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Automotive Dreaming

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

The DriveWrite Archives

Automotive Dreaming

Geoff Maxted
December 7, 2013

Cadillac Sixteen Saab Concept Car
Every year at every motor show around the world car makers display their concepts for the future. Quite a few of these make it into production in some form or other although the more radical and off-the-wall ideas tend to get softened and shaped into something that customers will accept. It’s called playing safe and it is often a bit of a shame because some hugely desirable designs get left at the starting gate. Look at this Cadillac Sixteen. That’s an actual working version on the road. Isn’t it just the business?

Way back in 2003 General Motors showed this 16 cylinder car at the North American International Motor Show. It was designed to demonstrate Cadillac’s return to the top of the automotive tree. It was fitted with a 13.6L V16 engine which produced 1000bhp.

Interestingly, it was fitted with a ‘displacement on demand’ system which meant that up to 12 cylinders could be shut down for gentle driving. In this mode the very wealthy owner could expect as much as 16mpg! Eventually the company decided that the world wasn’t ready yet for this evil looking beast and the project was canned. The technology lived on though and cylinder deactivation is becoming increasingly common.

Leaving America and heading across the pond to Scandinavia we arrive at Saab, rising Phoenix-like from the ashes of the past. This company was once a vibrant outfit that produced some good, interesting and occasionally iconic cars. Sadly those days are gone - at least for now - but it is nice to know that in a land that has some of the gloomiest landscapes in Europe there flourished an innovative spirit. This is the Saab Aero-X.

Basically, this was intended as sort of last throw of the dice for the beleaguered company and they threw everything at it. It must have been quite awesome to watch half the body lift and slide forward. With a 6.8L twin-turbo V12 under the hood it looks like performance could have matched the looks. Ah, what might have been.

Many concept cars have briefly illuminated our lives only to be cruelly snuffed out by frightened executives or wicked accountants. The brilliant Jaguar F-Type has taken the car market by storm but it wasn’t the first version. There has allegedly been three different designs over the last twenty five years or so but they never got past the concept stage because of the parlous financial state of the company at the time.

In 2010 we all thought that Lotus was on the way back when the company showed a new Esprit at the Paris Motor Show and indeed promised a range of models. Everyone covets the Lotus Badge but what can you do when a business changes hands. Unfortunately, the forward-thinking owner, Proton, sold out last year to a Malaysian conglomerate who have taken an entirely different view and have for now at least pulled the plug on new models, although they have just scored £10million or so from Vince Cable. In a global market it seems there is no room for dreamers.

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