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Prototypes and Concept Cars



1955 Biscayne

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This four-door hardtop was heralded by GM as “an exploration in elegance.” At the 1955 Motorama, the car made its debut and featured the all-new 265 cubic-inch small-block V-8 engine. Sitting in the cockpit, the driver was greeted by a “Stratospheric” windshield that curved into the roof line, and swiveling front seats were incorporated to aid vehicle entry and exit.

The design was a stretch from then-current models, but the long fairings encompassing the headlamps, and the series of vertical grille bars baked by fine mesh was truly a futuristic design. There are distinctive reverse facing side coves that wrapped around the rear of the car, and the rear doors open in suicide fashion. The car was painted in brilliant Atlantic Green, and if you look closely, you might see a few design ideas that made their way to future Corvettes.

One of the Top 3 Concept Cars From The Petersen Automotive Museum

The museum’s new “History of the Future Gallery” looks at mid-century concept cars and designs with an amazing collection of concept cars. Concept cars are merely prototype cars that are built to showcase new styling or technology and presented at prestigious car shows to elicit the public’s reaction.

The cars may eventually be built, with some changes, or not built at all. The ones that do make it to the production line seldom resemble the original concept. In fact, most production vehicles are radically different than the concept cars that were presented to the enthusiasts in the beginning.

The Petersen’s “History of the Future Gallery” displays three of the most exciting and unique concept cars, each from a major American Manufacturer, that allows us to take a look back at what the big three automakers thought the future would look like.

The 1955 Biscayne was built by Chevrolet to showcase its new “Turbo-Fire” 265 cubic-inch V-8 engine and innovative features such as a panoramic windshield, rear suicide doors and swiveling front seats. Its futuristic styling cues would influence subsequent General Motors vehicles, including the Corvette, Corvair and Riviera.

This four-door, pillarless hardtop was billed as an “exploration in elegance” by GM and toured the nation in Chevy’s Motorama dream car for 1955. The Biscayne incorporated many of the Corvette design ideas, including featuring side covers on the rear quarters that appeared on the front fenders of the 1956 Corvette.

This concept car was long thought to be destroyed until noted car collector Joe Bortz’s son spotted the car in a photo printed in the Automobile Quarterly magazine. The photo was a shot of an auto scrap yard in Sterling Heights, Michigan. Bortz bought the car and began to retrieve all the pieces. With no drivetrain or chassis, he managed to find and assemble the car’s body parts that were scattered around the wrecking yard.

The concept car underwent a twenty-two year ground-up restoration by Bortz with help from the GM Technical Center, and was reintroduced to the public at the 2010 Meadow Brook Concours d’Elegance. Needless to say, it was one of the highlights of the show.

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