Last revised: 26-1-2009

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AutoRAI 2005: the concept cars

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Alfa_Romeo_8C_Competizione_2003Alfa Romeo wasn't officially represented on the AutoRAI but the factory sent a recent concept car for a special sportscar display. It was named the 8C Competizione and showed a lot of cues reminiscent of Alfa Romeo's illustrious past all combined in an attractive 2-seater coupe design.
The 8C Competizione was first presented at the 2003 Frankfurt Motorshow. It was completely designed by Alfa Romeo's own Centro Stile, though they seem to have borrowed freely from the legacy of coach builders like Zagato and Scaglione. Still, the result is well proportioned and balanced and very pleasing to the eye. Despite its classic roots it doesn't appear old fashioned but rather timeless.
Where most concept cars are aimed at the future this one tries to reconnect with the past, which is remarkable but not a bad idea. It shows that the evolution of classic design elements can be just as valuable for creating an attractive car as innovative new ideas.

Alfa_Romeo_8C_Competizione_2003The 8C Competizione may appear like a typical small Italian sportscar but it's actually quite sizeable. It's 1.90 m wide, 4.28 m long and has a height of 1.25 m, which comes close to the measurements of a shortened Maserati Coupe GT. The 20 inch wheels under the flared wheel arches however give the car a compact, hunched up look like it's ready to jump forward.
Weight is reduced by extensive use of carbon fiber in the construction of the car. Power to match the potent looks of the car is provided by a 4.2-litre supercharged V8 which produces more than 400 hp @ 7000 rpm. It drives the rear wheels through a 6-speed transverse gearbox and renders the car a top speed of over 300 kph and a 0-100 kph acceleration time in 4.5 seconds.
Its looks and dynamic specifications guaranteed that it was well received by both press and car enthusiasts all over the world. This encouraged Alfa Romeo to contemplate a limited production run of the 8C Competizione. Ultimately these plans fell through though, because on one hand it might have overshadowed Alfa's new production coupe named Brera (based on an earlier sports coupe concept) and on the other it could have intruded on the territory of the afore-mentioned Maserati Coupe GT, which is a product of the same concern. Chances are this could be regarded as a missed opportunity since Alfa Romeo may need all the image builders it can get to ensure its future.

Audi_RSQ_2004Image building of a different kind is done by Audi. Decidedly avant-garde, the Audi RSQ concept was introduced at the New York Autoshow in 2004 as an elaborate stage property for the movie "I, Robot" which was released that same year. This science fiction movie is set in the year 2035 and the RSQ was to be the main transport for the leading actor.
With these given criteria and of course the fact that the appearance of this car in the movie should generate some positive publicity for Audi, the design staff at Audi set out to create a mid-engined coupe of the future. A hard point in the design seems to have been the "single frame" grille which also appeared on the regular Audi models for the new model year. Otherwise the sketch pens have drawn freely, incorporating typical Audi styling with dramatic flowing shapes.

Audi_RSQ_2004Some special features of this design are its "butterfly" doors, which open at the front and swivel upward to the rear giving the impression of wings, and its wheels in the form of spheres. These features look great but are hardly serious since its difficult to explain why these things will be considered practical in 30 years time.
There doesn't seem to have been much of a philosophy behind this design, besides that it had to look like a futuristic Audi. This is sort of refreshing for a change, since most concepts are accompanied by bombastic visions and theories. This is more of a styling exercise which must have been fun for the people involved, with sort of a dynamic sculpture as a result. Nice to look at and to display, but not really relevant as a concept.

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