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Hagerty
Hagerty Employee

12 Detroit luxury cars that died on the show floor

For what seems like decades, American car enthusiasts have clamored for domestic automakers to make a serious effort to compete in the luxury-car segment. Brands such as Cadillac, Lincoln, and Imperial pretty much invented the full-size luxury sedan, but those U.S. brands have long since yielded to the German and Japanese.
https://www.hagerty.com/media/lists/12-detroit-luxury-cars-that-died-on-the-show-floor/
55 REPLIES 55
Hagerty Fan
Not applicable

Bless the author of this article for putting all the Fords first order. It's almost as if he was simply taking dictation from God in assembling this list, because we all know that God is a 'Ford' guy...although in defense of all the other manufacturer fan guys here, I'm talking of Old Testament God and not New Testament, Old Testament where God still got a bit annoyed with things, and New Testament being where God didn't get annoyed as much with those same things...and also didn't produce so many broken 5.4 3V engines...which is definitely Old Testament "I'm gonna place a bet with Satan!"-level of mindscrewery.

Anyway, back to the list...

I'm annoyed that the Lincoln Mark 9 and particularly the Mercury Messenger were not produced, but then again, this is the same Ford Motor Company who thought that Mustang buyers were simply too stupid to know the difference between independent rear suspension and solid-axles and thus shouldn't be allowed the opportunity to buy a 2005-2009 Mustang with IRS, so why I'm expecting anything different is a bit of a surprise.

Snailish
Engineer

I feel like this either should have been 3 smaller brand-focused articles or been in date of concept order to make it easier to see the "style era" across concepts/makes.

Many of them have questionable tail light treatments and such. Most of them were just meant as noise/interest makers for the car show circuit. That's fine, but a different club than concepts that were supposed to be real (which some of these are). That is to say... most of these weren't meant to live beyond the show floor in the first place.

hyperv6
Collector

One has to consider the intent of a show car. Some show cars are full on intents of production cars like the 53 Vette from the Motorama EX122.

Then their are show cars like the ones that are out there. They are hints of ideas where things could go but none are directed as a real production car.

Then the idea cars like the Cadillac 16 that was thought about bout just never had internal support to make a real business case based on numbers that did not work.

Then we have interesting cars like the SSR and Prowler that went from show to production and really did not work. They were expensive but not well sorted as they were still too much show car.

But then we did get the PT cruiser and the HHR. They may have had love or hate styling but both sold more models than a Cruze or Neon wagons would have. They made a lot of money.

 

Then show cars like the Cadillac shown here were the intent of their leader at the time on where he wanted to take Cadillac. He then got over ruled by management in their choice to go EV. A number of the Lincoln’s were to try to save the brand from the insiders that had wanted them dead. 

The story behind show cars is often very interesting but too often we never get the full story. 

John Delorean had a history of great show cars that showed his fight against GM leaders who kept stopping him from building the cars he really wanted or option he desired. 

If GM had not stopped him Pontiac would have had 4 wheel disc, fuel injection, overhead cam v8 engines, electronic ignitions and more in more cars. We only got hints at it in a few models. 

kyree-williams
Detailer

Ford was just being budget-conscious, really. The aforementioned DEW platform (S-Type, Thunderbird, LS, and as a spin-off, XJ) in its unadulterated form was actually supposed to underpin the 2005 Mustang. But then, when they realized they wouldn't be able to hit cost targets, they set about cost-cutting the everloving crap out of DEW to create the one-off D2C platform for the 2005 Mustang. By the time they were done, not much of DEW remained other than part of the floorpan and the gas tank shape.

*Could* they have produced an upscale Mercury version, perhaps on the actual DEW platform? Probably. Would I have made economic sense? Probably not.
hyperv6
Collector

The greatest thing here is American Luxury was lost for nearly 3 decades.  They lost their way as the public turned to the Euro version of Luxury. 

 

When the Americans MFGs did try to answer there was so much infighting in the MFGS Ford and GM over what to do. There was the groups that wanted to make relevant cars and then their were those who just wanted to do volume discount luxury sales. The latter is who normally won. 

