October 25, 2005 The concept of cars designed to be reconfigurable for multiple purposes has long been one we've shown great fondness for at Gizmag. Our automotive section is full of interesting twists and concepts based on existing chassis and the latest concept to come out of BMW-owned Mini is one that will appeal to a lot of people. After the success of the MINI Concept Frankfurt at the Frankfurt Motor Show, MINI launched a new interpretation of the classic Mini Traveller at the Tokyo Motor Show that reflects the Japanese appreciation for all things British.
Forty-five years after the launch of the Mini Traveller in September 1960, MINI is proudly presenting the MINI Concept Tokyo at the 2005 Tokyo Motor Show, a design study taking up the basic philosophy of the “travelling” Englishman at the beginning of the 21st century under the motto “Go British” in contemporary style. And indeed – the appearance, style, and look of this Concept Car with numerous design details already lauded as genuine icons is typical of MINI all the way.
Numerous innovations both inside and outside are also characteristic of MINI design, for example wide-opening doors with parallelogram kinematics, a coupé-like look without a B-pillar, exclusive silver metallic paintwork and exquisite materials within the interior. So MINI Concept Tokyo bears reference to the classic traveller in every respect, also through its elegant Estate design, a symmetrically split double door at the rear, and split side windows at the back of the car.
The overall look of the car is firm, taut and muscular. The wheel arches, the shoulder line and powerdome, in turn, are striking and almost spectacular, the air intake on the engine compartment lid and the twin tailpipes both typical of the MINI Cooper S accentuating the car’s sporting look. In its design, the MINI Concept Tokyo is a clear statement – the car has character, it looks powerful and elegant all in one, and, through its higher roof, it also accentuates its fun-ctional benefits.
Intelligent MINI Features in the Concept of the Car
An important aspect in developing MINI Concept Tokyo was to make entering and loading the car as simple and straightforward as possible. Precisely this is why all four doors (driver/front passenger/rear doors) come with suspension points and hinges with parallelogram kinematics swivelling in parallel to the side and to the front in one single movement, thus offering maximum access to the interior of the car.
The sliding side windows at the rear open electrically, the front section moving back parallel beneath the rear section. Thanks to the omission of the B-pillar, MINI Concept Tokyo generates a particularly generous, coupé-like impression. The long wheelbase and the Easy Entry System with swivelling driver and front passenger seats, in turn, provides good and convenient access to the two seats at the rear, and the windows in both rear doors retract electrically.
Intelligent Cargo Roof for Consistent Use of Space
MINI Concept Tokyo offers new options and flexibility for all eventualities wher-ever you may go, even on the roof: The cargo roof houses both a table and two chairs, with the appropriate section of the roof folding down when required from outside in front of the rear window.
Cargo Box in the Luggage Compartment
The loading area in MINI Concept Tokyo comes complete with an adjustable Cargo Box with various functions integrated in the floor of the car. Extending out to the rear, the cover on top of the Box also serves as a loading aid. And swivelling up when required, the transparent cover on the Cargo Box also serves as a partition between the passenger area and the loading compartment. Sports Utility Box Serving as a Multifunctional Storage Facility
The Sports Utility Box is a multifunctional storage compartment fitting conveniently into the opening created by the rear side windows when opened. All you do is hook in the Sports Utility Box from outside, with its lower section resting on the side window opening. Flaps allow convenient loading and un-load-ing both from outside and from the passenger compartment, also making it easy to pass through objects from one side to the other.
Floating Elements Characterising the Car’s Interior Design
The Floating Elements Concept is full of surprises right from the start, keeping the floor of the car completely free and uncluttered and creating a generous and open impression. Only the central “island” forming the centre console covers the foot area, with the seats appearing to hover in space suspended from the centre support. The dashboard with its rotating Centre Speedo also appearing to hover in space accentuates this particular impression. The rear-seat backrests, in turn, fold down individually, forming a flat surface flush with the floor of the luggage compartment.
