The Editor Mixes & Matches
In today’s motoring world the term ‘hybrid’ has been hi-jacked for a certain type of vehicle. It is a fair enough description, but this month, without ignoring the sterling work of Toyota and others, we would also like to reclaim the word on a wider scale.
There have always been hybrids in motoring. It is well known that Ferdinand Porsche created a petrol/electric hybrid at the start of the 20th Century – a clever idea which we more or less forgot about for 90 or more years. On a more general level, the motor industry was mixing and matching from the start, taking it to a mammoth scale the moment Fiat put an airship engine into one of its production chassis in 1910.
At its best a hybrid shows one breaking away from a dogmatic view of what is achievable. This does that thing well, that does this thing well – combine them and they will do all things better. Well, that is the theory. At its worst a hybrid is a mess – a bodge of whatever was easiest or cheapest to get hold of in order to form a ill-suited whole.
Nature is not as flexible as we wish to be ourselves. It is very conservative in what it allows and natural hybrids occur only in very closely related species and, even then, nature often puts in place mechanisms to prevent their further propagation.
The motor industry is also conservative, at least at its centre, so it is to its periphery that we usually look for bolder combinations. History is littered with these, but we will look not only at those cases where two things have been brought together to serve one function, but those cases where one object serves two or more functions.
Looking to the past, for the less enlightened the hybrid, the mongrel, was always an object of suspicion, its very difference raising the hackles of the superstitious. Have we grown more enlightened? On many levels I would hope so, but the long hard road to acceptance of the petrol/electric hybrid amongst the motoring community suggests that many people still prefer their lives free of ambiguities and complications.
But here, at DTW, we celebrate the different and the bold. So let us consider the hybrid in all its forms with an open mind, and salute those who seek to widen the often narrow aasumptions of what is achievable.