BMW has finally revealed the radical concept car which has already influenced all of its current production cars and will continue to shape future models such as the soon-to-be-launched X1 mini-SUV.
The car, called the GINA Light Visionary Model, is a revolutionary fabric-skinned sports car concept —which can change its shape radically and quickly, according to desires or to conditions and speeds.
Amazingly the concept dates from as early as 2001 but BMW’s design chief Chris Bangle claims that it was the first fruit of years of work by BMW Design teams to cater for what they see as buyer demands in 10 years’ time.
The concept, though built on the now defunct Z8 roadster, was conceived to show that it may be possible one day for owners to be able to choose from a variety of outer shapes and functions offered around one broad mechanical envelope.
The GINA roadster designers also believe the car’s enhanced adaptability to a driver’s needs increase the emotional connection between driver and car. It could also, he believes, be a way of enticing more young people to car buying – a sector of the market that is increasingly choosing not to run a car.
The GINA roadster’s flexible, stretchable fabric skin is a man-made product that resists water, high or low temperatures and doesn’t swell or shrink. The essential shapes are formed beneath the skin by a metal wire structure, though at points where movement is needed (ducts, door openings, spoiler) flexible carbon struts are used.
Though the GINA’s skin appears seamless, it can, for instance, “grow” a higher rear spoiler for stability at high speed. The doors are each covered by a fabric piece reaching all the way from the nose of the car to their trailing edge. When closed, they leave a perfectly smooth stretched surface. When the car is parked, the car’s steering wheel and array of round instruments sit in an ‘idle’ position on the centre console to allow the driver easy entry. The steering wheel and instruments assume their correct positions when the driver presses a simple start button.
Bangle and his designers are not claiming their fabric bodied roadster will lead directly or even indirectly to production. But the design boss has admitted that it has already influenced the current generation of BMWs. His experiences of using cloth, he claims, have led to him and his team experimented heavily with the extending the boundaries of what shapes steel can be pressed into: hence the extravagent forms boasted by some of the current line-up.
Bangle also believes that the GINA car contains the seeds an elegant solution to future demands for affordable premium vehicles that have a high bespoke content, and whose manufacturing process is considerably greener than today’s.