Concept Cars


Written by Olivia Patt
25 Sunday 25th September 2011

As you can probably tell, I’m not an expert. I find it hard to get enthusiastic about cars. However, I find it extremely easy to get enthusiastic about silly things, which is where this all comes together. Concept cars. Concept cars are show vehicles, touted around motor shows by automotive companies like a trophy wife to essentially, show off a new style or new technology. Rarely do these cars reach the mass-production stage.

Main image: BMW Gina

For years, companies have been making them to try and pioneer new hi tech auto science. One of the earlier concept cars designed by Ford in 1958 was the Ford Nucleon. As the name would suggest, the Nucleon did not have any old regular engine – it was powered by a tiny nuclear reactor. Safety first. Unsurprisingly, the Nucleon was never mass produced. Continuing in this slightly insane vein, in 1961 Ford demoed the Ford Gyron which had just two wheels and a gyroscope system. If the car slowed down too much, it would fall over. I don’t know about you, but I like my cars upright [Ed - apparently the idea never died however, and in 2009 the Swiss MonoTracer actually went on sale]

Straddling the line betwixt motorcar and motorbike. And then falling over

However, moving on from the fifties and the universal obsession with space, time travel and implausibly futuristic inventions, and concept cars have become somewhat more realistic. They’re not all ridiculous. The hybrid began as a concept car. We’re all for helping the environment. Therefore, electric cars for the win, right? Not always. Enter the Rinspeed Bamboo. Essentially a really complicated golf buggy, the Bamboo does not have a dashboard, it has an “identiface” (we kid you not) on which you can send as many messages as you want and never ever have to be apart from your social media networks. It also has a docking station for the HTC Flyer tablet, because iPads are for losers. Worst feature? Inflatable back seats.

The roof doubles as a beach blanket. Seriously.

Another, slightly less ridiculous concept car debuted this year was the Mercedes F125! And no, we didn’t put the exclamation mark there. The F125! is a prototype that Mercedes imagines will be produced in 2025, and the driver controls everything using voice and gestures. I don’t know why, but I really like the idea of opening my door by making the motion of opening my door, rather than just opening my door. It seems more magical somehow. Other than the exclamation mark, the F125! is pretty cool. Plus it has those futuristic doors that go up, not out.

F125! The car with ears.

Similarly, the BMW i8 does not seem too ludicrous of a car, until you read the description. Apparently, the BMW i8 is an “emotional” sports car, featuring “emotional” design, with an “organic surface structure”. As far as I can tell, BMW are basing this slightly odd description on the fact that it is giant transparent doors so that you can see everything happening inside. Not quite sure how emotional this would be. Unless the car weeps.

The i8 decided to spend some alone time in the woods thinking things through.

Another beauty from BMW is the Gina. Gina is a shape shifter. Rather than being made out of solid tin, or whatever it is they make cars out of these days, Gina has a flexible “skin” that is stretched out over the metal wire frame. This skin allows the driver to change the shape of the car in many ways – such as a rear spoiler appearing as if from nowhere. She also has a girl’s name. Sounds like Gina and her skin would be far more emotional than the i8.

This is the Mercedes-Benz Bionic. The Bionic was “developed to explore the great potential which nature offers as a model for the development of automotive technology”. It’s based on the blowfish. I think you’ve heard enough.   

The Bionic. Er... right.

Last up is a concept car that Don’t Panic can really get behind. Although it was introduced in 1999, and was never mass produced, we wish it had been, for sheer comic value. Honda’s Fuya-Jo, meaning “sleepless city”, looks slightly like a tall box, and was designed to transport late night partygoers between different clubs. Apparently, Honda felt like putting in a steering wheel that looks like a turntable and really big speakers in the door would make this really appeal to ravers. That and the fact that could spend hours staring in a wonderful drug haze stroking the slightly sparkly purple exterior. Fuck yeah 1990s. 

Party bus getting papped.

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