BMW Debuts Fabric-Covered Car
The automotive industry has long borrowed technology from the aerospace industry. Head-up displays, space frame construction, "drive by wire" controls and lightweight materials all first showed up on modern aircraft. Now BMW is turning back the clock a century or so. Just like a WWW I-era biplane, the BMW GINA Light Visionary concept car is fabric-skinned. The water-resistant material is stretched over a lightweight frame that can change its shape as you drive in a process that's visually akin to Bruce Banner's transformation into the Hulk. There are no visible gaps in the car's "body" except the door openings, the headlight covers open like cat's eyes, the taillights shine through the fabric and the engine is accessed through what looks like a surgical incision in the "hood." In the video, designer Chris Bangle [s]babbles on[/s] waxes eloquent about "a philosophy that says 'let's do things differently'" and "context over dogma" (whatever that means). It's a cool concept, Chris, but enough is enough. Why not just shut up for once and (as you suggest) "let the material do the talking?"
And during a collision what would happen? I have visions of a driver getting killed when they run over a dog.
Aesthetically, I think this model is a great success. I've always liked how the Z4 looked, and in fact I've liked a lot of Bangle's designs for BMW. They catch your eye, one way or the other. As for actual application, there are some (not insurmountable) hitches. My concern is, how secure is a car that's covered in easy-to-cut fabric? Feasible or not, it really does look quite good, Bangle creases and all. The eyes are a nice touch. I'm thinking of all the potential body changes that could be executed on the fly. A new, lighter, better era for car design?
I would buy that car for any amount of money. That is quite simply the coolest concept car I've ever seen.
For those worried about collisions, keep in mind that such vehicle could have a very strong steel frame beneath the fabric as most fabric covered airplanes do. NASCAR race cars are some of the safest cars you'll ever find, but their bodies are extremely light and flimsy. It's the safety cage that lies beneath that gives the car strength and structural integrity. For those worried about speed, there have been very many fast fabric airplanes such as the previously discussed Bellanca Viking. It often cruises at speeds faster than most BMW's would ever see, even on a track with no problems to the skin. The P-51's that race at Reno are some of the very fastest piston-powered machines ever built, land or air, and they have fabric covered control surfaces.