It is common to want to reinvent yourself. This idea that the key to a happier life rests in making a couple of drastic surface-based changes to one’s appearance has held its place in popular culture since the dawn of human judgment. In its best form, and probably also its worst, it has served as the go-to movie trope for the ‘girl-with-glasses-becomes-hot-when-she-takes-off-her-glasses’ genre that dominated the late 90s and early millennium. Yet, those movies were often shallow, misleading, and failed to accurately represent both the reality of trying something new and the staying power of Freddie Prince Jr’s celebrity.
The truth in taking a chance on making a change is far muddier than Kelly Clarkson’s seminal hit ‘Breakaway’ would lead you to believe, because sometimes the point gets missed. The Auto Industry showcases some of the best examples of what can result from thinking so far outside of the box that you land in a separate, functionally broken, egg-shaped box. And for some reason, it has suicide doors.
While no one can blame the industry for attempting to innovate, we can certainly wait until they leave the room and make snarky comments about their failures, and, believe me, there are a lot of examples. So, let’s just jump right in. Or, depending on the concept car, awkwardly side-waddle our way in.
Dodge Deora (1965)
Based on the design of the compact Dodge A100 pickup, the Dodge Deora was a heavily customized offshoot for the brand that was originally developed for the 1967 Detroit Autorama, also known as “America’s Greatest Hot Rod Show”. Believe it or not, the vehicle garnered numerous awards, including the highly-prestigious Ridler, given to the vehicle deemed best in show. If you’re able to look past the vehicle’s ‘unique’ body shape, the Deora had an impressively swanky interior, including black leather, woodgrain accents, and a steering wheel that mounted on a swingarm so that it could be moved out of the way when entering and exiting the vehicle. The Deora’s also holds a separate place in history as one of the first major players in developing the Hot Wheels brand, releasing as one of their first toys in 1968.
Honda Fuya-Jo (1999)
The Honda Fuya-Jo, which means “Sleepless City” was introduced in 1999. Presented as a party on wheels, the historical context suits it, in assuming that people weren’t sure we’d find our way into the year 2000. Honda’s designers were keeping in mind that 1999 may, in fact, be our final year to party. Occupants of the vehicle were made to stand while operating the Fuya-Jo, and one Honda PR rep described the ride as a “short yet tall 4-seater that induces the same kind of experience as riding skateboards or roller blades, or dancing in clubs.” Clearly focused towards grabbing the attention of the youth market, the Fuya-Jo was met with a mixture of confusion and strange admiration, ironically never making its way into the new millennium that it was trying to cater itself to.
Honda Unibox (2001)
The Honda Unibox came two years after the Fuya-Jo, announced at the 2001 Tokyo Motor Show. The Unibox was a tall van, powered by a front-drive hybrid powertrain. Fitted with transparent polycarbonate panels, the odd box left nothing inside to the imagination. The vehicle did have its perks. The Unibox could be completely stripped down to its skeleton to be customized as you like, and included two electric, fold-up motorcycles attached to the back seat.
Ford SYNus (2005)
The Ford Synus (gesundheit) debuted in 2005, and intended to maximize safety with a visual aesthetic derived from modern bank vaults and LEGO headlights. The idea was to create a vehicle with a tough exterior and a soft interior. Initially, it was referred to as the Armadillo, the name was eventually changed to the SYNus. It had no rear window and instead displayed a video feed on a large LCD monitor installed in the back of the car’s interior. Representatives referred to the vehicle as an ‘urban sanctuary’ due to its bullet-resistant windows and frame, in addition to its ‘lockdown mode’ which allowed the car seats to be configured to face rearwards for escaping from the hectic nature of city living.
Nissan Land Glider (2009)
Created to align with Nissan’s mandate to develop new zero-emissions vehicles for urban use, the Land Glider comes straight out of some alternate reality where Minority Report happened. With electric power and seating for two, the Land Glider sought to reinvent the way we drive with the introduction of the cornering system. The wheels were not attached to the steering system by any physical components, being powered purely by electricity, and handling turns in the same way a motorcycle would, by tilting your body and the vehicle itself. Sitting at just 47 inches wide, Nissan almost brought this car to global production, but little has been said or done for the Land Glider in the time since its introduction.
Bonus: Toyota FT-4X Concept (2017)
While the verdict is still out on whether the FT-4X will find its way into global production, the casual core, rugged …charm… crossover is targeted to millennial city dwellers. Toyota says the FT-4X was developed to answer the growing urge to escape, focusing on simplicity, capability, durability, and lineage. Described as compact and sturdy – the functional grips, handles, and controls are a bit too expressive for my liking. I honestly believe that this vehicle was created for Tom Cruise’s next action flick.
The great thing about concept cars is that they have no expiration date. There will never be a time when auto manufacturers aren’t attempting to develop the next trend within the industry, and for consumers, it’s a win-win situation. If the companies succeed, drivers get to receive the benefits of a more carefree experience on the road. If they fail, we get to point and laugh and thank our lucky stars that we aren’t the ones that are expected to innovate. One can only imagine what kinds of concept cars we will be seeing in 2020, and the made-up shapes they will be formed into. Here’s to hoping the Honda Squarcle is only a mile down the road.
What is your favorite ‘oddomobile?’ Let us know in the comments!