 

The discount volume luxury class has been easy money but not very memorable cars. Lincolns were too much Ford, Cadillac was too much Chevy and Chrysler was too much old Benz platform that was left to rot and sold a a major discount. 

 

Even when the powers at the divisions started to get things right like the CT6 with the Twin Turbo Cadillac V8 the corporations then decided to go EV. 

 

Ford for a while had a powerful lobby to eliminate Lincoln but thankfully they were stopped as the premium Fords were just not enough to replace them even if they were not right. 

 

Cadillac right now has a big door open to do thing that they never were able to do before. The new product that is coming is going to be more diverse and in a variety of models. 

 

The new $300K car will set the world on notice as to where Cadillac is going tech wise. They will build them in low numbers like the 50's Biarritz so it will be a success no matter the sales.  It is to Cadillac what the Blimp is to Goodyear in a way but will show case technology that is coming to other models. I expect they will replace it with another styled car in a couple years. 

 

The EV models are a great reset for the entire industry. No one is getting a free pass. Some so far are dealing with it better than others. 

 

Ford is behind in EV. Yes they have the Mach E and Lightning but both are crude models and will soon be replaced as these were never meant to be long term products sharing nothing with each other. Most companies are using adaptable platforms to control cost and bring cheaper EV models. Ford is working on that now. They actually had to lay off 8,000 people to help pay for it. But they will do well just a bit behind the others. 

 

The sale of FCA to the French bailed out their move to EV as they could not go it alone. It will be interesting to see how they let Chrysler to operate. Will they let them do their own thing or will the French force their models on them. I would like to see Chryslers idea of how to use the tech they are now getting with American flavored products. 

 

It will be interesting to see if they follow all this through or what MFG may blink and balk. 

 

The move to EV has been made as they had no choice as to meeting future regulations and even if someone was elected to change them they just get changed back in 4-8 years. Also with global regulations if you want to sell outside America you will need EV. It is not the hand they want to play but they are the cards that have been dealt .

 

I expect them to bring some surprises. I have heard some things like a manual transmission could be in the works. Some sounds from the car to make them unique and even should racy and many other ideas to make things interesting. 

 

Snailish
Engineer

I still think the 300k new Cadillac looks like a retro-futurism update of the 77 Chev Citation 4 door.

 

Hopefully they do an X-11 trim...

kyree-williams
Detailer

People vastly overestimate how much of the LX platform is “old Mercedes.” (In this case, the W210 S-Class and W220 E-Class).

The answer is very little. Part of the floorpan and the suspension is all.

The earlier (pre 2011) cars had some Mercedes-Benz tech, notably the steering column, laser key and 5AT. Becuse of that, they also used the same MagnaSteyr transfer case as the Mercedes-Benz models for AWD versions.

They kept the Mercedes-Benz 5AT until the 2015 facelift, when the ZF 8AT went in. At that point, you could no longer get the HEMI with AWD (likely because the take rate was something like 6%)—other than as an option on the police interceptor through 2020, which retained the Mercedes 5AT.
william44
Intermediate Driver

1995 Chrysler Atlantic
RokemRonnie
Instructor

An impressive concept, and I'm a fan of the 1930s French cars it's based upon, but I don't think the Atlantic's Art-Deco look would have done well with mainstream consumers.
hornetllw
Pit Crew

Why not let the mainstream decide? It was an amazing car.
Nplus1cars
New Driver

That 2004 Lincoln X's side profile is vaguely close to the RR Sweptail from a few years ago...and the Chrysler ME is like a stretched out R8. Interesting to see some of these design cues on American models first.
kyree-williams
Detailer

Also, the Mark X’s front fascia became, essentially unadulterated, the fascia for the production 2007-2010 MKX.

And the MKR’s front fascia must have been a heavy inspiration for the 2010-2012 MKT.
audiobycarmine
Technician

Whoo-WOW!
Is there some MIGHTY sweet and tempting stuff here!

I’ve owned Cadillac models between 1957 and 2002, and they’ve got some very fine specimens to display here, but the Lincolns more than hold their own.
I’m not a One-Brand-Only guy—I loved my ’71 351 Cleveland fastback Mustang.

