Mark my words: Detroit 2008 will go down in history as the motor show at which the Big Three finally succumbed to the inevitable and let reality take over from fantasy.

The standout feature of this year’s Detroit show isn't anything on display: it's that missing dose of glamour, glitz and daring-do that has appeared at every Detroit show before now in the shape of their wild, mould-breaking, forward-looking concept cars.

America invented the concept car in the 1940s, when Harley Earl built the Buick Y-Job (right). This was a glamorous one-off prototype used as a daily driver on his commute to GM’s famous Colour and Trim department, the forerunner of today’s vast design studio complexes.

More recently Chrysler revved up Detroit’s captive audience of hacks with the outrageous ME412, a mad idea for mid-engined supercar wearing Walter P Chrysler’s sound-as-a-pound badge (left). Cadillac went a bit mad with the Sixteen, a dot-com bubble luxury saloon dripping in glamour and giltz.