Unusual Vehicles is a segment that looks at abnormal vehicles and how they have turned the tide on convention and instructed innovation. The BMW GINA was a project designed by a team lead by Chris Bangle, the former head of design at BMW.
A one of a kind concept car, it was made specifically to challenge existing principles and processes. We will be taking a look at this shape-shifting, fabric-skinned sports car and seeing what makes it so unique.
The very idea of a concept car is intended to steer creativity and research into new directions. They give their designers the perfect opportunity to let their imaginations run wild. The BMW GINA was a strange and innovative creation even in a field known for its outlandish results.
Started in 2001, many aspects of the BMW GINA’s design are said to have served as a base for numerous upcoming BMW models. It’s engine for example was started with the simple push of a button, a feature that became an industry standard in all modern BMWs. From angular sleep headlights to heavily sculpted hoods many of BMW’s current design cues are inspired by GINA.
The main and most innovative aspect of the concept car though was it’s exterior. It was covered in a seamless fabric, polyurethane-coated spandex, stretched over its metal frame. This made it possible for the driver to manipulate and change the car’s shape.
The shape-shifting car
The man-made fabric skin that coated the car was incredibly flexible, stretchable and water resistant. It was extremely durable and resilient and movement did not damage or slacken the fabric.
If the car’s aerodynamic needs were to change, its body could shape-shift and adapt to the changing conditions, controlled by electric and hydraulic actuators. A driver could change various aspects of the vehicle’s structure with ease, from widening fenders to making the spoiler larger. The shape of the body could be altered without damaging the fabric, and the skin could even be pulled back to reveal the car’s headlights in an eyelid like fashion.
The driver could therefore have a completely new experience each time they handled the car. It was specifically designed to adapt completely to suit the driver’s needs. This created a dynamic interaction between driver and car for varying situations.
A design to influence the future
The BMW GINA was constructed with the idea of providing all the safety aspects of a conventional car, but due to the fabric body not meeting regulations it would never have been made available for mass production.
It was a project designed to tap into future potential and push the boundaries of appearance, materials and functional processes. The BMW Museum in Munich still houses the GINA Light Visionary Model, so you can still catch a glimpse of its influencing innovation.