Here's more proof, along with huge photos of this year's fever-dream car design concepts, hand-tooled by a bunch of out-of-towners - some of whom actually get L.A. car culture:
Click the thumbnails to see full-size design-concept sheets with more images.
Audi Nero Volkswagen/Audi Design Center California Designers: Jess Harder, Raul Cenan
The official description: The Audi Nero (Latin for black) concept is an evolution of the1930s streamlined record-breaking Auto Union racers. The aerodynamic surfaces, covered wheels and low ground clearance create a stealthy modern interpretation of its inspirational ancestors. Thecarbon black color reflects the LA mood, while its strong silhouette is punctuated with compelling technical details. The aggressive front end is followed by a translucent hood that showcases its powerful engine. The Nero super coupe is an expression of pure power, speed and style that turns any LA night into an adventure.
My take: Gorgeous, gorgeous bodywork. I can see this getting snapped up - particularly if it's a limited edition - in the way that every little starlet is driving the Bentley Continental GT these days. Okay, so I'm a pathetic sucker for retro styling, but this is sexy as hell. That said, I wonder how much fun it would be climbing in after all that matte-black metal had been sitting in Santa Ana heat for eight hours. I'm also curious about something they don't mention - what's under the hood: Hydrogen? Turbo V-16? Hamsters?
GMC PAD GM West CoastAdvanced Design Studio Designers: Steve Anderson, Senon B. Franco III, Jay Bernard, Phil Tanioka, Sidney Levy, Brian Horton, Alessandro Zezza, Christine Ebner, Frank Saucedo
The official description: Why commute? Adapt. Thatâ€™s the thinking behind the GMC PAD, whichoffers an innovative look at an urban loft with mobility. Itâ€™s a home ownership concept that enables cultural and geographic freedom for the modern city dweller. The GMC PAD features a diesel-electric hybrid system for propulsion while in Drive Mode, and serves as a generator for the onboard power grid for Life Mode. The media rich environment is unlike any other, and comes with an endless variety of entertainment, information and security options. With the GMC PAD, home is where you want it. And commuting is what other people do.
My take: Visually gorgeous. Physically impractical.
It's a staggering looker, in the vein of sci-fi designer Ron Cobb's starships and vehicle. (Think Nostromo)
But the thought of one of these behemoths pulling up next to our little tent camp at the Upper Pines site at Yosemite fills me with dread - think of the noise! And just imagine how much fun you'd have trying to get this up the 405 on the Friday of a three-day weekend.
Nope, I picture the thing up on blocks, with little vinyl hoods over the tires, collecting dust and pigeon shit in the back yard of a Valley ranch house while the owner is off running his way through a movie in the Honda joke below.
Honda LA Rolling FilmFestival Honda Research & Development Designers: Honda Research & Development
The official description: The Movies! Thatâ€™s one common worldwide attribute of LA. So the designers of Honda, in honor of LAâ€™s movie persona, created vignettes of vehicles and lifestyles for several of the cultures, lifestyles and images of LA. And they designed them with the imaginative consideration of the second most important characteristic of LA â€“ living on roadways. For the fitness crowd thereâ€™s "The Running Bus," an ingenious human-powered hybrid that features 10 stationary runners inside the bus for power; or the "Jacarzzi," which is a sleek sports car that doubles as a hot tub. And, the vehicles are presented in the best language of Los Angeles â€“ theMovie Poster.
My take: I hate it when designers see L.A. as some kind of cartoon.
The players in the Design Challenge game come from two schools: Sharp-minded creative geniuses who dream up technology and designs that could (and in some case should) make it to showroom floors. And 12-year-old boys with design degrees who think it would be "cool" to put a hot tub in a car. I don't even know what to mock first: the vision of someone waiting three hours for his car tofill and reach temperature warm enough for a good soak, or the spectacle of Chippies mass-arresting occupants of the Running Bus for seat-belt violations. Cripes.
Also, points off for trying to cram 10 designs into one entry. Booooo. Two thumbs down.
Hyundai Greenspeed Gator Hyundai Kia America Design Center Designer: Eric M. Stoddard
The official description: What happens when drag racing moves beyond internal combustion and nitrous oxide? The Hyundai Greenspeed Gator, which pushes the boundaries of design and fuel cell performance. Inspired by the top fuel racers of the '60s, this alien shape is rooted in pure function. The overall design consists of a main fuselage with integrated roll protection and "seatsling" that hangs underneath, tied together by a center spine chassis with integral fuel cells. The giant hood blisters house the hydrogen storage tanks, and the rear wheels house gargantuan electric motors.
My take: Outstanding from a pure-concept standpoint.
The explosive power of hydrogen makes nitrous look like cat piss, but if they can hybridize it to feed huge electric motors, they'll have enough torque to peel the California Speedway asphalt up like a Road Runner cartoon. What a kick in the pants this thing would be.
Kia Sidewinder Hyundai Kia America Design Center Designer: Marc Mainville
The official description: This Kia is a two-seat, lean, mean, drifting machine! The Sidewinderâ€™s power comes from a compressed natural gas turbine, which feeds electricity to a series of in-wheel, high torque, electric motors. This environmentally-responsible vehicle would surely grab the most attention while carving lines sideways through the race course. Kia chose drift racing as its theme for the "LA Adventure," because Los Angeles was the scene of the first officially-sanctioned American drifting event.
