Unlucky 7: Concept Vehicles That Should Never Die

By Mark Williams

Manufacturers often use concept vehicles to gauge reaction to upcoming new products or significant changes in an existing model. Sometimes those changes can be minor, but others can be revolutionary.

In either case, at some point the decision is made either to greenlight the project or send it to the backroom. We’ve compiled a list of concept vehicles we’ve seen over the years that, for whatever reason, haven’t seen the light of day. It’s our hope that someday they will.


1. Chevy K5 Blazer
Not many can remember when there were five full-size, two-door SUVs on the market. Can you name them? Ford Bronco, Chevy Blazer, Dodge Ramcharger, Jeep Cherokee and GMC Yukon. We even remember driving a K5 Blazer with a Detroit Diesel under the hood and being incredibly impressed with how well it dove in and out of hard corners through the local mountain roads. No doubt the front tires were wearing fast, but the feel was sporty and sharp. And we remember when GM showed this little modified K5 Blazer with a miniature bed and extended-cab doors. Reaction was lukewarm, and we’re guessing even back then GM saw the writing on the wall for two-door SUVs. Still, it seems like a business case can be made nowadays for something like the K5 with a small turbo-diesel or EcoBoost-type engine.

2. Dodge M80
At the time, conventional wisdom at DaimlerChrysler was very conservative. Insiders reported several high-level meetings about the dynamic Dodge M80 concept vehicle, which debuted in Detroit almost 10 years ago, that centered on whether it could sell 100,000 units per year. If yes, it was a go. If no, it would be killed. Discussions went back and forth, we were told, but finally all agreed the segment could not support another compact pickup truck — even a popular one — when everyone was bumping up to full-size trucks. The concept styling was impressive, fun and playful, but the entry-level truck market all shifted to used vehicles, and full-size ones at that. Left behind was a slowly shrinking small-truck segment that continues to shrink to this very day.

3. Toyota A-BAT
Whereas the M80 is playful, fun and whimsical, the A-BAT is the polar opposite. This concept vehicle debuted as a calculated segment buster, hoping to capture young, urban buyers who might be growing out of Scion but still aren’t ready to commit to a grownup sedan. Cool hidden storage compartments, organic design lines and crazy reconfiguration possibilities made this A-BAT concept the prototypical Toyota concept: calculated, deliberate and functional to a fault. Still, there’s something more than just coolness here. As a Scion or even some kind of Prius model, this could be a new direction for Toyota to appeal to a younger audience, while at the same time attempting to inject some unpredictability. Unfortunately, because of Toyota’s recent troubles, this is probably the least likely time it will take any sort of risk.   

4. Ford SVT Lightning
Let me start by saying I love the Raptor. With that out of the way, can anyone explain why the Lightning and the Raptor don’t exist at the same time? I get the idea that Raptor is more about the core of a truck’s true personality (namely in punishing work-duty cycles and backcountry independence), but there is history and tradition to consider here. How short can our memories be? The Lightning name by itself resonates at a pitch no other pickup can come close to. (All right, the Ram V-10 came close.) Am I wrong to criticize Ford for running scared from the BMW-loving-car-magazine-sycophants who couldn’t stand the idea that, of all things, a pickup truck could be a world performance automobile? Let me end by saying that I love the Raptor, but SVT doesn’t gain any credibility by choosing small niche projects where there is no competition.

5. Dodge Power Wagon
If there ever was a name that resonates stronger through history and the pickup truck segment, I’ve never heard of it. Although Chrysler made a valiant stab at keeping the name alive with a bit of dignity and credibility, I can’t help thinking there is more being wasted here than inflated. At least this concept took some of the WWII character lines from the old Dodge and gave it a touch of modern style with a hint of rugged good looks. And I love the idea of shaping the front hood more narrowly to more comfortably fit the Cummins B-motor straight-six. A vehicle designed around the most dominating feature that contributes to its powerful personality seems obvious, if not functionally appropriate. This pickup used to roam the Earth uncontested, and now it’s nothing more than some well-engineered options.

