TV, film and computer games have spawned endless make-believe cars. We rate our favourites
In our 125-year history, Autocar has driven, reviewed and rated just about every car of significance that has been made. But some of the most notable cars in history never really existed. We’re thinking about the cars you see on TV, in the cinema and on your console screen.
It’s time, then, to celebrate some of the finest cars that never were. One caveat: we’re only counting entirely fictional cars. So sorry, Kitt, you may feature advanced AI-based autonomy, but you’re just a specced-up Pontiac Firebird…
Cayonero. As seen in: The Simpsons. First appearance: 1998
Can you name the truck with four-wheel drive, smells like a steak and seats 35? No, it’s not the Rolls-Royce Cullinan but the Canyonero. With cavernous dimensions (claimed to be 12 yards long, two lanes wide, 65 tonnes of American pride when it was launched in 1998), this Jeep Wagoneer and Ford Explorer rival helped spark the explosion in popularity for extra-large SUVs.
Promotion was aided by a memorable advert, sung by Hank Williams Jr, which placed an emphasis on the Canyonero’s go-anywhere capability, claiming that “she’s a squirrel-crushing, deer-smacking driving machine”. Quite.
According to several billboards in Springfield, the state-unspecified cartoon home of Homer Simpson and his family, a hybrid version of the Canyonero was launched in 2014, offering a claimed 11mpg.
Our verdict – 1/5 stars: Offers extensive practicality, but US authorities ruled the Canyonero “unsafe for highway or city driving”, which is a concern. Unexplained fires are a matter for the courts.
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. As seen in: Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. First appearance: 1964 (novel), 1968 (film)
A dominant pre-war racing car written off after a crash, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang – named for its unusual engine note – was rescued from scrap and artfully restored by eccentric inventor Caractacus Potts at his top-secret workshop in the Chilterns. As well as strong on-road performance, it can also function as a powerboat, while built-in wings and a propeller allow it to fly. Six versions of the phantasmagorical machine were produced for the 1968 film, each fitted with a Ford V6 and built by leading touring car outfit Alan Mann Racing. Several were registered for road use, with MGM later producing another replica.
While Chitty Chitty Bang Bang can also work as a boat and plane, it wasn’t noted for on-road dynamics. Lead actor Dick Van Dyke said it had “the turning radius of a battleship”.
Our verdict – 3/5 stars: Boat and plane functions make this machine a true all-rounder, but disappointing handling and a lack of agility mean that keener drivers will want to look elsewhere.
Red Bull X2010. As seen in: Gran Turismo 5. First appearance: 2010
One challenge about making cutting-edge cars is that the regulations that constrain them and the technology to build them struggle to keep up with our imaginations. But that’s not a problem when you’re creating vehicles intended to exist entirely within a computer game, even an incredibly realistic one such as Gran Turismo 5.
Red Bull Racing’s resident design genius, Adrian Newey, was given the freedom to create his ultimate car for the game, and the result was the X2010. In effect an F1-style car designed without any concessions to a rulebook, the single-seater draws power from a 1479bhp twin-turbocharged 3.0-litre V6, making it capable of 0-60mph in 1.4sec and a top speed of 280mph. A Brabham BT46-style rear fan helps to produce extra downforce, and with a weight of just 545kg and extensive aerodynamics, cornering forces exceed 8g. And yes, it might actually do all of that if it weren’t just a bunch of computer code. Plentiful YouTube videos show it lapping the (virtual) Nordschleife in close to 3min 19.312sec, which is, to confirm, quite quick.
Needless to say, because car manufacturers can’t help themselves, the X2010 has sparked an arms race to develop ever-more exotic virtual-only concept cars.
Our verdict – 5/5 stars: Incredible design with a singular purpose. Would likely have broken our test track lap record had we worked out how to load Gran Turismo 5 on our Super Nintendo.
Aston Martin DB10. As seen in: Spectre. First appearance: 2015
A collaboration between MI6 gadget-meister Q and Aston Martin’s Q bespoke division (we presume the shared title is entirely coincidental), the DB10 is a spectacular one-off, if not ideally suited for use by a secret agent trying to keep a low profile.
Still, the taxpayers’ money MI6 lavished on the DB10 for official use was well spent. The car retained the 4.7-litre engine from the V8 Vantage S, with 430bhp and 0-60mph in less than 6.0sec – despite the extra weight of the machine guns, rear flamethrowers and armour plating.
While classified as a full DB model by lineage, this DB10 was never offered to the general public. Aston reportedly built 10 cars, eight for use by MI6 along with two promotional units. Sadly, unconfirmed reports suggest the only road-going example crashed into Rome’s Tiber river while racing a prototype Jaguar C-X75.
Our verdict – 4.5/5 stars: We really did review this one, in our 9 December 2015 issue, in what was the first-ever road test conducted On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. We recruited an anonymous MI6 official to help, and he concluded that the DB10 “does indeed offer the best blend of what I need and what I want from a car”.
Batmobile. As seen in: Batman. First appearance: 1939 (comic), 1966 (television)
The Batmobile has evolved from a lightly modified road car into a specialised, tank-inspired, gadget-filled beast. But the finest remains the George Barris-designed version used in the 1966 TV series. The classic two-seat roadster was based on the never-released Lincoln Futura concept car but was fitted with the engine and transmission from the Ford Galaxie.
Some later Batmobiles retained some of the early styling cues, but for the 2005 Dark Knight film, it was reinvented as the ‘Tumbler’, with styling that mixed “a Lamborghini and a tank” – in effect offering a preview of the Urus 12 years early.
Our verdict – 4/5 stars: Practicality is limited, but standard kit including Batphone, Batscope, Batcomputer, Bat Photoscope and Bat Smoke greatly enhances this machine’s versatility and appeal.
Racers that never were
Yamura Motors F1 car, Grand Prix, 1966: The first Japanese firm to conquer F1 and driven by Pete Aron to win the (fictional) 1966 title race. It looked suspiciously similar to the McLaren M2B from some angles.
The Mean Machine, Wacky Races, 1968-1969: Rocket-powered speedster should have won more races than it did, were it not for Dick Dastardly’s tactic of frequently stopping to lay ineffective traps for his rivals.
Roary the Racing Car, 2007-2010: Forget Lightning McQueen, Roary is the anthropomorphic talking race car boss. Utterly dominant at his home circuit of Silver Hatch.