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Future Freaks of Automotive Inbreeding
by Steve Siler

This year’s North American International Auto Show has given me a lot of material to think about over the past few months. We saw a lot of retro, a lot of innovation, but, most interestingly, a lot of hybridization of vehicles. And this latter trend promises to grow. The reason for this is that as cars become more expensive and technologically advanced, we expect more from them: more room, more power, more style.

Look no further than your own garage for proof. No longer do we have the ’70s- or ’80s-style two- or three-car garage that features, say, a stylish sedan to drive to the office, a van to take the kids around, and a spunky sports car for weekends. Now we find our driveways bearing perhaps a performance sedan, fulfilling both the commuter and sports car roles, while in the other spot a sport utility takes the family-hauler and weekend-warrior recreation duties.

Whether we know it or not, we are already driving hybrid vehicles, the results of automotive inbreeding that can only get weirder. So let me propose some more.

Mercedes-Benz SL-Camino: Inspired by the great “pickup cars” of the ’60s and ’70s, Mercedes could wave its magic wand and produce a sassy and luxurious variation on the car-truck hybrid theme. A folding, re-tractable hardtop would be a nice touch and would certainly bring it into the M-B family with flair. Using the wide-eyed CLK coupe front end as a start, I think we may have something here. Don’t rule out the possibility of a big-block SS model with a hood-mounted tachometer and racing stripes. Cool, dude.

The Oldsmobile Aurora-BOREalis: No, that’s not a typo but rather just a hint of what lies under the hood of this potential super-sedan. A response to the existing Ferrari-humbling E55 Mercedes-Benz and BMW M5, Oldsmobile’s offering would (somehow) marry the swoopy and luxurious Aurora body to a bored-out version of the legendary 454 (7.4-liter) engine currently found in GM’s big trucks. Get it? Big bore? Anyway, let’s say about 8.0 liters? Sounds good. How about 500 horsepower? Do I hear 600? With that kind of output, not only would the E55 and M5 crowd be left behind, but so would most anything else on the road. It picks up where the ’87 Buick GNX left off — hell, it would pick up where Lamborghini leaves off.

The Chevrolet Disturban: Chevy’s Disturban would be a new, super-sport-utility vehicle that would more than leapfrog the new 19-foot Ford Excursion in size and annoyability. This truck, I’d say, would have to be at least 25 feet long and eight feet wide to ensure that it would not be driveable or parkable, anywhere, without greatly disturbing traffic. Hence the name. And just forget seeing around this thing. No one but the most emasculated men and women need apply for the necessary Class A tractor license required to purchase this beast. And consider the possible Disturban Amphurban spinoff model that can not only go off-road (if you can find a trail wide enough) but also blaze through waterways in waves up to ten feet. The ultimate off-roader. It’ll have HUMMERS winching for their lives.

The Audi-Do: Being yet another car-truck-wagon-sport-utility multi-brid, the hypothetical Audi-Do stands apart most notably by its programmability. It’s the veritable Rubik’s Cube of vehicles that you can program, via its mobile-office control module (read: driver’s seat), to be all kinds of vehicles in one: It can serve as a classy techno-sedan or grow a rear deck and rise a few inches to become a conventional sport ute, then fold itself origami-style into a pickup truck, and then shed its skin and office supplies to become a minimalist roadster when the sun comes out. Note: If anybody can pull off this kind of vehicle, design-savvy Audi can.

The BMW Tree-Series: An environmentalist’s best friend, the BMW Tree-Series would be based, of course, on the 3-Series, but would be powered not by gas, but by, say, high-efficiency batteries that are rechargeable by running on a treadmill at home. Most parts would be recycled from other cars, while innovations would include seat fabrics made from recycled paper and a direct link of the GPS system to Greenpeace’s local activist center. An integrated peace sign would replace BMW’s traditional blue-and-white propeller badge for the first time in corporate history.

The Mercury Cougart: Forget the oddly named Mercury concept car shown this year in Detroit; the even more oddly named Cougart is the hybrid they need to make, and just in time for those summer shopping binges. Mercury could simply graft on a stake-bed-like rear deck to its cute little Cougar sports car and presto! A vehicle that would all but live at the mall. Imagine all of the groceries, clothes, and furniture that could easily fit into the bed of this tight-handling, super-size shopping cart. And if the right materials are used, the stake-bed approach could enhance rear-end collision and rollover protection. Interesting thought, eh? So are you listening, automakers? Fusion is fun! There’s so much to discover beyond the hybrid horizon. I just can’t wait to see what’s next.

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