6. Chevy Cheyenne
Quite a bit before its time, this take on what future pickup trucks could look like predicted that they would have to follow car designs, pushing fenderwells and wheels out to each corner for more stability and carving every moderately sharp corner or hard angle off the body. Still, I like the puffed-out midbody that seems to imply a strong and low center of gravity, sort of like a submarine. My guess is if the midsize and compact segment is going to survive, it’ll have to do it with these types of bodies and designs.

7. Hummer HX
Technically this isn’t a pickup truck, but if ever there was an SUV with the beating heart of pickup, this would be it. This was the vehicle that was going to get Hummer off its addiction to “large and in charge” designs and likely get into the core of the less expensive and smaller Jeep and Land Rover segment. After that, who knows what types of powertrains and rugged personality-driven designs could have followed? With all the milquetoast, fish-shaped body designs coming from all the manufacturers, this probably was our only hope for form following function. If the death of Hummer doesn’t tell you we’ll be stuck in a design wasteland for a while, just take a look at what the new Jeep Grand Cherokee looks like.


I think that the Jeep Gladiator should be on that lost because I think that it will never see daylight now that FIAT owns majority stake in the company. I am DODGE born but I wouldn't own an M80 although I would have had 2 Power Wagons if they had been made to resemble the concept. The K5 Blazer was also a nice looking idea, the original made a nice hunting truck for our deer camp and the concept looked just as capable.

You forgot the IH Scout II. Best damn fullsize ever.

i don't understand why ford won't have the lightning side by side with the raptor. while you can daily drive the raptor, its more suited for off road use where the lightening conveniently fills that role for on road use, and beside the dodge ram srt10 has nothing on the lightening. secondly why wont ford chevy and dodge bring back the bronco, blazer, and ram charger? the m80, a- bat, power wagon and cheyenne are all ugly. i love that hummer hx XD

Number 5 truly looks like a stretched Chrysler PT Cruiser.

Is that an IRS on the Chevy Cheyenne?

That Chevy K5 Blazer is badass ! I would buy one in a second if i could..

I love the Hummer HX as well, i saw one at the Chicago Auto Show in 2008 and they look even more badass in person..

POWER WAGON!!!!!!! :) :) :) I am also with smtrthnu on the Scout best vehicle EVER made!

I like the Chevy K5 Blazer and the Hummer HX. The Lightning is alright, too. I DON'T like the Cheyenne.

Aren't the rumors that the Cheyenne Concept is a rough estimate on what the next Silverado body style will be here in a couple of years? If thats the case I'm glad I'm in the market this year for the 2011 HDs.

You forgot the Suzuki X-Head! I would buy one of those in a heartbeat!!!

Love that lighting hope ford brings it out i will put my money down on that truck anyday!!!

The lightning must live!!!


What about the original 2-door H3T Concept?

1 k5 blazer: i like this concept it reminds me of the little two door blazers i always wanted a 1989 two door blazer.

2. M80: ahh. this to me would of looked like a dakota replacenment but i dont like those plastic flares it looks like a nitro with a bed.

3. abat this is the ugliest thing i have ever seen.

4. svt lightning: good competition for the Dodge srt package.

5. if its got a cummins diesel then it is the best!!...ugly sheet metal.

6. ugly cheyenne used to be a work truck trim. but silverado sells as cheyenne in mexico. WE NEED BIGGER WINDOWS IT LOOKS CLAUSTROPHIBIC IN THERE!

7. this one takes the HONORS humbee it looks bad a$$

That Lightening would be dangerous above 100 without a rear wing!

Better keep it on the road and not on the track!

Lightning. Best part of that truck was the SuperCooler system, where the A/C was used to cool down a reservoir of water that was dumped into the intercooler when the throttle was wide open, causing a nitrous-like shot of power. I thought that would make it into every supercharged SVT product going forward, but it disappeared. Too bad.