Forty-Five Years of the Mini Traveller
The four-door Mini with an extra-large luggage compartment made its debut in September 1960 in the guise of the Austin Seven Countryman and, respectively, the Morris Mini Traveller. Indeed, the term “traveller” alone showed that this very special Mini Estate was targeted even back then at an active group of pur-chasers with genuine lifestyle.
Forty-five years after the debut of the Mini Traveller in September 1960, MINI, taking up the motto of this year’s Tokyo Motor Show – “Driving Tomorrow” – is launching a design study with numerous innovative ideas: MINI Concept Tokyo interprets the basic philosophy of the “travelling” Englishman in new and very emotional style at the beginning of the 21st century, at the same time creating a powerful link to the original Mini and that unique British heritage.
Indeed, many features are somehow well-acquainted, but everything is new: The unique overall appearance of the car, its front and side view, as well as numerous design details which have long become genuine icons are typical of MINI. Various innovations both inside and outside are also characteristic of the brand, including wide opening doors with intelligent parallelogram kinematics as well as the coupé-like look of the car without a B-pillar.
Yet a further highlight of the Concept Car is its new silver metallic paintwork com-plete with exquisite materials within the interior. After all, MINI Concept Tokyo bears reference to its fore-father inter alia through the car’s elegant estate design, a symmetrically split double door at the rear, and split side windows for the passengers sitting at the back.
Like the original Mini Traveller, the 2005 Tokyo Motor Show MINI Concept Car is designed to offer four passengers everything they need for every kind of adventure. This is based on new ideas in using the car’s space and storage areas, ranging from the Cargo Box in the luggage compartment all the way to the freely hovering driver and front passenger seats.
The sporting look of MINI Concept Tokyo is further enhanced by the engine compartment lid hinged at the front, the wheel arches and radiator grille forming one homogeneous component free of seams or joints together with the engine compartment lid.
Like on a classic sports car, this entire unit swivels to the front and upwards when opened, the headlights remaining in position. Access to the engine compartment with the lid open is therefore perfect, allowing the beholder to admire sophisticated design and high-quality materials also within the engine compartment. The wheel arches and the entire area around the engine are painted consistently in Satellite Silver, with the power unit being presented almost the same way as in a display cabinet.
Travelling should not only be an experience in style, but also an enjoyable amenity in life. So to ensure perfect harmony of the car’s look and its drive power, MINI Concept Tokyo comes with the engine of the MINI Cooper S also clearly characterised by the additional air intake on the engine compartment lid and the twin tailpipes. Obviously, this gives the driver everything he needs for that go-kart feeling so typical of MINI – with its long wheelbase, wide track, short overhangs, and muscular engine.
Side and Rear Doors Opening with Parallelogram Kinematics.
More space inside the car obviously calls for better access from outside. So an important aspect in designing MINI Concept Tokyo was to make the process of entering and loading the car as easy and convenient as possible. Precisely for this reason, focusing on both the driver’s and front passenger’s doors, as well as the two rear doors, MINI is introducing a new philosophy significantly improving the process of entering and exiting the car as well as loading and unloading in confined space: All four doors come on intelligent suspension units with parallelogram kinematics, the doors swivelling only slightly to the side, but as far front as possible in one single movement. This minimises the space required around the car for opening the doors, while nevertheless giving the user generous access to the interior.
The Cargo Box – a Butler within the Luggage Compartment.
MINI Concept Tokyo offers more space for travelling in style whenever you like. The long wheelbase, for example, helps to increase the space available at the rear. An important factor contributing to driving characteristics typical of MINI is the characteristic position of the wheels with “one wheel at each corner of the car”.
To maintain this particular philosophy of MINI, MINI Concept Tokyo has the same short body overhangs as all other MINIs. The two wide-opening rear doors hinged at the sides, in turn, make loading the car very easy and convenient. The completely retracting windows on the rear doors again without a frame not only supply additional fresh air, but also ensure easy access to the luggage compartment, without having to even open the doors.
