Hooniverse Asks: What's the Most Disappointing Show Car to Production Transformation?

Do you remember puberty and how much better things turned out for you after it happened? Well, the auto industry has kind of a reverse puberty where cars that are all that on the show dais turn out to be kind of lame and goofy when they reach production. It’s just that road cars are held to certain standards of safety, build-ability, and practicality.
The transformation isn’t always hideous, but it can oftentimes be dramatic. What we want to know today is your vote on which car or truck made the worst leap from show model to production. After all, growing up is never easy.
Image: Barrett-Jackson

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45 responses to “Hooniverse Asks: What's the Most Disappointing Show Car to Production Transformation?”

  1. Maymar Avatar

    I’ll tell you right now, it’s not the Prowler. Basically the only change from the concept is pushing out the headlights a bit. If you found the production version disappointing, I’m curious to know what made the concept so appealing to you.
    Low hanging fruit is the Aztek, which would have been ugly either way, but at least the concept wasn’t built like Strong Sad.

    1. P161911 Avatar

      I think the biggest problem with the Prowler was that it didn’t come with a V-8. Also, the concept for the Prowler sort of came out AFTER the production car. See Chip Foose’s Hemisfere.
      Which I believe is rear/mid engined.

      1. Maymar Avatar

        The concept Prowler was shown at the ’93 Detroit auto show, production started in ’97. Maybe you’re thinking of the 4.7-powered Howler, but by the time they could’ve gotten that into production.
        The real problem is that everyone creams their jeans at the idea of a V8-powered Prowler, but conveniently forgets that all Mopar had for V8s in the mid-90s were ancient 318s and 360s for trucks, which would’ve likely done dick all for the Prowler’s performance (but it’d have the Boomer-pleasing American Graffiti soundtrack, because I guess that’s important?). Furthermore, Chrysler clearly wouldn’t want to step on the Viper’s toes.
        Mostly, they just wanted to play around with aluminium production, and partsbinned the hell out of it because it was always going to be a limited production vehicle.

        1. Atomic Toast Avatar
          Atomic Toast

          The 273 V/8 was in production and would have given it some power.

          1. Maymar Avatar

            Buh? They should’ve used a carbureted engine from ’68?

          2. Atomic Toast Avatar
            Atomic Toast

            In production until 2003

          3. Maymar Avatar

            Just what production vehicle used the 273 in the late 90s?

          4. Atomic Toast Avatar
            Atomic Toast

            Google Mopar 273 it has a wikipedia

          5. Inliner Avatar

            I did look it up – it mentions no use of the 273 once it was superseded by the 318, unfortunately.

          6. Atomic Toast Avatar
            Atomic Toast

            Lets argue for another nine hours about some trivia that does not mean shit.

          7. Maymar Avatar

            You think I didn’t? From anything I can find, the LA engine existed in the 90’s as the 5.2 and 5.9 Magnum, and the V10 (in both Ram and Viper tune), and the 273 didn’t survive through the end of the 60s. So, you’re proposing they resurrected a motor that was dead 25 years, fuel inject it, and get it through EPA certification just to shove in a low volume niche car?

          8. 0A5599 Avatar

            Also, the non-Magnum LA was in production vehicles through ’92, and as a crate engine for several years after that. In addition to the V10 variant you mentioned, there was also a V6 that borrowed the architecture.

        2. P161911 Avatar

          The Prowler was a pretty blatant copy of Chip Foose’s senior design project, which was intended to have a (old school) Hemi V-8. The Prowler was never about performance (unfortunately), it was about the show and cruising, where there is no substitute for a V-8 rumble (except a V-10 rumble or MAYBE a force fed V-6). The whole point of a hot rod for a lot of people is to dress up in a Hawaiian shirt, put plastic food on a drive in tray on the car, blast doo-wop music to the crying kid doll on the bumper, and pop the hood to show off a chromed out engine. Nobody wants to show off the plastic engine cover of a Pentastar V-6, even if it is lighter and just as powerful as a 360 V-8. The Chevy straight 6 put out as much or more power than a Ford flathead V-8, nobody builds Chevy Six hot rods.

  2. smalleyxb122 Avatar

    This was the Chevy Volt concept.

