As I’ve made abundantly clear over the years, I’m downright pervy when it comes to my car interests, filled as they are with all kinds of weird fetishy-levels of interest in very specific things: taillights, packaging, cabover designs and so on. One of my other fetishes in cars is extreme utility, especially with a bit of modularity and some healthy absurdity. Opel’s largely forgotten 1983 concept car, the Junior, checks these particular car-perv boxes with lurid abandon.
Based on the Opel Corsa, mechanically the Junior is pretty conventional for its time — a transverse 1.2-liter 55 horsepower engine driving the front wheels, like the production Corsa — but the body design is just jam-packed with interesting, novel ideas.
The overall exterior design is quite clean and streamlined, done in the early ’80s but very much predicting early 1990s car design. The aero of the car was quite good, with a Cd of 0.31. The car also featured a lower body of gray plastic, sort of presaging inexpensive supermini designs like the Ford Ka.
But where things really get nice and bonkers is in the interior. Where the exterior is smooth and rounded like a worn river stone, the interior is all modular and unabashedly machine-like, in that special 1980s stylish-modular-plastic style.
The design of the dash was based on a series of little cubical modules that could slot into electrical contacts on the dashboard’s central rail. The car would come at its base level with a speedo unit and a multi-gauge cluster unit, but you could add on a tachometer, radio, speakers, clock, HVAC controls, what looks like a smoker’s module with a lighter and ashtray, glove box and more.
You could arrange the instruments as you wanted, and the HVAC vents were on rubber bellows you could reposition to direct airflow wherever you wanted, at the windshield for defrosting or your own groin for dehumidifying.
The tach could be taken out and plugged into a port in the engine bay for use when tuning up the car. The clock could be removed to be used as an alarm clock, and it also, amazingly, seems to have had an electric razor embedded into it?
Opel even planned to have the radio and speaker units removable and to be assembled to form a little boom box, a concept Nissan actually executed with the Pao about six years later:
Look at those seats, too:
The strangely loose-looking covers on the seats were designed to be removable so they could be used as sleeping bags. And check out the mesh-like rear seatback in this sketch from none other than Chris Bangle:
It can somehow fold up to become a cargo divider, complete with a zippered portion to allow three seats and a long something stored in there.
There were plans for swappable roof panels, allowing for solid or glass panels or a canvas accordion-back roof, something I always think would be fun but never really shows up as often as I’d like on production cars.
There’s a nice video with the lead of the design team, Hideo Kodama, explaining what he liked about the concept:
All of this wonderful utility and modularity always seems to get stuck at the concept car stage. Do carmakers think people wouldn’t actually use this stuff, or is it just too complex to execute?
I’m not really certain, but I do know all of these sorts of Swiss Army car ideas have a huge amount of appeal for me, and if I had something like this I would delight in using every ridiculous little function as often as I could, just because.
Even if it meant shaving with a razor I pulled out of a clock on my dashboard.