At the time of the Jeep Cherokee full size SUV, the GMC twin to the Blazer was the Jimmy (the Yukon name came in 1992), and the Dodge Ramcharger also had a Plymouth Trailduster twin.

The JEEP GLADIATOR is the best concept I had seen in a long time. When Chrysler killed to plans to build it, I sent a letter to them telling them that it would big a hit as big as the PT Cruiser. I was told that it was not cost effectivge to build the truck, I then responded that since the Dakota was losing its popularity that it could be built on that platform and save some money. I then received a letter that Chrysler does not take suggestions from the public they are the experts in what the public wants, but yet they continue to build Soccer mom SUV's with Hemi's. With the cost of gas and fuel economy on every ones mind I don't see how that is better than the four cylinder diesel they planned for the Gladiator and other vehicles

You left out the Jeep Gladiator, but included the HX? What the hell?!

I wish the GMC Terradyne concept was in this list. That is an awesome concept that I believe should have been made part of the GMC lineup.

No. 1 & 4 & 7 agreeing plus... What about:
8. Jeep (Wrangler) Gladiator truck
9. Pontac G8 ST (as a Chevy El Camino) with more retro feeling in the front-end
10. Dodge should continue its Ram SRT(8?) street truck
11. Silverado 427 SS
12. last but not least a Hummer H3T single cab like the original concept - I want it one!

@ Allistar The most powerful Lightning had 380hp. The SRT-10 500hp. I'm not sure if the 600hp engine ever made it under the hood. It was the fastest producton truck ever made. It had every thing on the Lightning.
The Dodge T-REX would have been a good adition to this list.
I'm not a big GM fan but I would make an exeption for the Hummer.

- The Lightning died as the 04+ F150 chassis was simply too heavy and it would have cost too much to make it as fast as it needed to be.

- I'd seen the Cheyenne @ NAIAS back when it debuted, and I thought it was just too ugly to survive. But the rear slanted back window seemed like a good idea to provide more rear seat angle...

K5 K5 K5.
Especially if it mirrors the 71-72 models that could go topless;)!

Best elements of M80 + Best elements of Rampage concept = new Dakota

I love the M80. I'll buy it Dodge please build it.

@ Jordan "The most powerful Lightning had 380hp. The SRT-10 500hp. I'm not sure if the 600hp engine ever made it under the hood. It was the fastest producton truck ever made. It had every thing on the Lightning"

thats just straight line speed, you've got to think about weight and agility, the lightning was a true sport truck, the srt10 was a dragster. Also the #1 consideration is the price of the srt10 compared to the lightning and also the fuel economy and the price to drive the damn thing


The Toyota Tacoma X-Runner is a better sport truck than those big heavy full-size trucks that were built for straight line speeds...

The X-Runner sits lower to the ground and has that extra rear bracing that helps it achieve an oustanding 0.96 lateral grip number stock!

Just so you know a stock Mitsubishi EVO can do 0.98 in lateral grip...

What the X-Runner lacks in brute power against these bigger trucks more than makes up for it with agility on the track...

The Lightening and SRT-10 sit too high to be even safe on road courses at high speeds. You would need to spend $$$ getting their suspensions dialed in to lower those high trucks.

I beat an SVT Ford Lightening on a 1/3 Nascar track setup for autocross in raw time with my V6 X-Runner. How did I beat a twin-turbo SVT Ford? Simple I was much lower to the ground and could take the Nascar turns at a greater speed and I was able to be smoother in my braking (less weight) and hit my slalom cones perfectly while the Lightening was squeeling tires losing traction...

It's not all about brute power and engine size folks!

Reallly? The Chevy Cheyenne over the FORD SUPER CHIEF? You've got to be kidding...

I had high hopes that Toyota would build the A-BAT. So much to like.

The Dodge Power Wagon concept is cool. My first vehicle was a '46 PW. Dad gave it to me in High School. It was so low-geared that it's top speed was like 45 MPH. He figured right, I couldn't go too fast or too far in it. As a newbie driver, I once lifted a jeep off the ground that got hung up on my front passenger-side fender as I backed out of a parking space at High School. Just pulled back in and straightened out. No harm done to either vehicle. Loved that truck! Dad got it back when I started college.

