I am like a still born child: The autobiography of a concept car
As I enter the last lap of my highly eventful if not thoroughly remarkable 4 year journey of life, there is an unmistakable tinge of regret masked by an enormous surge of exhilaration. From the outset, I was destined for greatness nay, fame and wherever I went in the last 2 years there was manic frenzy. I am exaggerating ofcourse, but such is my nature.
They call me a piece of art on four wheels. One journalist in genteel England even compared my curves to that of a well known actress. But that was only one of the many plaudits that I have collected through all these years. But I guess I should start from where it all began….in a small corner office that is lighted by only one old fashioned electric bulb in Munich. The name of the city itself would give away my origin but I won’t make it any more easier for you.
It all must have begun in the spring of 2005 when a team of four engineers, reputed and even criticised within their company for their out of the box weird ideas. The head of that group a wiry gentleman of over 50 who has a doctorate and over a dozen successful designs to show for his age, was given an unusual task. He was asked to test his imagination and come up with the most out of box concept of a car the world had ever seen. In this first meeting with his core team his message was clear….this had to be a car that should define their careers and that had to hold true as much for the 63 year old in the group awaiting his retirement as the 31 year old young prodigy known for his wacky ideas and wicked sense of humour.
They were not alone ofcourse. 47 other engineers worked painstakingly for over 15 months on each element that comprises me. Since they were starting from scratch and on a blank paper, they quarreled, cribbed and went forth and back on giving a basic shape to me. Ultimately, it boiled down to whether I should be a 4*4 sportscar, a hybrid one at that, or a utilitarian and more practical small car. It was a tie and the deciding vote thankfully went in favour of a sportscar. A work of art cannot be bothered by the restrictions of practicality.
Next up was an agonisingly long scrutiny of all concept sportscars ever made in the world…..all 187 of them. That involved, I was told later, burning the midnight lamp for days and only after a fortnight or so was there some consensus and clarity on how I would look. Another week went by in the painter’s loo, as the workstation of the chief designer is called. Finally, I emerged from there, a hazy scrungy impression on paper that had to be brought to life, somewhat, on clay and then in metal.
The next three steps were almost mechanical and frenetic. In three months, I was ready in clay and in another couple of months I was embellished with metal…mostly carbon fibre, with generous dollops of steel and aluminum. Since I was a sportscar, I had to be fast and hence I lay really close to the ground to keep the centre of gravity low. At times, if I breathe hard enough I can really touch the ground.
The most difficult task was to transplant a heart or brain whichever suits you, the engine in me. In fact, in the first two automotive exhibitions, the only arenas where I went out in the world, I did not even have an engine. And strange as it may sound, very few onlookers realised that. But after a good deal of labour, I did get my engine…a 3 litre supercharged V6 that was mated with a battery powered electric generator. Together that developed a phenomenal 475 bhp power that meant I could hit 100 kmph in less than 5 seconds and courtesy my being a hybrid, still give you a good bang for your buck.
From the time, I first went on show back in the spring of 2007, I vowed both the masses and the enthusiasts alike. Some fell for my drop dead gorgeous looks, flowing lines, pouted lips, angular shoulders, or shapely and proportionate posterior, others could not stop raving about the technology…a hybrid at that. And if that was not enough, the striking red interior managed to dominate the last vestiges of defence for the “hard to be pleased” gang. Ahh yes, those were heady days.
I posed and smiled at the shutterbugs who never tired of taking photographs of me. Almost always I would be accompanied by a gorgeous lady, also the best of the lot, who stood and posed next to me. It oftened fanned my vanity when somebody would ask that lady to step aside so that I could be photographed alone, in all my glory. I think I used to blush then and he would invariably get the best shot…a more radiant me.
In the domain of cars just like in the case of human beings…there are lots of races and castes…..mini cars, compact cars, hatchbacks, station wagons, sedans, saloons, coupes, convertibles, limousines, sportscars, vans, wagons, SUVs et all. But in our case what mattered most was were you a concept or a production car. As concepts we are always treated well, photographed more and handled carefully. In general, a pampered lot. But we are also like the caged birds….fed well and looked after but never allowed to fly.
So while the production cars are ill treated, they have a more adventurous life. Ultimately I have also become the basis of a hopefully hugely popular production car even though the similarities between me and her are sometimes hard to pick. She is in no way as attractive as I am, nor does she have a hybrid powertrain. But I know that she costs a fraction of what I do and as such more achievable if not desirable. I cannot but not feel a tinge of jealousy for her as it was eventually her birth that meant my death.
She would also get to live a longer life, light up the lives of many families and have a lot many more stories to share. Every car would meet its end eventually and some of them it would be in a tragic road accident. But very few would get to live a life like me…..the barbie dolls of the industry. Feted, honoured and drooled upon like that kid in Tokyo who simply refused to let go of me. But never seeing the outside world. Never being chased around after breaking a traffic light, never refuelled or hurt in an accident, never rushing to the hospital with a pregnant woman at the back seat nor bringing the kids back from school, seldom repaired and rarely used.
My end would not be as protracted as my birth. From here in Detroit I would be driven 1000 kilometers west to Staten Island in New York where a giant hydraulic crusher waits for my last rituals. Ironically, my last journey would also be my longest. Till date my tripmeter reads a mere 532 miles. My production sibling has already done over 20,000 miles thanks to the exhaustive tests that she has had to go through.
As I wait for this show here to end on January 22, famous words from my father ring in my ears……I am the still born child of an industry that only understands motion.