The Forgotten GMC Concept That Combined A Truck With A Minivan

When GMC threw back the curtain on the Centaur at the 1988 Detroit Auto Show, they claimed it wasn't just a truck anymore. They weren't wrong. In an attempt to combine a car's comfort with a truck's utility, it came up with this all-purpose hybrid proof of concept that was supposed to be all things to all people (via GMC's press release).

They made it look like its mythological namesake, giving it a profile similar to a man's torso jutting above a horse's body. It was like a reverse mullet – party in the front, business in the back. This cab-forward design wasn't new in the halls of automotive history. Chevy created the Corvair 95 Rampside, Volkswagen had various Type 2 pickups, and Ford showed off its Explorer concept in 1973. It feels like GM ripped the front end from its failed Pontiac Trans Sport minivan concept and Frankenstein-ed it onto another behemoth in hopes of striking gold.

The 5-passenger (via The Daily Drive), bubbled front half had a wrap-around windshield that, like the Trans Sport, resembled a Disney monorail. GMC claimed the design provided "exceptional aerodynamics." Two passengers sat up front in comfy, form-fitting bucket seats while three more could fit on a full-width (and less comfortable) bench seat in the back. The problem was that the Centaur only came with two doors, forcing the rear passengers to bend and contort to hop in back. Passenger convenience was not high on the feature list.

The mythological beast with 21st-century technologies

The Centaur's dashboard flowed down into a center console awash with dials controlling "state-of-the-art" and "21st century" (Centaur-y?) technologies (via GMC). With only a few buttons, the steering wheel was minimalistic compared to the Trans Sport.

The half minivan/half truck was about as long and wide as the S-15 compact pickup and powered by a 3.0-liter, 24-valve horizontal in-line six-cylinder engine that sat in front of the back axle, according to Motortrend. Allegedly, the Centaur came with an "experimental 5-speed automatic transmission," but all available photos show it with a manual shifter. 

Other features included a self-leveling air spring suspension system and anti-lock brakes. All of this was on top of GMC's claim that the Centaur's bed had a 2,000-pound payload capacity and could pull a 5,000-pound trailer. In essence, the Centaur offered all the features of a car with all the utility of a truck. While the concept was sound, the look... not so much, and it never went into full production, like many of the coolest concept cars. The Centaur proves that while not all concept cars are worthy of mythological stature, they are worth the time and effort. Plus, they're always fun to look at.