MOST of these in this article are real automotive wet-dreams, yet...
The 2007 MKR is a bit boring, as is the the 2013 Elmiraj; while the 2002 Cien was the Fairy Godmother to Cadillac’s XLR.
Hey, I’d still be happy to be “bored” by any of them.

The laughable — because I DID laugh as soon as I saw it; 2006 Imperial, first shouted “truck”, and then “Bullfrog”, especially when seeing its rear. Picture it in Kermit Green and its horn may even croak for you. As the design seems to favour passenger room above all else, it is an obvious contender for the vacant Checker Marathon spot. That’s a good thing!
Now their ME Four Twelve is its antithesis. A Megalodon to their Viper.

Lastly, the Cougar II Concept, nice as it is, looks like a Corvette in Dearborn clothing.

As usual, major Kudos to all my favourite posters on this one: Snailish, ScaryLarryPants and hyperv6...
Now-Customary Addendum: "My computer’s operating system is no longer compatible with Hagerty's newer "Like" & "Reply" buttons configuration.”
kyree-williams
Detailer

It sure wasn’t mentioned, but the XLR—essentially a C5/C6 Corvette hybrid with a choice of N/A or supercharged Northstar engines and a folding hardtop— must have been seen as something of a consolation prize for the Cien not making production.
Hagerty Fan
Not applicable

I've sort of quietly wanted an XLR to park in a garage next to a C5, but I haven't gotten around to trying to buy either.

kyree-williams
Detailer

“A 3.9-liter V8”

I’m not sure what was with the strange 3.9-liter spinoff of the 4.0-liter Jag V8. While the XK, XJ and S-Type got the 4.0, the non-Jag DEW cars (Lincoln LS, Ford Thunderbird) got that 3.9-liter version.

What’s more, when the improved 4.2-liter version showed up in the Jags, the LS and Thunderbird never got it…let alone the supercharged one in the S-Type R, XKR, XJR, and eventual Range Rover Supercharged and Range Roger Sport Supercharged—that would have been a hoot!

Also, since we’re on the subject of DEW98, there’s some strong evidence that the X350 (2003-2009) XJ, of which I’ve owned two, was essentially an all-aluminum version of DEW98. That explains why the layout and dash-to-axle ratio look very similar to the DEW98 cars, why the dimensions seem odd, and why I was able to buy LS control arms when mine needed replacing and have them fit perfectly.
Autocar
Intermediate Driver

What's old is new. Suicide doors.
janedon
Advanced Driver

car companies don't have the guts anymore to put out anything that Looks Different -
Hagerty Fan
Not applicable

"Looking different" is thought of as suicide these days. 

Wreckless
New Driver

I own a 2019 Lincoln Continental. Love the car and I have owned Mercedes and several Jaguars and Caddys. I was always bothered that US manufacturers used plastic woodgrain rather than wood. I thought this Lincoln which used wood would be different but only Detroit could make a wood dash that looked like it was plastic rather than the other way around.
Fritz280
Pit Crew

The Chevy Code 130R was a real missed opportunity that would have provided us “regular” folks a cool ride.
Tinkerah
Engineer

Unless they're just cosmetic wheel covers the Cadillac Sixteen is running seven lug wheels.
Hagerty Fan
Not applicable

I'm thinking it would have been funny to see 16 lug nuts per wheel.

"That is really why the car is called the 'Sixteen'!"

Tinkerah
Engineer

It could've been a theme.

Hagerty Fan
Not applicable

I personally would have hoped for a continuation of that same theme in the amount of brake pedals under the dash: 16 of them, and like playing Whack-A-Mole, only one or two of them work at any given time, it's your job for your feet to figure out which brake pedal or two works...because it's also constantly changing. 

Ah, the good old days.

