Collapsible tables, camping chairs and even bicycles have long proved their versatility in situations where space is at a premium. But now Swiss company Rinspeed design have taken the concept to a whole new level with the Rinspeed Presto collapsible car, a compact two-seater roadster that can 'grow' itself into a four-seater with the push of a button.
The key to this miraculous transformation is a centrally located electric motor that is geared to stretch the vehicle from a length of 3 meters to 3.7 meters using low-friction precision rollers to expand the main longitudinal struts of the steel chassis.
When returning to Roadster mode, this slides back into the floor pan 'like a drawer' and the process is clearly visible from the Remus side pipes which track along grooves on the side panels of the Pre-Preg-Composite plastic body - a strong, lightweight material rarely used in car design because of its prohibitive cost.
The use of side pipes also simplified the engineering challenges faced in re-routing the exhaust system to cater for the Presto's transformation.In either guise the Rinspeed offers a range off innovative features including a video system integrated into the taillights that gives the driver a second set of eyes via a display in the rear-view mirror, a wireless remote control anti-theft immobilising and tracing device, and unconventional LED lights that display the words 'stop' and 'turn' to other motorists.
But one of the most impressive aspects of the Presto is under the bonnet - the modified Mercedes-Benz engine is a four-cylinder, 1.7-liter common-rail turbo diesel engine configured to run on a 40:60 mixture of natural gas and diesel fuel, delivering up to a 10 percent reduction in the emission of nitrous oxides and carbon dioxide and up to a 40 percent reduction in particle emissions compared with the production engine.
Fuel consumption is also boosted by around 10 percent and the dual-fuel engine still puts out 120 hp at 4,200 rpm and can reach speeds up to180 km/h.
The short front and rear overhangs and lack of any spoiler or bumper in the conventional sense, coupled with the familiar headlights from the Mercedes C-Class sports coupe, give the highly manoeuvrable Presto a friendly appearance, and the sporty open top design serves a dual purpose - it enhances your weekend expeditions in the countryside and compensates for the one compromise in the design: there are no doors.