The desire to combine the incompatible has been bugging inventors since the creation of the wheel. This itch has only intensified in the automotive era. After all, one car can’t be equally well suited for every occasion in life (or it’s called a Lamborghini Urus and still costs as much as several others). In the “Favorites” rubric on Motor, we publish an archival piece by Yaroslav Gronsky and recall the most striking attempts by automakers to develop a car that could perform several functions at once. Often completely opposite.
Citroen Citela, 1992
In 1992, the Citroen Citela compact electric concept car debuted at the Seville World’s Fair, demonstrating the French vision of a versatile city car of the future. The prototype’s body was made of removable and interchangeable plastic panels, thanks to which the car could perform a variety of tasks.
Citroen Pluriel Concept, 1999
However, Citroen did not refuse the idea of further development of the compact car with a transformable body, and even brought it to life. In 1999, the French have brought at the Frankfurt Motor Show a prototype Pluriel, which could transform from a hatchback into four-seater convertible or two-seater roadster.
A little earlier, Mercedes tried to solve the problem of storage of removable body parts. Presented at the Geneva Motor Show in 1995, the prototype VRC (Vario Research Car) could turn into a coupe, station wagon, convertible or pickup truck. The compact two-door Mercedes Transformer had a one-piece body with a retractable roof, removable side panels and a rear section made of carbon fiber.
Magna Steyr MILA Coupic
Austrian automotive components supplier Magna Steyr does not produce its own production models, but regularly produces unusual concept cars to demonstrate its capabilities. In 2012 at the Geneva Motor Show the company presented a prototype Mila Coupic, which was called “three cars in one”. The car has a non-standard sliding roof, consisting of glass and cloth panels. The top is divided into two parts, which are able to fold independently of each other. With the roof closed, the car is a two-door all-terrain vehicle, but if you completely fold the roof, it turns into a convertible.
“A fun-loving, versatile personality that embodies the spirit of California.” That was the sauce under which Pontiac served its next concept car in 1992. By the way, it was in the Golden State that it was designed. In its normal state, the Salsa was a five-seat compact convertible with a safety bar that could hold a two-piece soft top. A sliding roof was mounted at the front and a section with two cross frames was mounted at the rear.
In 1994, at the Paris Auto Show the company Renault introduced a concept truck Modus. Its feature is a horseshoe-shaped base, on which several different modules could be installed. The car could act as an open truck or closed van. There was a special compartment with a large refrigerator for delivery of perishables or medicines. Finally, it was possible to install a glazed module with the inscription “TAXI”, designed to carry six passengers.
Mazda MX-04 Concept
What about the Japanese? Certainly, in the country that invented robots transforming into other objects, it was impossible not to appear real “car-transformers”. The proof is the Mazda MX04 prototype, which made its debut more than thirty years ago at the Tokyo Motor Show. The car had a carbon-aluminum “skeleton” on which carbon fiber body panels of various shapes were attached. The car could be a closed coupe, an open roadster, and an almost completely “stripped down” extreme sports car without windows or doors – like the current Ariel Atom.