There’s no doubt about it, Rinspeed is one of the strangest small carmakers out there. Every few years they resurface with a crazy new concept car, then disappear back into obscurity without a trace. The company is the brainchild of Swiss designer Frank Rinderknecht, and it’s actually been in business since 1977. The brand started off as an accessories company before turning to the tuning and concept car markets, often working with partner companies to come up with their ideas.
Over the years, Rinspeed has made some of the most unbelievable concept cars ever, from a scuba-diving Lotus to a self-driving sports car with a drone mounted on the back. After more than forty years in the business, they still seem to be going strong, even if many of their concepts are way too crazy to ever be put into production. Let’s take a dive into the archives and revisit some of their most baffling creations.
From the front, this Porsche 911-based concept doesn’t look too strange but take a look at the rear and things get weird. It’s designed to transform from a four-seater “all-road” style wagon to a two-seater pickup at the push of a button.
Its transformation would reportedly take less than ten seconds and enable drivers to have the benefit of instantly switching between carrying cargo and passengers. It’s an interesting idea for sure, but its complicated setup and divisive looks meant that the idea never caught on with a major manufacturer.
Out of all the company’s cars featured here, the Σtos looks the most normal. That was a deliberate choice from Rinspeed, as the car was designed to showcase how seamlessly the latest autonomous technology can be combined with modern styling.
The car includes features like a steering wheel that disappears into the dashboard on demand, making extra room for the occupants when the Σtos is in autonomous mode. A rear-mounted DJI drone adds a dose of wackiness to the concept, and according to Rinspeed’s website, it’s a useful addition as it can, “quickly pick up a bouquet of flowers for the significant other ordered on the way home”. Because of course, it can.
The Rone, or R-One as it’s sometimes referred to, is an innovative concept in several ways. For starters, it was apparently the lowest sports car in the world upon its debut, with a total height of just 97 cm (38″). It also ran on biofuel, a novel idea back in 2001 but one that’s now becoming more widely adopted across the auto industry.
It takes design inspiration from F1 and Le Mans racers but offers what Rinspeed calls, “guilt-free pleasure”, thanks to the eco-credentials of the car’s powertrain. As crazy as it looks, the underlying ideas behind the car were undoubtedly ahead of their time, proving Rinspeed is about more than just building the wackiest machine possible. Well, sometimes they are at least.
5 X-Trem MUV
The company might have produced a few truly visionary cars in its time but it’s also had its fair share of howlers, and this is one of them. The X-Trem Multi Utility Vehicle was meant to be a mashup of useful and futuristic design innovations but, put simply, it’s aged like milk.
It featured a small cargo bed with a miniature crane that would supposedly make loading truck beds easier, but the idea never caught on. There was also the “world’s smallest hovercraft” loaded into the rear of the truck to demonstrate how drivers could make short commutes in the future. It’s also arguably one of the ugliest vehicles Rinspeed has ever produced, which might explain why it was never taken very seriously when it was unveiled in 1999.
If your first question looking at the picture above is, “who drowned that Lotus?”, you wouldn’t be alone. But, the Squba concept is in fact in its natural habitat, up to 10 meters underwater where it can be driven and steered like a submarine. It was also a fully functional road car, so it could be taken on scuba dives and then be driven straight home again.
This real-life James Bond-looking creation was made possible thanks to a combination of electric motors, water jets, and screw propellers, plus extensive work to make sure the Squba was kept completely watertight. It’s pretty astonishing that they even managed to make the idea work at all, even if all those motors and modifications mean the cost of producing one was probably an eye-watering figure.
While the Presto concept is certainly unique, it’s an answer to a problem that no one really needed solving. Its defining feature is the ability to make itself longer and provide room for an extra row of seats, then fold back up to become a compact city car when those seats are no longer in use.
It’s a great bit of engineering, but it begs the question of who would ever actually need a car like this. After all, even in the most crowded cities like Tokyo, carmakers have come up with much cheaper and easier ways of cramming four seats into a tiny vehicle by making kei cars. The Presto’s sliding body might be a good novelty trick, but it’s a pretty pointless one.
The bizarrely-named Tatooo.com concept was created at the height of the dot-com bubble when the world was going crazy about the possibilities that the newly-developed internet could offer. Strangely enough, the concept has almost nothing to do with the internet, despite being named after a website.
Instead, the Tatooo.com featured a reworked version of the pickup bed loading crane that was seen in the previous year’s X-Trem MUV and a motorized underwater scooter called B.O.B. that was supposed to let beginner divers move faster through the water. Why was all this included on the back of a hot-rod-inspired pickup truck concept? Who knows, but the car picked up some big-name sponsors, including tire company Continental and tech giant Sony.
One of Rinspeed’s maddest ever inventions has to be the Splash, a concept that was supposedly designed as a sports car that also included a full hydrofoil system should anyone need to drive it across a lake in a hurry. It came with both a regular car engine and a propeller that was borrowed from a speedboat, enabling it to drive on land, float on water, and also “fly” through the air as a hydrofoil.
It was no slouch either, as it was able to reach speeds of around 50 km/h (31 mph) while in hydrofoil mode. It’s both crazy and almost completely pointless, but it serves as proof that there are always innovations that can be made in car design even if they’re unconventional ones. It’s also surely evidence that Rinspeed will never run out of wacky ideas and will keep making mad cars in the future, which can only be a good thing.
There are certain supercars that everyone knows, but what about the ones that remain unheard of? Turns out they’re just as awesome!
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