Vehicle design, like everything else, is guided by pragmatism. When it comes to building a car, it’s not about what’s possible, but what’s viable and practical. The one exception? Concept vehicles.
For a designer, the blank page is alluring. It suggests an endless landscape of possibilities. With a large, white sheet of paper in front of you, you’re limited only by your imagination. Right? Wrong. The lines, grids and margins might not be visible, but that doesn’t mean that they’re absent. It doesn’t matter if you’re designing a car, building, cellphone or toy doll; your freedom to create is limited by pragmatic factors like cost, safety and ease of production.
Every designer wants a large, blank canvas to work on. In reality, they’re more often handed a colouring book. But there are exceptions. Every once in a while, the shackles are taken off and designers are allowed to go crazy. Sometimes the results are astounding. Give the right designer an opportunity to follow his curiosity and intuition, and you get the Sydney Opera House, the iPhone and the Mercedes-Benz 300SL Coupé. Other times, too much rope results in nothing more than a brutal and very public hanging. Then you get the Longaberger building in Ohio, the Nokia 7600 and the Lamborghini Veneno.
Still, whether freedom results in a timeless design or a glorious catastrophe, an unrestrained process of creation is worth celebrating. In the automotive field, this most often happens in the area of concept vehicles. A great concept vehicle is simultaneously inspirational and tragic. It pushes design forward, asks unexpected questions and offers creative solutions. Sadly, this makes it immediately apparent that it will never be built. Here are five 4×4s that were simply too awesome to ever hit a showroom floor.
5. 2017 JEEP QUICKSAND
Let’s start with a recent concept: the 2017 Jeep Quicksand. Built for Jeep’s annual Easter Safari in Moab, the Quicksand answers the question of what would happen if a Jeep Wrangler and a hot rod mated. It has a Hemi V8, eight velocity stacks peeking through the bonnet and large off-road tyres. To add to the hot rod look, the Quicksand has 32-inch tyres in the front and 37-inchers in the rear, making it the first official Jeep ever to boast a staggered tyre set-up. As its name suggests, it was designed for sand driving, so it had a six-speed Getrag transmission to provide total control. Its low-range transfer case remained.
4. 2004 FORD BRONCO
Ford has announced that a new Bronco will arrive in 2020. If reports and rumours are to be believed, though, it will be a five-door vehicle based on the Everest. In other words, it will be nothing like the Bronco of old. The company’s 2004 Bronco Concept, however, was a worthy successor to the Ford classic. It boasted the same dimensions as the 1966 model, and was clearly inspired by the design of the original, but it was also modern and cool. It never made it into production, but it’s still around. Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson is currently filming a movie called Rampage that will feature the concept.
3. 2007 SUZUKI X-HEAD
Cobbled together largely from Jimny and Grand Vitara parts, the X-Head was one of the big hits at the 2007 Tokyo Motor Show. With a load area in the rear and forward-control-inspired looks, it was a modern interpretation of an old-school 4×4. As cool as it was, the market for this sort of thing would always be very niche in the modern era, so the X-Head never made it into production.
2. 2005 FIAT OLTRE
Think a Hummer is ostentatious and over-the-top? Well, this is what happened when those debonair Italians tried their hand at this sort of vehicle. It was called the Fiat Oltre and it was unveiled at the 2005 Bologna Motor Show. It was an odd creation, to say the least. It had the shape and size of a military vehicle, had a 4×4 system and was based on an Iveco, yet it also had low-profile tyres and horrendously impractical rims. The interior looked like something out of a 1960’s sci-fi movie. The Oltre was silly and absurd, and that’s what made it so wonderful.
1. 2005 JEEP HURRICANE
Few manufacturers can equal Jeep when it comes to crazy concept creations, which is why we have yet another one of the company’s 4×4s on the list. This, the 2005 Hurricane, is undoubtedly its most insane vehicle ever. It’s buggy-like body was constructed from carbon fibre, it had two V8s powering it (one at the front and one at the rear), and wheels that could turn (and spin) independently and in any direction.
Compiled by GG van Rooyen