Concept cars

The weird world of concept cars. Image supplied

The weird and wonderful world of concept cars

Concept cars maybe there to test design limits and gauge opinions, but sometimes can leave an audience feeling bewildered…

Concept cars

The weird world of concept cars. Image supplied

Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, jumping hedgehogs — it’s a BMW Lovos concept car.

There is no doubt that the Lovos would have inspired Dr Emmett Brown (remember him feeding kitchen waste into the DeLorean in Back to the Future) to jump about exclaiming the BMW’s uncanny likeness to a hedgehog. He would also have been delighted to learn that the car ran off solar power, and its name, the Lifestyle of Voluntary Simplicity (LOVOS), was contradicted by its design which incorporated 260 moving parts.

A short history of concept cars

At the time, the Lovos was probably the most adventurous student designer’s concept car ever to see the light of day. Nearly 11 years on, it would be interesting to find out where the then student designer, Anne Forschner, is today. Anyone who knows, should contact Dr Brown who is looking for someone to update his DeLorean.

The Lovos had 260 identical interchangeable hinged solar plates on its body. These plates opened and closed, moving with the sun to create the energy needed for the car. While powering the vehicle, the plates also functioned as air brakes. As if that wasn’t enough, plates enclosing each wheel arch acted almost like mini-turbines to drive the wheels.

The interior was soft and warm, say those who have seen the vehicle. This was probably its saving grace, given the overall prickly feeling of the overall design. In all respects, the car, although futuristic, accomplished its task of taking car design into new territory and attracting attention.

It did its job and then vanished to that great concept car garage in the sky.

Of course, BMW hasn’t been alone producing concept cars that have stretched and confounded the imagination.

Equally weird, the other examples discussed below haven’t made it on to our roads either, which is a pity because that drive into work every day could be a lot more entertaining with these sharing the road.

Weird concept cars that haven’t made it onto the roads

Some of the candidates for the weirdest concept car award drawn from recent, and not so new, drawing boards include:

The Audi AI Trail (Quattro)

This electric off-roader displayed in 2019, seats four, and is powered by four motors and is made mainly glass. It also has five drones that fly ahead and provide extra road lighting and camera vision. In the city, it can drive itself. Just don’t find yourself in the bush after dark and run into one of these and its drones — you may just think that the aliens have landed.

Nissan Juke Personalization Adventure

Most recognisable as a car is the Nissan Juke Personalization Adventure with triangular caterpillar track wheels. Displayed at the 2019 Tokyo Auto Salon, the vehicle is made for “snowy winters” and “muddy summer’s days”. Try as I might, I couldn’t picture this monster in Africa buzzing across desert tracks — what happens if you “blow” a track far from home?

concept cars
Nissan Juke Personalization Adventure. Image via

Hyundai Elevate

Undoubtedly the weirdest of the “recent weirdos” is the Hyundai Elevate. Designed to be primarily an emergency response vehicle, the Elevate has robotic legs which can move the “vehicle” in any direction.

concept cars
Hyundai Elevate. Image via Hyundai Media Centre

Although it can be driven at highway speeds, it can also climb walls, and step over gaps while keeping its body and passengers completely level. Given the state of some of our remoter roads, articulated legs could be a good thing.

Paging back in time reveals some ageing but equally compelling concept designs.

Older ideas

The Dymaxion

The Dymaxion was designed in the 1930s by Buckminster Fuller. With aluminium and wood construction and Ford Flathead V8, it had three wheels, rear-wheel steering and front-wheel drive, and could carry 11 passengers. Why it was built is still puzzling after all these years.

Lincoln Capri Woodie Sportsman convertible (1955)

The spectacularly ugly Lincoln Capri Woodie Sportsman convertible (1955). At least if you decided to have a quiet weekend, you could always tell your friends that you had to revarnish your car. What is more tragic is that if you owned one of these, they would have said they understood.

concept cars
Lincoln Capri. Image via

The Ferrari Studio CR25

Combine the design skills of Ferrari and Pininfarina, and this is what happens when things go wrong. It was introduced at the Turin motor show in 1974 and was then never seen again. Maybe the model, who must now be in her eighties, has it parked in her garage.

When it comes to these cars, beauty is definitely in the eye of the beholder. But, there is no doubt that they do get us thinking and create a buzz at motor shows. Which, ultimately, is the reason they were created.

Also read: When cars fly: Japan firm says airborne vehicles could be reality by 2023