THE 2018 Geneva motor show is just days away with anticipation building for the selection of hardware that will roll out for the crowds from the world’s mainstream manufacturers and boutique builders alike.
The Swiss show is the venue for many production models to break cover each year, but in recent years the 113 year-old event has become the favourite to unveil wild and far-fetched concept cars.
Here’s a selection of the most memorable design studies, prototypes and one-offs to make their debut at Geneva since 1990.
Alfa Romeo Proteo 1991
Even though the Geneva motor show had been running for 86 years, the venue didn’t establish itself as a favourite for concepts as we know them until 1991, when a couple of show cars made their first appearances.
One of them was the Alfa Romeo Proteo, which heralded the GTV production car that would roll-out four years later. It had a 3.0-litre quad-cam V6 engine, folding hard-top roof and top speed of 250km/h.
Ferrari FZ93 1993
Back when the prancing horse was producing cars like the 348, Ferrari unveiled a bizarre FZ93 concept. The prototype was based on the Testarossa platform but wore a new look unrecognisable from the production car.
Look closely at the Ferrari Enzo of some 10 years later and the resemblance is clear
Renault Argos 1994
Unlike many concepts that evolve into production cars later down the line, the Renault Argos concept of 1994 was the stuff of pure fantasy.
The bantamweight 750kg vehicle featured bodywork that invokes the feel of wartime aircraft with unpainted metal and symmetrical, aerodynamic panelling, but couldn’t pack plane performance with a 1.2-litre engine borrowed from the Twingo of the time.
Lamborghini Cala 1995
This completely functional prototype broke cover in 1995 and was intended to fill the gap left by the departed Jalpa. It might have made production but when Lamborghini was sold to Volkswagen in 1998, the design was shelved in favour of the German giant’s own ideas.
The Cala was powered by a mid-mounted V10 engine, as was the car that eventually replaced the Jalpa – the Gallardo of 2003.
Zagato Raptor 1996
With all eyes on Ford’s Ranger Raptor, many would not remember the time a very different kind of Raptor rolled out.
The Zagato Raptor borrowed the chassis and running gear from the Lamborghini Diablo including its 368kW V12 and four-wheel drive, but added a novel body that used carbonfibre for some of the construction and allowed access to the cabin via a completely articulated swivelling middle section.
Italdesign Alfa Romeo Scighera 1997
A year later, the Scighera brought an amazingly futuristic super coupe design to the Alfa brand thanks to Italian design house Italdesign.
Its Alfa 3.0-litre V6 was tuned to produce 300kW and the concept could crack 100km/h from standstill in a seriously brisk 3.8 seconds. Not bad for 1997.
Volkswagen W12 Roadster 1998
This concept was an evolution of the W12 Synchro coupe of a year before, but forfeits of a roof.
It shared the same 5.6-litre 309kW W12 engine of the coupe and hinted at the Volkswagen Group’s plans to produce a serious mid-engined supercar.
BMW X5 Le Mans 2000
With so much choice for high-performance SUVs in today’s market, it’s hard to imagine just how outlandish the BMW X5 Le Mans was in 2000.
Looking a lot like a standard E53 X5 from the outside, this crazy concept actually packed a manic 522kW racing V12 under its bonnet lifted from BMW’s V12 LMR racer.
While standard X5s were busy doing the school run, this monster managed 309km/h on the Nurburgring, where it received some very surprised looks.
BMW CS1 2002
It’s not difficult to see the precursor to a production model in this BMW concept from 2002.
The little convertible that rolled out bore an obvious likeness to the first-gen 1 Series and, sure enough, the concept transitioned into the production version of BMW’s first 1 Series cabriolet.
Saab Aero-X 2006
Saab is just a distant memory in the fickle automotive industry these days, but back when it was still relevant and fighting fit, the Swedish car-maker was making waves.
More traditionally associated with sporty sedans and four-seat two doors, this Aero-X concept showed that Saab was capable of designing a show-stopping two-seater coupe that was the equivalent of Kia’s Stinger concept many years later.
Toyota FT-86 II 2011
No prizes for guessing what this concept would go on to become.
Toyota’s FT-86 II is now commonplace on our roads as the hugely popular 86 GT, but back in 2011 few would have believed the relatively conservative car maker would produce such a fun-focused sportscar.
Not only did the Japanese brand come through with the production car, it navigated the transition from concept to showroom with surprisingly few major alterations.
Bentley EXP 9 F 2012
Another historic car that is now widely known as the Bentayga but, at the time, seemed a leap too far for Bentley when the concept emerged in 2012.
The English luxury brand was quietly watching the rise of high-end SUVs and refused to miss out on a slice of the action, and the result was its first high-rider three years later.
Bentley EXP 10 Speed 6 2015
Bentley got tongues wagging again in 2015 when its small sportscar concept was revealed, bringing a gorgeous two-seater model that could serve as a competitor to Porsche’s Boxster or 911 convertible.
A year later, a hybrid version with no roof returned to Geneva, adding fuel to the theory that Bentley was gearing up to build a small convertible to sit under the Continental GT.
Opel GT 2016
Not only was this tiny two-seat rear-drive an absolute stunner with its seamless boy and garish red tyres, the global concept had added local significance.
The Opel GT might gave worn a European badge, but the GM design studio that built it is based in Victoria and when the first images emerged, Melbourne’s skyline was proudly displayed in the background.
Mercedes-Benz Concept X-Class 2017
As a sign of the times, last year’s big Geneva show concept was Mercedes’ X-Class.
The show car seemed irrefutable evidence that the German car-maker was soon to join the ballooning one-tonne ute demand worldwide. Less than a year later, the production version is on Australian roads and all eyes will be back at the stages in Switzerland as the 2018 show kicks off and a whole new set of stunning concepts take a bow.