A Concept Car For Sunday

Today we take a small look at the future as imagined by students at Clemson University and the Art Centre College of Design. 

Deep Orange Mini concept: source

The car is the Deep Orange 7 Mini concept, the result of a project carried out in co-operation with BMW. Many who liked the Mini Spiritual concept will find much to admire. For a start, it doesn’t look much like a Mini or a Mini

2017 Deep Orange Mini concept interior: source

“Deep Orange is a vehicle prototype program at the Clemson University International Center for Automotive Research for the pioneering education, research and industry collaboration within the graduate degree programs in automotive engineering”.

What makes this programme different from others is the extent to which the students get to work on arealistic projekts. Normally, students on BA and MA courses work individually on a final year project. Deep Orange seems to offer an opportunity for team work which aggregates the effort into one very well elaborated project rather than many individual models which often amount to mere styling exercises.

2017 Deep Orange interior: source

Hence one sees here a model so thoroughly finished one can raise questions about the precise solutions suggested: that steering column needs a bit of work where it intersects with the floor. That’s a quibble.

You can also see concepts elaborated so one can discuss them. The floating dashboard really is a floating dashboard and it is possible because the drivetrain allows a large empty space under the front screen to be exploited. That in turn leads to the distinct appearance of the car’s frontal aspect. The shutlines give away the fact that the front screen opens as a hatch to allow access to a front storage space. The shutline has an unhappy swerve (quibble).

The grille and lamp relation seems to have been inverted quite satisfyingly on this proposal. A body-colour panel where a dark grille might normally be has a dark frame flowing into the glass area. The overall relation of body-colour and graphics extrapolates a trend I have detected using my super-sensitive instruments: the reduction of body-colour areas and the expansion of graphics. This may be a result of the current exasperation with strakes, creases and folds which must now be past its zenith.

2017 Deep Orange concept sketch: source

The C-pillar design remains the only element which made it from the concept sketch shown above (shades of Opel, perhaps?). The actual realised model manages to be an unusual mix of the futuristic and plausible. Perhaps the seating form and fabric needed extra consideration. But usefully it shows how to use the Mini concept as a start-point without being trapped by its conventions. It will be interesting to see how much of this concept BMW takes on board in their future iterations of the by now stultifying Mini concept. BMW already seem to be trying some of the ideas already in concept form..

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Author: richard herriott

I like anchovies. I dislike post-war town planning.

5 thoughts on “A Concept Car For Sunday”

  1. This is one of the better stabs at replacing the grille as we know it, but the breakthrough substitute is yet to see the light of day. Blunt graphics à la Toyota Aygo or faint silhouettes as with the Teslas obviously don’t cut the mustard. And the (concept car) trend of employing light graphics could lead to trouble with the legislators.

    The two most awful attempts at solving this must be BMW’s recent i Vision Whatever and Mercedes EQ A-class concept cars though.

    1. The impulse to have *something* grille-like is very strong though. I’d consider starting with a blank exterior shell and see how to position shutlines from an assembly/ engineering view and see what comes out of that. At the moment the front of the car is made of two wings, a bumper, lights and a grille. What happens if the bumper and wings are fused? What if the whole lot is fused, with two or four holes for lamps?

    2. “What happens if the bumper and wings are fused? What if the whole lot is fused, with two or four holes for lamps?”
      Basically that’s what Lotus did with the Elise Mk1. It led to enormous costs for crash repairs as even minor damage resulted in replacing half the car at 7,000 EUR a pop.
      You also had to dismantle the whole front of the car to replace a bulb in the foglights.

      There’ve been cars with one piece bodywork before the Elise.
      One of the most prominent is the Porsche 356 which is a restorer’s nightmare with no straight line in the whole car and everything welded up and panel gaps adjusted with body solder.
      The old Alfa Spider ‘Duetto’ also has everything nicely welded up which leads to enormous costs for all metalwork around the front of the car.

  2. Nice, in general. If you’d have asked me to guess its country of origin, I would’ve said France. A few more quibbles, though. Firstly, I wouldn’t fancy objects falling on to my legs / feet / the pedal area from the open front compartment through the gap where the dashboard would’ve been. Secondly, there’s the question of all that exploding glass (plastic?) in a frontal collision. Lastly, I know it’s a concept, but how are the front and rear screens cleaned?

    1. Jolly good questions – the wiper location is the hardest but nets might be the answer to the stowage problem. At least with this prototype one can see the problems to solve them.

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