An analysis of the role of the concept car in the thinking of one American giant, General Motors, by Robert Cumberford who has reviewed the various research models presented by the US Group under the aegis of Bob Lutz at this year’s North American International Motor Show.

The Pontiac G6 concept car is a small sports saloon whose clean-cut lines are largely derived from the two-seater Solstice and which delivers a clear message about the future intentions of Pontiac’s car division. Elsewhere, the Buick Centième is a cross-over concept, half saloon – half SUV. Tidily shaped, if a little bit flabby, the Centième offers a pretty good idea of what the replacement for the current Rendezvous is expected to look like.

This year, GM’s Chevrolet Division came up with two concepts: a car and a truck. The SS four-door is a distinctly sporty saloon that may well go into production. The same goes for the Cheyenne truck which is the sort of juggernaut Americans like and comes with rear wheel steering.

However, the most successful of the GM concepts is the Cadillac Sixteen limousine. Until Herr Piech produced an 18-cylinder Bugatti prototype no car had ever mounted more than 16 cylinders, not even limited edition models like the Bugatti-Maserati Auto Union racers. Bob Lutz’s own 16-cylinder engine is huge, but perfectly straightforward with just two rod-driven valves per cylinder and a 90° configuration derived from the evergreen Chevrolet “Small Block” that GM has been manufacturing for forty-nine years. The Sixteen is an extreme car, of course, but one that admirably fulfils its mission: to get itself talked about and to prove that GM is now sharpening its somewhat blunted weaponry. It also looks a lot less sharply cut and angular than recent Cadillac models.

The article continues in Auto & Design no. 138

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