Correction, supercharged Lightening...

K-5 Blazer all the way! So many people don't want a 4 door full size family hauler loaded with child safety seats. I personally like the idea of a full size 2 door Blazer type truck with a 6.6 liter duramax or a smaller fuel efficient diesel engine.

Also not technically a truck, but I really liked the 2004 Ford Bronco concept. Hopefully Icon will come through and put it in production, since they seem to be expanding beyond FJ's.

jordan, you are right about the srt-10 having more power than the lightning, but power isnt everything. stock truck against stock truck, the lightning will hand the srt-10 its ass on a platter in a drag race. been there and done that.

@ Quentin
@ dan

Here's the article http://www.trucktrend.com/roadtests/pickup/163_0407_2004_ford_dodge_truck/index.html

Stock truck against stock the SRT-10 was faster. Not by much but I rest my case. Sure the SRT 10 was more expensive and had lower EPA ratings but I doubt anyone who was seriously cross shopping the two would care about price or mileage. And a "real sport truck" (the lightning) should have come with a stick.

Man oxi its been awhile, I've missed your x-runner/Nascar stories, they get better and better each time you tell them.

An analyst from Bernstein Research in London has come out and said that Chrysler is unlikely to survive with its current strategy and will eventually need to cut out the Chrysler and Dodge brands. That was from a report for fiat shareholders lol its all over motor trend website . The sooner this crap is off the road the better rip dodge..

Why build concept trucks none of them ever come to life.

@Barrel - Quote "Why build concept trucks none of them ever come to life."
They are built to test ideas. Will the public like a certain look?
How will certain shapes fit together? How fuctional is a design?
Many ideas tested on concepts find their way into products.

I would suspect that Ford's SuperChief inspired the grill on the new Super Duty. The Super Chief reminds me of the Ford Flex.
The Chevy Cheyenne grill looks like the Avalanche and Suburban. The Chevy K5 Blazer resembles the Avalanche.

The minute someone produces a full size two door v8, I'll buy it

@OXI Who cares about your little Tacoma? They are talking about production based performance trucks not your supped-up go-cart with a bed!!

Mike - The Tacoma X-Runner is stock.

Oxi - I am so happy to know you are such an expert you can judge another truck against yours with such variables as set up, driver, tires and running condition. Congrats, your X-Runner may have been outlapping an inexperienced driver with who knows what for tires and suspension. To show off your knowledge you then follow it up with calling the Lightning a twin turbo. I know you later corrected yourself, but that was like 8 hours later per the date stamp on the posts. FWIW does your XRunner have any real truck capability for payload and towing? The Lightning and Ram do.

Looking at the Trucktrend article I can't help but notice that after Dodge dropped a V10 in a new truck, it barely beat out the Lightning that was at the end of it's cycle. Would have been intersting if the new Lightnig had come about like the one that was mentioned in the article.

@bob - quote "The minute someone produces a full size two door v8, I'll buy it"

Even if it doesn't have a bowtie on it?

I would've bought the M80 in a heartbeat when the concept came out. The idea was for a low priced entry level truck that was reasonably economical. It was so cool that even against my better judgement to buy a Chrysler product, I would've had one.

My only addition to the list: the Ford Bronco concept from a few years back. A modern interpretation of the first generation Bronco.

New thoughts on M80:

Regular cab
2.4L I4 (190 HP) /3.6L Pentastar V6 (opt)
6 speed manual / 6 speed auto (opt)
6 foot bed

Extended cab
3.6L Pentastar V6
6 speed manual / 6 speed auto (opt)
5 foot bed

If Hummer made a line of trucks and SUV's like the Hummer HX, they'd still be in business.
They should of made real offroaders instead of tarted up urbanite assault vehicles.

FORD EX! Doesn't anyone remember?!

@Neil - KTM was looking at making a similar vehicle before the world economies tanked.

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