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GEAR: Concept cars

26 September 2016

The Buick Y-Job was the auto industry’s first concept car, designed by Harley Earl and produced by Buick in 1938. The idea of showcasing new concepts, styling and technology has burgeoned since then and today, concept vehicles are a regular feature at every auto show. Some of these cars (or toned down versions of them) make the production run. However, we take a look at some that didn’t…


1. Toyota Tundra Ducati Transporter
Displayed at the 2008 SEMA Show, Toyota built this concept bakkie as a motorcycle transporter. Not just any motorcycle, though, it was designed specifically to carry (and to act as a support vehicle for) the Ducati Desmosedici RR – the only street-legal MotoGP bike ever produced. Toyota extended and strengthened the frame of a Tundra CrewMax pickup to support a 6.5-foot bed, designed to carry the Desmosedici. Additional features included a compressor and nitrogen tank, plus pop-up solar panels to deliver energy for the powering of tools. The bed-sides of the bakkie also flip up and reveal an extensive system of integrated tools and spares. To enhance performance, Toyota lowered the suspension and added a supercharger to the 5.7-litre V8 engine. Nice going T.


2. Ram Long-Hauler
Ram decided to build the ultimate one-off towing vehicle, which led to the creation of the 2012 Ram Long-Hauler concept. At 7.3 metres long (or 7 300mm), it certainly isn’t the most practical 4×4 but with a Gross Vehicle Weight Rating of 17 tons, it certainly meets the brief. (It also conjures up a bizarre Dr Seuss-like image of the Long-Hauler towing a 10 vehicle-long procession of Jurgens caravans). Fitted with a 6.7-litre Cummins V6 turbodiesel with a six-speed automatic gearbox, the elongated bakkie rides on a custom heavy-duty Kelderman air suspension. This long-hauler can also carry 643 litres of fuel, which could mean a non-stop, cross-country trip (peeing in a bottle, of course). However, it would cost in excess of R7 500, at the current South African diesel price for the initial fill. Yikes!


3. Mercedes-Benz Ener-G-Force
Mercedes is not known for doing things in half measures. It went the whole hog with this sexy looking concept for a buff patrol vehicle, which went on display at the 2012 LA Auto Show. Created as a design study for an “environmentally-friendly SUV that could support the police and other operational units in every corner of the world”, in the year 2025, this all-terrain pursuit vehicle’s front end has a commanding presence. The Ener-G is powered by a hydrogen fuel cell and four in-wheel electric motors, it has a hydro-tech converter that is fed by water stored in tanks on the roof. A roof-mounted camera scans the road surface to prepare and pre-load the suspension for maximum traction and comfort (Mercedes calls this Terra-Scan) and the chunky off-road tyres fitted to 20-inch wheels also have a cushioning effect. If this ever became a reality, we imagine there would be no consuming doughnuts and coffee in this cop car.


4. Jeep Wrangler Blue Crush
This spunky concept debuted at the annual Easter Jeep Safari in Moab, Utah in 2011. Jeep described the Blue Crush as combining “high-speed off-road racing and rock-crawling capability”. The suspension was beefed up royally and Jeep and Chrysler’s aftermarket company Mopar fitted the imposing off-roader with an all-aluminium, 7.0-litre Mopar Hemi V8 engine. This mill spits out 402kW and 732Nm of torque and is mated to Chrysler’s four-speed automatic performance transmission. The Blue Crush sports, among other things, a special off-road suspension system with internal bypass shocks, a roll cage, full hydro-steering and a set of gnarly 39-inch tyres. Who wants to play?


5. Jeep Hurricane
The Jeep Hurricane concept was revealed more than a decade ago at the 2005 North American International Auto Show, but it still looks rather cutting-edge today. It’s not just a pretty face, though, this two-seater 4×4 has some serious off-road capability. It’s fitted with two 5.7-litre V8 HEMI engines, each delivering 250kW and 500Nm of torque – for a total of 500kW and 1 000Nm. The Hurricane can be powered by 4-, 8-, 12- or 16-cylinders, depending on the need. With 37-inch tall tyres and respective approach and departure angles of 64.0 and 86.7 degrees, climbing obstacles isn’t that much of an obstacle anymore. That’s not all folks… it can also turn on the spot and ‘crab walk’. Its turning circle of zero is due to the car’s ability to turn both front and rear tyres inward and the Chrysler-designed and patented four-wheel steering system allows the Hurricane to move sideways (by turning all four wheels in the same direction). We vote this concept as having huge fun-factor appeal.


6. Hummer H3T Weekend Warrior
The Hummer H3T Weekend Warrior went on display at the 2009 SEMA Show and was described in the initial press release as being the “ideal high-speed desert chase truck”. The Hummer is powered by a 272kW 5.3-litre V-8. Another 52kW of power was added by enhancements that included a 3.5-inch exhaust system, LS2 cylinder heads and a higher-lift camshaft. Upgraded racing suspension was added and DBA disc brakes for increased stopping power. The concept sits on 35-inch BFGoodrich tyres wrapped around to 20-inch wheels from Hummer Accessories. If these concepts were a reality today, perhaps this one’s high-speed desert shenanigans would see it leading the chase with a Merc Ener-G Force patrol vehicle in hot pursuit.