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1997 Volkswagen W12 Syncro

The W12 Syncro prototype was first unveiled at the 1997 Tokyo Motor Show, while the "roadster," a more advanced version of the W12 Syncro, made its debut at the Volkswagen stand at the 1998 Geneva Motor Show.

How do you showcase a wild new engine design? If you're Volkswagen, you hire Italdesign to place it within a wild new supercar concept.

By 1996, the Volkswagen group had cleverly devised a new range of W-pattern engines — including a 5.6-liter W-12 — for premium offerings like the Audi A8. Although engineers admitted the engine was nearly four years away from production (indeed, it wasn't offered in the A8 until 2001), CEO Ferdinand Piech wanted to display this new piece of tech at the 1997 Tokyo motor show.

Piech turned to Italdesign, commissioning a supercar built around the W-12 and his company's Syncro all-wheel-drive system. Fabrizio Giugiaro — Giorgetto's son — delivered a long, wide coupe with the 420-horsepower W-12 placed behind the driver and passenger. VW dismissed the car as little more than a concept at the time, but several months later, the company showed a roadster variant at the Toyko show and suggested a limited number — 200 examples, perhaps — could be built for $175,000 a pop.

That never happened, but the W12 supercar didn't fall by the wayside, either. By 2001, it re-emerged on the auto show scene — again at the Toyko Motor Show — but in a more powerful form. The W-12 itself was bored out to 6.0-liters and was now capable of throwing down 600 horsepower. VW, in the meantime, promised a production run of 50 cars by 2002, each carrying a price tag of $200,000.

Those plans were also scuttled, but the six-liter W12 managed to set a 24-hour speed record in 2001. Engineers lapped the Nardo Circuit in Italy for a whole day, covering 4800 miles at an average speed of 200.6 mph.

Images: Volkswagen AG