    1. Alan Cesar Avatar
      Alan Cesar

      Barf. I think they did it better in production.

      1. smalleyxb122 Avatar

        I happen to agree. I was not a fan of the concept, and consider the production Volt, at least, inoffensive. For fans of the concept, however, the production version was a disappointment.

        1. Inliner Avatar

          I’d heard that the concept was revised partially due to a fairly terrible coefficient of drag, something approaching 0.40, if I remember.

  3. Tiberiuswise Avatar

    Jaguar XJ220. While the kids today see nothing wrong with an E̶c̶o̶B̶o̶o̶s̶t̶ twin turbo V-6, it was quite a bummer in the ’90s when we were promised a V-12. Of course it later became the poster child for underappreciated super cars.

    1. nanoop Avatar

      Same initial engine misery as the DMC-12, but by far the better solution.

    2. Tomsk Avatar

      The concept had two other things the production model didn’t: AWD and scissor doors.

  4. BlakeS Avatar

    Acura NSX by far.

  5. Ross Ballot Avatar
    Ross Ballot

    I like the Prowler. Or maybe I just feel bad for it. Somebody help me, I don’t know what these feelings are…

    1. 0A5599 Avatar

      The main problem with the Prowler is that they used the wrong powerplant.

      1. jeepjeff Avatar

        And no row your own option.

      2. JayP Avatar

        Ralph Gilles said they just didn’t have a V8 that would work in that car.
        You have to think they’d have to borrow and steal parts just to get the car to production.

        1. 0A5599 Avatar

          Clearly he didn’t understand the target market. You make other compromises to make one fit.

          1. mdharrell Avatar

            I keep looking at that photo but I’m still not seeing any compromises.

          2. 0A5599 Avatar

            I don’t suppose you’ve ever had to detail a chromed-out engine on a daily driven hoodless car?

          3. mdharrell Avatar

            Goodness no. I prefer an inherently lazy* approach to automotive cleanliness.
            *Or, as they say these days, patinated.

        2. Andrew_theS2kBore Avatar

          The issue is the transmission. The Prowler uses a FWD transaxle relocated to the rear of the car and driven by a propshaft with a 90* gearset. A larger, longitudinal gearbox (to accommodate V8 power levels) wouldn’t have fit in the chassis.

      3. Ross Ballot Avatar
        Ross Ballot

        If it had anything remotely powerful and reminiscent of the cars it emulated, it would have done much better.

    1. Inliner Avatar

      I’d say that the Aztek wasn’t the most disappointing, but the lack of body cladding does wonders – that’s why the concept version and the later facelift look much better than the early production plastic-fantastic models.

  6. mdharrell Avatar

    I used to have a ’65 Mustang. It was not like this. I’m pretty sure the ‘64.5 wasn’t, either.

  7. Alan Cesar Avatar
    Alan Cesar

    On the other end of the spectrum, the Miata was dead-on with its concept car.

  8. neight428 Avatar

    The Pontiac Banshee. Lightweight, performance oriented inline-6, might have outperformed the Corvette, so GM killed it out of spite and then applied a good chunk of its styling to the heavier Corvette chassis for the C3.

    1. Maymar Avatar

      The ’11+ seems more inspired by the concept (from the a-pillar back), although admittedly loosely.

    2. caltemus Avatar

      The next model on the new platform underpinning the Giulia was said to look more like the concept you posted. I believe this was reported from the dealer convention in vegas like last year

    3. Inliner Avatar

      The concept was a looker – the production version just “was”.

  9. salguod Avatar

    Neon. The concept had a clean, fresh aesthetic.
    The production car was just an econobox with a cute face.

  10. Lokki Avatar

    For me the most disappointing transition from show to reality car was the Pontiac Solstice/ Saturn Sky. Yes, the looks were still great – especially the Sky- but the experience of driving the car was, well, kinda terrible. That noisy engine didn’t wind, and that damn pickup truck transmission needed different ratios. It feltlike a truck transmission when you shifted it too. Putting up the top is a pain in the ass. I fit vertically into the car, even with the top up, but my shoulder rubbed the left door. The interior was sad and cheap with no glovebox.
    In short -good looking enough but no joy.

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