5 of the Greatest Supercars That Never Made It to Production
Meant for production, but never quite making it there, these cars make us wish history had gone just a little differently.
With the tremendous sum of time and cash invested in the development of a supercar, it's always a tragedy when things go nowhere and the result is stillborn. There are too many instances like this throughout automotive history, but these five are some of the most interesting supercars that never met production.
To make this list, the car had to actually be planned to be more than a concept car, but met a premature end for one reason or another. That means no Mazda Furai, even though it was fully drivable, and was demonstrated around the world until burning to a crisp in the hands of Top Gear.
#1: 2010 Acura NSX
That's right: the Honda NSX was meant to receive a successor around the turn of the decade, years before the current Acura NSX hybrid supercar. News reports from the period allege it to be based on an NSX prototype, and while details are sparse, it is claimed that the original road car program was canceled in 2009, and that the HSV-010 GT rose from the ashes. The HSV-010 GT was powered by a 3.4-liter V8 derived from Formula Nippon cars, and made both one hell of a noise, and more than 500 horsepower.
The Drive reached out to Honda for further details on the NSX successor's development program, and was blessed with a small number of details. A Honda spokesperson confirmed to The Drive that the HSV-010 began life as an NSX replacement, and that the road car was planned to utilize a proprietary V-10 engine, though displacement and power figures were never officially released. News from the car's development period alleged a 5.5-liter unit, but unless Honda decides it's ready to talk in detail about the technological programs related to the engine, it's likely we will never hear anything more than what we already know about the NSX-to-be.
#2: Chrysler ME 4-12
Or, is it the ME412? ME Four-Twelve? The inconsistent name scheme makes tracking down information on this canceled goliath difficult, but we found a source nevertheless. A handsome, if slightly-dated car by modern standards, the ME 4-12 was Chrysler in body, but Mercedes at heart, with a 6.0-liter quad-turbo AMG V12 making 850 hp and an equal amount of torque, sent through a 7-speed Ricardo dual-clutch transmission. This power output, in a carbon-fiber and aluminum construction, with a 2,880-pound curb weight, allowed the ME 4-12 to blast from zero to 60 in 2.9 seconds, zero to 100 in 6.2, and finish a quarter mile in 10.6 seconds at 135 mph. It would charge onward to a top speed of 240.
So why was this astonishing beast canceled, despite being quickly developed, benchmarked, and planned for a production of 300 cars yearly?
Partner company Daimler got jealous, and hated the idea of its Mercedes-McLaren SLR being upstaged by a Chrysler with a modified Mercedes engine. The fact that the car would have been incredibly expensive to build didn't help either. In the end, the ME 4-12 was canceled due to a combination of cost concerns and anti-competitive pressures from within.
#3: Chevrolet Aerovette
We talked about this car at length not too long ago, but it's too fitting to exclude on that basis. Long story short, the Aerovette existed in the form of multiple mid-engined Corvette concept cars, housing various power plants, which included V8s of different displacements and two types of Wankel rotary engines, one of which was a quad-rotor design of 8.4 liters, making 420 hp. The "production" version was to use a 5.7-liter V8, and be made in small numbers.
With the changing of the guard, new Corvette boss Dave McLellan shelved the project permanently, believing its mid-rear engined design to be inferior to a front-mid engined format, and going by his later C4 and C5 Corvette's astonishing performance figures, he might have been right.
#4: Jaguar C-X75
Penned by legendary designer Ian Callum, and engineered with help from the engineering offshoot of the legendary Williams Formula 1 team, the C-X75 was powered by a combination of a twincharged 1.6-liter inline 4—making more than 500 hp at a five-digit RPM figure—and two electric motors, combining to put out a total of more than 800 hp, capable of pushing the car to a top speed of 220. But as with the rest of the cars on this list, it was never produced.
"It seems the wrong time to launch an £800,000 to £1 million supercar," said Adrian Hallmark, Jaguar's global brand director, in 2012, when the company made the decision to put its coolest cat down. (In today's U.S. dollars, the price tag would be equivalent $1.1 million to $1.3 million.) About 60 percent of the technology developed on the C-X75 was said to live on in later Jaguars, though, so while it never survived to roam the roads, its heart beats on elsewhere.
#5: BMW M8 (E31)
The short-lived BMW 8 Series is coming back next year, and will bring the M8 (and CSL) badge along with it. BMW's original 8 Series, however, never received its own M-branded performance model, with the highest trim available being the now-coveted 850CSi. That doesn't mean BMW never planned one, though.
Until casually displaying it for the first time in 2010, BMW never acknowledged that it had developed an E31 M8, leading to a variety of odd rumors about the car, the most well-circulated of which was that the car was slated to be the original recipient of the S70 V12 that powered the McLaren F1. That claim has since been disproved, but it cemented the M8's place as a legend among BMW and McLaren enthusiasts alike.
All information on the S70 that powered the original M8 prototype points to a power figure beyond 500 hp, a number that would make it competitive with extreme sport coupes of today, such as the Jaguar F-Type R.
But with all the money sunk into development, why didn't this outstanding piece of engineering reach production? The same answer as the NSX and the C-X75: The recession of the 1990s made BMW reconsider the costly launch of a range-topping variant of a car already posting underwhelming sales. The 8 Series' peak year of U.S. sales was 1991, when it sold 1,711 units. For context, the 3 Series sold 29,002 in the same period, and by the time the 8 Series (barely) broke four-digit U.S. sales again in 1994, the 3 Series had sold 46,287.
It should be no surprise as to why the M8 was never sold, then. BMW enthusiasts will get their M8 at long last within the next few years, and they don't even need to wait to see what it'll look like, as the M8 GTE is already representing BMW in international motorsport.