The term “dream cars” was first coined in 1953 by GM, but dream cars have been around as concept cars from the very beginning. These cars that looked towards the future inspired the engineers and designers that worked on them and the public that flocked to them. These cars spoke of possibilities and promise, often coming out the racecar and European car traditions and then later the aerospace industry.
The IMA showcased this lineage of dream cars in a recent exhibit of 17 special cars from the 1930s to the 2010s. Amazingly a lot of the cars sported features that we take for granted as more modern inventions: a retractable sunroof (1934 Voisin), the use of push buttons on doors (1942 Chrysler Thunderbolt), rear-mounted camera and a dashboard screen (1956 Buick Centurion), the use of radar and sensors to alert the driver to danger (1959 Cadillac Cyclone).
I was introduced to a Bugatti and a few weeks later read about the discovery of a Bugatti in a French farmhouse. I saw an Edsel up close and personal and a few weeks later spied what looked like one driving down the road in Marion, Indiana. I saw what was likely the inspiration for Volkswagen buses: the Stout Scarab with its moveable seats and beetle-like shape.
From the start, dream cars were a labor of love. Many were never put in production. One was produced in a racecar engineer’s workshop. In the ’40s and ’50s, the vision of planes predominated with elongated looks, cockpit-styled interiors, glass bubble tops, and lights and grills reminiscent of jet engines and jet exhausts.
1934 Voisin C-25 Aérodyne
1934 Edsel Model 40 Special Speedster
1935 Bugatti Type 57 Compétition Coupé Aerolithe
1936 Stout Scarab
1942 Chrysler Thunderbolt
1942 L’Oeuf électrique
1947 Norman Timbs Special
1951 GM Le Sabre XP-8
1953 General Motors Firebird I XP-21
1955 Chrysler (Ghia) Streamline X “Gilda”
1956 Buick Centurion XP-301
1959 Cadillac Cyclone XP-74
1966 Ferrari 365P Berlinetta Speciale “Tre Posti”
1970 Lancia (Bertone) Stratos HF Zero
2001 BMW GINA Light Visionary Model
2010 Porsche 918 Spyder Concept Car
I couldn’t decide on my favorite. Which would I like to take for a permanent test drive? According to an IMA quiz, if I were a dream car, I would be the 2001 BMW GINA Light Visionary Model. I did like how the headlights come out of nowhere, opening and closing like two eyes, and how the tail lights glow through the fabric covering on the car.
However, out of all the cars in the exhibit, I felt drawn to the 2010 Porsche 918 Spyder Concept Car. It is finally going into production this year…for a cool $845,000….still, that is cheaper than the McLaren P1 ($1,350,000) that I saw in downtown Fort Wayne last summer.