PdP1953
New Driver

NA automakers often open the door for foreign competition by slamming on the brakes prematurely. This happens time and again. In 2015 both Chrysler and Buick missed the mark on two beautiful concepts introduced at the Detroit Auto Show. The Buick concept was breathtaking and I told the Buick Rep I would sell my Jaguar in a heartbeat to get into it but they decided to abandon the sedan: coupe platforms in favour of singular SUV production. The Ford/ Mercury/ Lincoln concepts here are brilliant. The only one that deserved to be mothballed was the Chrysler Imperial concept that would have been at home in the Mad Max movie. NA designers need to be held in higher esteem, not only for their artistic merit, but also for their intuition about what will inspire buyers.
Huntz-Hall
Detailer

When viewing the Cadillac Cien engine by it's self sure looks like a V-10 to me not a V-12 . In the car it looks like a V-12. What am I missing?
Lash
Detailer

All butt ugly. Cadillac, especially, seems to go out of it's way to produce hideous designs.
rjfscorpio
New Driver

I've always thought some of the very best designs from all the American manufacturers (even those that are defunct) were lost on the design room floor. Yet things like the Aztec and Mustang ll etc. Make it through.
Jaguarman
Pit Crew

Definitely missed the Chrysler Atlantic. It is still a gorgeous design that should be built today. Saw it in person at the Detroit auto show and it's still my favorite concept car.
VictorK
Intermediate Driver

Whatever the logistic problems of manufacturing any of these models, aside from the ME Four Twelve, these are all far too ugly for my taste.
RG440
Technician

I’m having a real hard time getting past the round glass headlight era but that Imperial just doesn’t do it for me. Put round glass headlights and a Pierce Arrow type radiator topper (latest design flow) on that “16” and you have an order ! Always loved the concepts ! Thanks for the article..
RG440
Technician

I think the PA Silver Arrow front end would dress the Sixteen up proper, then call it the Silver Bullet…
JohnS
New Driver

The photo you used for the Cadillac Sixteen (in Red - credited to "GM") is of a 1/24th scale model car (by West Coast Precision).

Hagerty Fan
Not applicable

a69.gif

MeanMrMustard
Intermediate Driver

It’s telling that the author chose to include a 60 year old experimental car in this lineup of relatively recent offerings. As with the design of the 1960 cougar, experimental cars were just that. Styling and technology platforms there for the testing of new engineering ideas, not marketing ideas. Though some were good marketing ploys. Most were never meant for production. And now cars like this aren’t relevant anymore because everybody wants an SUV. As enthusiasts we may wax poetic and think damn why didn’t they make this? Well just feel lucky that they made us so much that we can enjoy today because the car market has changed and it is no longer what it was. It’s for the weekend warriors and soccer moms and the rest of the people who like to sit up high and drive living rooms on wheels again , oh wait just like the Lincolns and the Cadillacs of the malaise era.. Well folks we’re in the SUV malaise area. And it ain’t going away any time soon.
Smokefoot55
Intermediate Driver

Always thought the Elmiraj was epic, still do.
MustangJim
Technician

I've seen many of the concept cars at the ny auto show. The most impressive was the Cadillac 16. It wasn't a car for production but brands need these show cars to get people interested in the brand, and of course tech. Trickles down. Gm should bring back the traveling motorama of the 50s and Ford should do the same.
It is a shame that the domestics never built a world class luxury car ( recently) but they are competing with Europe and Asia with luxury SUV, s and that is what the well to do are buying anyway. Look at the escalade and navigator. They are right up there with the best.
OHCOddball
Advanced Driver

Show cars are styling exercises. Most don't run or even have drivetrains in them. Very few make it to production as-is. Elements might. The more finished the model is (the closest it looks like a production car that can actually run and drive), the more likely it is to be on the show room floor in a year or two. Some of these looked pretty good while a couple were clumsy.
js100
Detailer

It is interesting that your article opens with the "unicorn at the time", LS400 changing the market. The real difference, from the obvious wildly successful run of that product, and these styling exercises, is that was designed to fill a need. That need, as Steve Jobs stated, "deliver a product before people know they need it", (iPod / iPhone). The LS400 met that need, providing quality, luxury, technology and especially value, maybe just not so much in styling. If Cadillac and Lincoln (maybe Chrysler) want to make a statement, build a vehicle that delivers those attributes and focus less on some wild styling exercises. I know this is hearsay for those graduates from Art Center, but "The Standard of the World" was built on quality and innovation first. Show cars are intended to offer a look through a bright doorway, sadly most of these were dark closets. Let's see if the reliability of those zillion LED grilles really light up Cadillac's future.
Hagerty Fan
Not applicable

"The LS400 met that need, providing quality, luxury, technology and especially value, maybe just not so much in styling."

