Seymourpowell’s Lean Auto design concept

The middle class buys ready-made costumes. The wealthy have tailors who create bespoke clothing. It was the same with car purchases a century ago; the masses bought Model Ts, while the wealthy bought a “rolling chassis” (including engine and mechanical bases) from an automaker, then hired a coachbuilder to drop in a custom body and interior .

To give you a visual example: All the metal in the photo below is from the car manufacturer. Anything you see in wood would have been created (and possibly finished) by the coachbuilder.

Image: Triple-green – Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0

The bodybuilder would also add the bodywork. The finished product would look like this:

A custom 1930 Bentley. Image: El Caganer/Craig Howell – Flickr, CC BY 2.0

As mass-produced cars improved, coachbuilders became largely obsolete. Design consultancy Seymourpowell, however, foresees a return to this type of system, prompted by the rise of electric vehicle platforms. As we saw with Israeli startup REE, a manufacturer can produce an EV “skateboard” on which another manufacturer can drop a body, providing an opportunity for designers.

“The rebirth of body building in the modern age,” says Jonny Culkin, designer of Seymourpowell Transport, “will enable customers to own vehicles that express their individual identities, values ​​and desires through all touchpoints. of the vehicle.” To illustrate this point, they designed this Slim concept. The idea is that they could start with something like this…

… and arrive at this:

“Reflecting the mass platform sharing used by some of the largest automotive groups such as Volkswagen and Stellantis, Slim the cars are supported by an electric skateboard chassis, on which different interior layouts and body shells can be applied and 3D printed without manufacturing delay. Batteries can be moved to mimic front or mid-engine layouts, while crash tests can be performed virtually and suspension configurations by algorithm.”

It’s a pointed example for sure. What Seymourpowell doesn’t mention is whether this new era of body building will once again be the domain of the rich alone, although Seymourpowell’s head of transport design, Jeremy White, says, “We’re digitizing and democratizing both the building process and the ideas around car ownership more generally, thinking about how people will interact with driving in the future.”

If you have a project from last year that you are proud of, take a few minutes to send it to the Core77 Design Awards 2022. We have 18 practice categories, and for this year we have a special sustainability award for all projects that have a beneficial environmental impact. See for details and times.

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