We know that most concept cars are purely inspiration-fuel. There's no chance they're ever going to be built, unless we somehow morph into a society populated only by millionaires with daring taste and no luggage. But others are simply novel — and plausible — ideas. Like Ford's Aurora II wagon of 1969.
There was, of course, an Aurora I concept, and we'll cover that in more detail at some point, too. It was a far more dramatic and forward-thinking concept car, like most concepts. But the Aurora II was, for a concept, remarkably achievable, which is why I wanted to look at it today.
Fundamentally, it's just a normal, off-the-lot Ford Country Squire wagon, with wood panelling and everything. Growing up, I spent many, many hours rolling around the back of my family's 1973 Country Squire. I know those cars well, which I think is why this concept so appeals to me.
The Aurora II takes the large wagon of the era and really re-evaluates how it can best be used. The two rows of big bench seats aren't really the best use of that interior space, are they? They just chop the interior of the car up into two stubby little half-rooms, using the same basic rules of cramming people into carsthat railcars have been using since the 1850s. There's got to be a better way, right?
And I think the Aurora II did find a better way. Perhaps inspired by the flexible interiors of cars like the Stout Scarab, the Aurora II sacrifices driver's side rear access for a nice large pair of suicide doors on the passenger's side. Without a dividing B-pillar, the doors reveal a vast, unbroken space.
The rear bench has grown into a wraparound couch that curves and follows the other side of the car, leaving a nice large open area in the middle. The passenger's seat has become a Captain's Chair, and can swivel to engage the seating area in the back of the car, instead of being locked down, uselessly staring out the windshield.
The result was a car interior that felt like a room interior, and was airy and inviting and fun. The rear luggage area appears to be padded and upholstered as well, for more seating, but the real action is in this swank white-leather lounge lurking behind the woodgrain.
Long trips in a wagon like this would have been so much more relaxing and fun, especially in the seat-beltless era this was designed. Little tables could have been mounted in the middle there, for example, for playing high-stakes road Canasta or having a chili eating contest or whatever.
The layout really isn't that different from what's used in many stretch limos today, and there's a reason the little mobile-room concept has such lasting appeal: it's fun.
Even with accounting for the unibody strengthening that would have to happen to lose one of the B-pillars, this still seems like something Ford could have offered as a pricey-but-exciting option package on their wagons. Maybe it could have been the County Duke specification or something.
I'm not sure if safety regulations have killed novel seating arrangements like this, but I'd love to see some of these ideas come back, especially for roomy, one-box smaller cars like the Scion xB or Kia Soul, or even crossovers like the Honda Element. We talk a lot about the joy of driver's cars here, and I do love those, but there's plenty of room for some interesting cars focused on the passengers, too.
An Aurora II could be a fun conversion for an old County Squire. Who knows a really good upholsterer who works for basically free? And has a crapload of white leather?