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Gallery: Concept Cars of Past Visit Pebble Beach

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Old 08-26-2008
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Gallery: Concept Cars of Past Visit Pebble Beach
: PEBBLE BEACH, California -- Nowhere is the old saying "there's nothing new under the sun" more true than in the auto industry, where "innovations" often are updated takes on old ideas. From the wind-cheating aerodynamics that make today's cars more efficient to the navigation systems that fill every dashboard, it's all been done before -- usually in a car that represented some designer's vision of the future.
Wired.com takes a walk through the greens at the Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance to bring you a look at some cars of futures past that influenced that new hunk of metal currently sitting in your driveway.
Left:
1956 Buick Centurion

You think the backup camera on your Tahoe makes it modern? Think again. This concept car had one when General Motors rolled it out 52 years ago. It also sported a bubble-shaped cockpit inspired by jetfighters and a body made of lightweight fiberglass -- something else your Tahoe could use.
:
The three-wheeled Benz Velo was the first commercially available motorcar when it went on sale in 1886. Eight years later, Karl Benz released his update of the revolutionary design -- four wheels! It was the first standard-configuration car to tear up the road, and it set the standard just about everyone's followed since.
: Constructed out of lightweight aluminum and magnesium -- two materials now common in high-performance cars -- and sporting the first wraparound windshield, the LeSabre was years ahead of its time. Despite the exotic materials and futuristic design, it was practical. Design demigod Harley J. Earl not only oversaw its design, he drove it to work every day.
: Fifty years later and this car is still fully loaded with high-tech gadgetry. Not only does it sport a whopping seven fins, it offers ultrasonic keyless entry and a navigation system. Top it off with a control stick in place of a steering wheel and it's still ahead of its time.
: This concept car was the first and only automobile made entirely of ultra-lightweight -- and ultra-expensive -- titanium. It had a 200-horsepower gas turbine engine and air conditioning, which was a big deal in 1956. Yeah, it's ugly as sin, but so was the Pontiac Aztek.
: This baby's a one-of-a-kind, built to be aerodynamic and fast. Though it had a normal engine when it debuted at the Turin Auto Show in 1955, the current owner followed Ghia's original plan and dropped in a gas turbine when he restored it. Not that the Ghia needs an engine at all -- she looks fast sitting still.
: The first Porsche designed by company founder Ferdinand “Ferry” Porsche may be one of the most influential cars in history. Not only did it influence the lines of the original Beetle and 911-series cars, but current iterations -- up to and including the amazing 911 GT3 RS -- can trace their lineage back to the 356.
: Cheetahs were built around the simple idea of stuffing powerful Corvette engines into lightweight cars to produce something faster than the Shelby Cobras. It worked. This particular car hit 215 mph at Daytona Speedway. The state-of-the-art Corvette ZR1 can "only" muster 205.
: This one's all about the engine: a 27-liter Rolls Royce V12 out of a WWII-era British Spitfire airplane. It produces 1,600 horsepower -- almost 500 more than the SSC Ultimate Aero, the world's fastest production car -- and has hit 150 mph in third gear. No one's tried seeing what she'll do in fourth.
: This steam-powered racer, lovingly referred to as "Old Number 16," was the first American car to win an international race, the 1906 Vanderbuilt Cup. Tire failures foiled later attempts and the car was retired to the Henry Ford Museum, where it still resides, unrestored and perfectly operational. No one's brought steam power back, but with the push toward alternative fuels, who knows?
: Perhaps no car is more widely cited as an influence by car designers, and understandably so: The Miura is beautiful. Its cutting-edge design placed the engine behind the driver and in front of the axle, something widely used in racing at the time but almost unheard of in road cars. Just about every exotic supercar on the road today uses the same layout.
: Before he started his own company, Ferdinand Porsche designed cars for other marques, creating rides like this Mercedes drop-top. This particular model is even more special, having been modified by custom coachbuilder Armbruster. Think of it as an old-time SLK 55 that took a trip through Rhys Millen’s shop.
: The Countach epitomized the supercar through much of the 1980s and was idolized by countless ****age boys who hung posters of it on their bedroom walls. Everything about the Countach was over the top, but with its angular lines, gun-slit windows and scissor doors, it looked like a car straight out of the future. You know what? It still does.
: Long before we had any real understanding of aerodynamics, the Albany Coachwork Company was doing its best to build custom streamlined autos. This beaut', based on a 1927 Lancia Lambda body, is one of three attempts at a wind-cheating design. It sports an airspeed indicator, which somehow seems cooler than a speedometer.


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