 

I'd almost kill to own a LS400, it's an incredible car in many respects.

The problem with the LS400 for me, however, and it's killed the deal for me ever buying one, is that it looks like an LS400.

Okay, that, and my head touches the ceiling no matter how I angle the driver's seat.

Beyond that, however, it looks too much like a Toyota sedan.

Inline8OD
Technician

Regarding the above comic book retro cues. The memorable cars of the last century were not "retro," did not hark to something else. They were novel, elegant on their own.

When all you can do is render homages to bygone eras, you're bankrupt.

Why not learn more about the past century of automobilia, the real thing, instead of the above overblown cartoons?

And really, wouldn't you feel like a twit driving one of the above? Who are you trying to impress? You could buy a lovely example of the real thing from the 1930s or '40s, with money left over for real estate, to travel, go back to school, or your kid's college expenses.
hyperv6
Collector

One of the greatest sins in luxury cars is to copy Benz. ,any have and Ford has been the most guilty. 

The second sin is to go too much retro. Retro is like a sugar high it last for a bit but it crashes much too soon. The bustle back cars are of note here. 

In the luxury class new original designs have always done best even back to the 20’s where Cadillac, Dusenberg, Benz etc all we’re world leading in design. 

People of means always want the latest and most futuristic designs in their cars. Harley Earl understood this and was brought to GM and enhance it on the entire line.

 

Even at Lincoln later Edsel Ford under stood this on the Continental. We saw it again in the 1960 sedan. 

Often the automakers lose the edge with cars that are just not that special and are just bigger versions of the other mfgs cars. They all have done it and Ford has been the most guilty at times. Nice cars but just not different enough from the main lines. 

GM is guilty of building Cadillacs in body only for years as too often they just used corporate platforms and engines. Yes great engines but the same as a truck or Camaro. Heck I have 3 3.6 engines now the same as used at Cadillac in my Chevys and GMC’s. Good for them disappointing for someone who paid much more for the same engine. They should have often upped the HP or something. 

As for this new Cadillac will fair I expect well since there is littler pressure for it to go high volume. It will sell as expected and promote the brand. It will be more a show case of tech and advanced features for the coming other models. 

I expect with the EV platform the body in a year or two will be replaced with a different model. 

GeorgeWA
Detailer

If GM and Ford had brought to production half of the cars that are mentioned in this article they would have retaken their place at the top of the Luxury Car Market …
Smilodon
Instructor

I'm sad that I never could buy a Cadillac Sixteen, or the better looking Ceil. I'd love a Chrysler ME 4/12, but Dad worked for GM his entire working life (Delco-Remy plant in Anderson, Indiana) and I'm not willing to risk his return from the grave to punish me for stepping off the GM platform, so I'll keep my '04 Holden/Pontiac GTO. With a lottery win, I'll be able to put a LS based Falconer V12 in the GTO, and regret the lost four cylinders. Sigh.
4RenT
Instructor

I am not a Chrysler fan,
but I liked the 2006 Imperial of all the cars shown.
(maybe it is the round headlights and taillights?)
Rich8566
Pit Crew

Given the layout of the article I feared that only Ford made cars that failed. I’m relieved to find that they are not the only auto manufacturer to have a failed vehicle.
sixtieskid
Intermediate Driver

The Chrysler Imperial: "The raised truck lid....." ( trunk? ) Yeah, It does look like a truck. Perhaps it is the wheels that detract from the overall look of the car. The wheels look like they belong on a truck - not looking elegant at all. The height of the vehicle also lends to an SUV/ crossover look. Maybe a different color would help. The head lights and very similar tail lights remind me of a "Push me - Pull you". ( pushmi-pullyu ) https://dankresge.com/2019/08/22/pushmi-pullyu/ .......and please remember; this is just my opinion.
Tim
Technician

No, it's not the wheels that detract from the look of the car. It's the whole car. That thing is an automotive design disaster. Robert Cumberford would have had a field day with this in his design critique articles for Automobile magazine.