Happy Thanksgiving! I'm deeply thankful for many, many things in my life — my wife, my son, my job, my magnetic pancreas, and, of course, thankful that Turkey once built some really weird cars. Because today, on the day we devour turkeys by the truckload, I can make this tenuous connection to the country of Turkey.
The Turkish car I want to make sure we're all thinking about today as our great aunts lurch into yet another virulently racist tirade is the Anadol Böcek.
Anadol was Turkey's second attempt to produce cars, and the first that actually worked. Founded in 1966, Anadol's offerings were based on designs from Britian's Reliant, makers of the notorious Robin and my own beloved Scimitar. Reliant built cars with simple ladder-frame chassis and fiberglass bodies, which made them ideal templates for countries just starting up their motor industries. Reliant had previously helped Israel start their motorcar industry in a similar fashion with the Autocars company, and the Reliant-designed Sabra.
Anadol, of course, has its own rich history, but I want to focus on one model in particular, the Böcek, which means "bug" in Turkish. I want to focus on this one, limited-production model (only 203 were built between 1975-1977) because it's so wonderfully, unashamedly bonkers.
The Böcek started out from a request by the Turkish Military for a rugged, general purpose vehicle. This is the same sort of request that gave the world the Jeep and the Kubelwagen (and later the VW Thing), so I'm all in favor of militaries asking for useful little cars. In a utopia, that would be a military force's primary job.
Anadol realized that a rugged military vehicle could easily become a rugged fun vehicle, and Turkey's growing leisure and tourist industries were generating good demand for such a car. The job of designing the beast fell to Jan Nahum, who made news most recently when one of his (interestingly Böcek-like in many ways) taxi designs was chosen as a finalist for the NYC Taxi of Tomorrow competition.
Nahum's design was really like nothing else produced, then or now. The mechanicals were fairly mundane, related to Anadol's Reliant roots: tough, simple square-section chassis with a Ford Kent 1.3L, 63 HP engine. Basic versions were RWD, though "offroad" and "military" versions were built that may have had 4WD.
(I think this video is a local Turkish news segment about a man who loves Böceks. If anyone knows Turkish, please feel free to let us know if that's right. Thanks!)
Of course, the body design is really what made the Böcek special. It was dune buggy inspired, sure, but it was a very modern, radical take on the dune buggy theme. Agresively angular, the side body profile of the car was essentially an angular line that sort of resembles a skinny robot in repose. The rear part of this side panel continues across the width of the body to form the rear rollbar/window frame. There's no doors, and the angle of the hood continues unbroken into the windshield.
The whole rear bumper/tail section of the car appears to be a separate, floating unit, and the car as a whole is dramatically asymmetrical: the grille openings vary in size from right to left, and the taillights differ at the rear, with one made of three light units, and the other of only two.
Inside, there's four upholstered fiberglass seats and an interesting floating instrument pod, with a full-width dash/storage area in front of it.
The end result is, I think, incredible. A Böcek would look at home searching for water on the surface of Mars as it would with a surfboard on its roof prowling the streets of Venice, CA. Sadly, it's about as rare in either place.
It's safe to say an Anadol Böcek is on my sadly long, long list of cars I'd love to own but very likely never will. Though, the inherently simple nature of its construction gives me hope that something like it could become an interesting kit car for some of the few remaining body-on-frame cars. Maybe an upscaled version for American tastes on a Crown Vic platform? A V8 RWD dune buggy that looks like it came from Mars?
Damn, somebody turn on their Kickstarter machine! This'll be huge.