The concept cars at this year’s Los Angeles Auto Show were, for the most part, pretty tame. Sure, there were a few futuristic things, but they mostly followed those unspoken rules of pretend-future car design, like huge wheels and gullwing doors and a sleek, cyber-suppository shape. Mercedes showed one that was different, mostly because it was based on a car design that’s well over a century old.
The concept, um, sculpture—because, let’s be honest here, this thing isn’t really a car, and it’s not actually capable of driving or anything—is called Vision Mercedes Simplex, and isn’t named for the popular STD, but rather for the Mercedes Simplex series of cars that were produced from 1902 to 1909.
The Simplex series was notable for its then-revolutionary architecture that placed the engine lower in the frame than many contemporary designs, creating a lower center of gravity and allowing much improved handling.
This is the first time this concept has been shown in North America, and it’s interesting to see it up close. There’s a lot of playful re-imagining going on here, like a huge color LCD screen in place of the radiator, and what I suppose are in-wheel hub electric motors, or at least the hint that’s what would be there, if this was real.
I like this thing because it reminds me of the outlandish show rods of the 1960s and 1970s, and, let’s be honest, the automotive industry can use more of that.