25 Cool Concept Cars Feb 12, 2016 by Ian (Driver Weekly)

Concept cars are the coolest vehicles on the planet—sometimes, they’re just out of this world. Here are the 25 craziest concept cars ever made.

GM Firebird XP-21

The victors of the Daytona 500 receive the crowning glory of NASCAR, the Harley J. Earl Trophy—and on top of the trophy is the Firebird jet car. The Firebird represents the sheer speed and raw power of a true racer, the first car powered by gas turbines and inspired by a jet aircraft. In fact, the Firebird was one of the very first concepts cars produced by the legendary General Motors designer Harley J. Earl—the man who invented the idea of the “concept car” and oversaw the creation of the Chevrolet Corvette. It was 1953, the dawn of the Jet Age, and GM wanted to test the efficiency and utility of a gas turbine on an experimental car. In the hands of Harley J. Earl, the result was the Firebird XP-21.

GM Heritage Center

Powered the Whirlfire Turbo Power gas turbine with 13,000 rpm, 370 horsepower, and two speed settings, the Firebird had a fiberglass bullet-shaped fuselage with short wings, airbrakes, and a vertical tail fin. The narrow vehicle was 2,500 pounds of engine and aerodynamic body. The Firebird didn’t actually use the exhaust thrust provided by a jet engine. Instead, the turbine was connected to a transmission that acted on the rear wheels, providing some serious torque. The first man to climb into the cockpit was designer Emmett Conklin, but when Conklin took the Firebird on the road and first attempted to shift into the higher gear he almost lost control. The second time around, GM put the Firebird in the hands of Indianapolis 500 racer Mauri Rose for a test on the speedway. The jet-powered vehicle roared around the track and blew the spectators away, more than earning its place on the top of NASCAR’s greatest trophy. Ultimately, the Firebird was an amazing concept car, but it was never intended for mass production. GM produced three more Firebird models, building on the successful test of the gas turbine, but the technological limitations of the times meant that jet-powered cars never made it into the hands of consumers. Next—the 1990s SUV from hell.

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