Positioned at the top of the automotive food chain, supercars are powerful brand builders - if they're done right... and sometimes even when they don't turn into reality at all!
Through the years many of the world's established players have pulled the plug at the last moment, after teasing the world by launching concept supercars at international motor shows - Lamborghini does this more often than most... And then there are those brands that you don't necessarily associate with supercars, but whether for pure fanfare or with some serious intent, go through all the trouble of developing one of these powerful machines, only to have second thoughts when the question of production arises. Here are 10 concept supercars that we can't forget.
1. Ford GT90
Launched at the Detroit Motor Show in 1995, the spectacular GT90 introduced Ford's "New Edge" design era. It was more than a motorshow showpiece though, Ford's big-wigs wanted a successor to the GT40, and a small engineering team had secretly developed the GT90 to go into production. It featured a quad-turbocharged 537kW 5.9L V12 and was claimed to accelerate to 100kph in 3.1 seconds... not bad for 1995! Although it never reached production, it did however, make appearances in quite a number of computer games, so the Playstation generation knows it all too well...
2. Chrysler ME Four-12
You've probably forgotten about this one... Developed during the DaimlerChrysler era, two ME Four-12's were built, one a pure show car with limited functionality, but the second a fully working prototype. It used a quad-turbocharged 6.0 V12 Mercedes-Benz engine that punched out a staggering 634 kW. Chrysler claimed a 0-100kph time of 2.9 seconds and a 399kph top speed. Had the ME Four-12 gone into production it would've been the fastest production car in the world at the time.
3. Cadillac Cien
Another stillborn supercar that went on to achieve plenty of cinematic and gaming exposure, the Cien was revealed at the 2002 Detroit Motor Show, as part of Cadillac's centenary celebrations. It featured stunning styling inspired by the F-22 Raptor fighter jet and a 559kW 7.5L V12. It still looks good, now, nearly 20 years later!
4. Jaguar C-X75
The stunning Jaguar C-X75 got achingly close to reaching production - in fact 5 production-specification cars were built. Sadly the global economic crisis led Jaguar to decide against launching such an expensive hypercar, but the C-X75 nevertheless did plenty of brand building for Jaguar, appearing in the Bond film Spectre, for example.
Though the concept featured four YASA electric motors (one on each wheel), with the batteries for those recharged via two diesel-fueled micro gas turbines, the production version, however, would have featured a downsized turbocharged petrol engine and the electric motors, together producing a claimed 664 kW. It is reported that three C-X75s were sold at auctions to collectors.
5. Peugeot 907
Now here's a real oddity. Why on earth would Peugeot want to try its hand at the supercar game? Well, sometimes any reason will do and for Peugeot opening a new design facility was enough to justify producing a fully functional V12 supercar. Underneath that long bonnet two of the company's 3.0L V6 engines were joined together to form the V12, capable of 373kW. Peugeot estimated a top speed of 360kph for the odd-looking car, which sounds a mite optimistic to us...
6. Audi Avus
Never intended for production, the Avus was instead launched at the 1991 Tokyo Motor Show to display Audi's aluminium skills. The mass-produced aluminium A8 luxury sedan eventually followed in 1994. The Avus was supposed to be powered by the marque's new 374kW 6.0L W12, but the engine wasn't ready in time, and so the car is a non-runner. It is clear, however, that the idea of an Audi supercar was born around this period, with other concepts such as the quirky Project Rosemeyer and Quattro Spyder also making their appearance.
7. Volkswagen W12
The late Ferdinand Piech was in a bullish mood in the late '90s, and wanted to show the world that Volkswagen could build a large, powerful engine. This was necessary because Volkswagen was about to start entering segments it was not historically associated with - with vehicles such as the Phaeton luxury sedan and Touareg large SUV.
The first W12 concept (the yellow coupe) arrived at the 1997 Tokyo Motor Show with a 309kW version of the 5.6L W12. A roadster followed a year later at the Geneva Motor Show and the final version, at the 2001 Tokyo Motor Show, featured a 441kW version of the engine.
8. Aston Martin Bulldog
This wacky car was designed by William Towns and the plan was to build between 15 and 25 of them. In the end, however, only the one functional prototype was built, and it's a quite a sight to behold, isn't it!?
Dreamed up to showcase the engineering capabilities of the company's then-new Newport Pagnell facility, the Bulldog is powered (yes, it still exists) by a twin-turbocharged 5.3L V8 pumping out 522kW. Aston Martin claimed an astonishing (and very optimistic) 381 kph top speed.
9. Lamborghini Cala
Italdesign produced the one-off Cala for Lamborghini as a proposed Jalpa successor. Unfortunately, the fully-functional Cala prototype arrived at a difficult time for Lamborghini, which was first sold by Chrysler to Megatech, which in turn sold the Italian firm to Volkswagen (thank heavens!). But for the Cala all of this wasn't great timing, and so the beautiful 294kW 4.0L V10-powered supercar remained a prototype. Volkswagen eventually launched the Gallardo, an edgier design overall, instead.
10. Mercedes-Benz C112
Mercedes-Benz is no stranger to "almost" making supercars - remember the C111 series of concepts from the '70s? It ended up building 16 of those! Well, in 1991 it thought a road-legal version of the Sauber C11 racing car might be a good idea, and even reportedly accepted offers, but then got cold feet and canned the idea. It's a pity, because the C112 looked promising, featuring gullwing doors, a massive active rear wing and a 6.0L V12 engine with 300kW.