My take: Nice approach to the drifting craze.
The brake lights look a little pointless for track use, but I can see racers having fun screwing around with drifting tires and iridescent phoenix graphics plastered all over the ride. The idea of an "environmentally responsible" tire-shredder is oxymoronic hyperbole, but hey - fun's fun.
Maybach California Gourmet Tourer Mercedes-Benz Advanced Design of North America Designer: Andre Frey
The official description: The Maybach California Gourmet Tourer is the ultimate machine to enjoy a culinary adventure. Fully automated, the Maybach is safely chauffeured by software using GPS guidance. Offering panorama style windows to enjoy the scenery, it comes fully equipped with every onboard feature imaginable to store and prepare food and wine. It features refrigeration, espresso machine, microwave, wine rack, food preparation area, recycler, foldout tables and other accessories to make any picnic an unforgettable adventure.
My take: This is just ... silly.
Sure, megabucks marque Maybach is pitching to its likely clientele - upper-class lushes with expensive palates. but I picture the captain enjoying the pinot a little too well and rolling the damn thing on a winding winery road, blenderizing the occupants and contents into a lovely puree of checkered napkins, smeared brie and broken glass.
Mercedes-BenzMojave Runner Mercedes-Benz Advanced Design of North America Designer: John Gill
The official description: The gas-electric hybrid Mojave Runner is designed to thrive in extreme heat, rough terrain or unpredictable weather. It features night vision, sandstorm radar and GPS sensors and is equipped with a hydrogen fuel cell generator to provide electrical power for tools and rescue equipment. The strong, lightweight exoskeleton frame is a combination of carbon-fiber and pressurized aluminum tubing that stores air for pneumatic power tools. Its off- and on-road capability is optimized by intelligent adaptive tires that automatically changes tread depth for top performance.
My take: Build it, and sure as valet parking breeds bumper dings, the idle rich and adrenaline-junkie production execs will be buzzing around Hungry Valley's dunes and ruts in carbon-fiber Teutonic ridge-runner bliss. Mind the sharp rocks, though. A fuel-cell explosion would be pretty spectacular.
Mitsubishi Roadster Konzept Mitsubishi Research & Design of North America Designer: MarkKim
The official description: The Mitsubishi Roadster Konzept (MRK) is a sporty hybrid compact that combines LAâ€™s hip stylish image with a sophisticated look. Environmentally-responsible, allfour wheels are equipped with Mitsubishiâ€™s AWD in-wheel electric motor technology. The 280 hp provided by the in-wheel motors combined with the 80 hp rear-mounted engine brings an impressive 360hp to zip around congested freeways. The MRK has two front sport seats, plus rear rumble seats,which allows for two rear passengers or extra cargo space for Southern California adventures.
My take: This, I like.
Super-tight coachwork with a retractable roof always sells big to the Beverly Hills crowd, or maybe the barons of San Marino who need to give junior yet another toy to quell the whining. But 360 horsepower out of electric motors in a body that size would require some pretty hardcore battery technology that I'm betting just doesn't exist yet. Floor it and it would probably set the seats on fire.
ScionExile Calty Design Research Designer: Matt Sperling
The official description: The Scion Exile is designed to whisk its individualistic occupants to the snowy slopes, sandy beaches and hip nightlife all in the same day. To appeal to the upscale/sport crowd,the cab-forward Exile is proportioned similar to that of more expensive and impractical exotic sports cars, yet with a go anywhere attitude. A clever trunk doubles as a moveable cargo pod that can be extended, lowered and wheeled as a portable mobile storage locker. With so many activities tochoose from in a single day, the Scion Exile accommodates all LA has to offer.
My take: Not to Toyota/Scion: Angelenos are not all upscale/sport-crowd individualistic occupants. Some of us commute to jobs, drive beaters and just want something to get us there without killing us or emptying our wallets.
That said: Here's a design team that understands the extreme sports crowd.
Sharp wheels, beaucoup room for gear, flexible traction for everything from Mammoth powder to playa mud.
Smart Rescue Vehicle Mercedes-Benz Advanced Design of North America Designer: Hubert Lee
Theofficial description: From Smart comes the ideal cruiser for crowded Southern California beaches. The Smart Rescue Vehicle is designed for the adventures and tasks that a lifeguard endures on a daily basis, such as first aid, beach patrol, safety and water rescues. The driver sits high in a personal water craft-styled seating position, and can accommodate four passengers. Its mid-engined 800cc turbo Smart engine sits between the front and rear foam seats and can do double duty by powering the jet pump when in amphibious mode.
My take: Slick, slick, slick work by Daimler-Chrysler's tiny-car division.
I'd love to see the LAPD piloting these things around Venice Beach with gangbangers handcuffed to the roll bars, plunging into the surf and rescuing bodysurfers who did a few too many bong hits during riptide season.
Posted by: Mack_Reed on Monday, November 21, 2005 - 02:13 PM