The 1972 BMW Turbo concept
Six years before the BMW M1 would be revealed to the public, there was the 1972 BMW Turbo concept. There were so many visual elements of this car that would ultimately find their way into various models in the BMW lineup.
Initially, BMW built the car as a showpiece for the 1972 Summer Olympics, hosted in Munich. The concept was built on a highly modified 2002 chassis, with a turbocharged 2002 engine mounted in the rear. The concept featured various safety innovations, such as a braking distance monitor utilizing radar, side impact door beams, and foam filled front and rear sections.
When you consider how pervasive these ideas are today, the importance of this concept becomes more obvious than just the good looks.
The 1973 Italdesign Karmann Asso di Picche concept
The peculiar name of this lesser known Audi concept literally means 'Ace of Spades'. The car was commissioned by Karmann Coachworks, but designed and built by Giugiaro's firm ItalDesign.
The car was one in a series of concept coupes, this one being introduced in 1973 as a front wheel drive, two door 2+2 based on the Audi 80 platform.
While Audi never did much with the design, it is believed to be a primary source of inspiration for what would later become the Volkswagen Scirocco.
The 1975 Opel Geneve concept
In what was arguably a dark time for automotive design, the Opel Geneve was a breath of fresh air.
The initial concept was meant to progress into something more tangible, with the intent that it would house GM's new Wankel engine in the rear. When General Motors and Opel ceased development of the Wankel program, the Geneve concept largely died with it.
At one point, an orange version of the car appeared with a 230 hp V8.
The 1979 Mercedes-Benz Schulz Studie CW311
The 1979 CW311 in many ways was a derivative of the earlier C111 development platform. Unlike the earlier concepts, Mercedes didn't use the CW 311 nearly as extensively. Mercedes had so little interest in the concept, they allowed one of their former design engineers, Eberhard Schulz, to utilize the design. He developed his own brand, which he named Isdera. His car, the Isdera Imperator 108i was based very literally off of the earlier Mercedes concept.
The 1981 Audi Quartz Concept
Sergio Pininfarina decided to build a car specifically for the 75th anniversary of the Swiss car magazine Automobil Revue. He decided in 1980 that the Audi Quattro was the perfect foundation for his vision. Audi happily provided him a UR Quattro by that summer.
The new concept was nearly 1 foot shorter and 200 pounds lighter than the Quattro from which it was built. The magazine tested the car in 1986, and managed a 0 to 62 mph time of 7.1 seconds, with a top speed of 136 mph.