Behind these rear doors, MINI Concept Tokyo offers lots of space for taking up cargo in the luggage compartment and in the Cargo Box integrated into the floor of the car. Indeed, the Cargo Box is a very helpful “butler” in handling luggage both small and large. To ensure easy loading, the Cargo Box moves out conveniently at an angle from the luggage compartment – so that then you just place your shopping bags in the Box and let it move down again slowly into the rear section of the car.
A further useful amenity is the transparent cover on the Cargo Box swivelling up when required, and serving, first, as a partition between the passenger area and the loading compartment and, second, as a wind deflector with the rear door windows open. And last but not least, the entire cover on top of the Cargo Box opens by 180 degrees when required, coming to rest on the rear-seat backrests folded down. Then the cover can be pulled to the rear from this horizontal position, extending out between the rear doors for easy and convenient loading.
Intelligent Cargo Roof for Consistent Use of Space.
MINI Concept Tokyo offers new options even on the roof – for example to make sure you are perfectly prepared for, say, a spur-of-the-moment picnic while on the road. So whatever you happen to have in your picnic basket – delicious sushi, a tea party, or salt’n vinegar crisps – your table and two chairs are already on board, begging you to have a good time even before opening your bottle of champagne: All you do is pull out the rear section of the cargo roof in front of the rear window and remove the round table and two chairs integrated in the roof. To facilitate this process, the rear edge of the cargo roof is designed as a handle for easy operation. The cargo roof takes up and reflects the particular design of the engine compartment lid with its elevated arches at the side and the centre section rising up to the rear.
The Sports Utility Box: Take Along Whatever You Want.
Whether playing cricket, going out for tennis, or enjoying a day at the sea – you obviously need the right equipment to enjoy your time with friends and companions. And MINI Concept Tokyo makes all this very easy: Just hang the matching Sports Utility Box on to the rear side window when opened, put in anything you would like to take along, and that’s it! The Sports Utility Box is a multifunctional, interchangeable storage compartment made of stamped leatherette. In its length and height it is a perfect fit for the rear side window when opened, making this exactly the right place for the Sports Utility Box.
To fit the Box in position, all you do is open the vertically split window (with the front section moving back electrically) and hang the lower section of the Sports Utility Box in the window opening.
Flaps on both sides of the Sports Utility Box ensure easy and practical loading and unloading both from outside and from the passenger compartment, also making it easy to pass through all kinds of objects. The flat section of the box extends back outside the car all the way to the C-pillar. MINI Concept Tokyo allows convenient use of several Sports Utility Boxes at the same time, being fitted and used individually, depending on the user’s requirements.
British Green and Brass Look
Despite its clear focus on the future of travelling in style, MINI Concept Tokyo – particularly through the materials and colours used – marks a clear link to the 46-year-old tradition of the brand and its British heritage. Dark British Green, for example, is reminiscent of the British history of motorsport starring the Mini as a multiple winner of the Monte Carlo Rally. Indeed, to this very day the MINI Cooper and MINI Cooper S proudly bear the name of one of the most ingenious minds in European motorsport in the ’50s and ’60s of the last century. A special brass look, in turn, conveys the traditional style and quality so typical of, say, a gentleman’s club in London.
Viewed from the front, MINI Concept Tokyo proudly boasts its typical, hexagonal grille in brass look – the grille is finished with the hexagonal elements of a classic British sports car. The auxiliary headlights are yet a further reminiscence to the era of MINI’s first sporting activities.
The section around the side direction indicators with their diagonal joint and air intake is also a characteristic design feature typical of MINI, a piece of the Union Jack in brass look adding to the sophisticated style of MINI Concept Tokyo. And to provide the final touch, the spokes on the wheel rims also come in a special brass look for particular style. The exterior around the cargo roof is accentuated by British Green. The central section of the roof, in turn, comprises an insert in British Green in front of the mount for the picnic set, thus contrasting with the overall finish of the roof in White.
Aluminium for a Touch of Lightness and Sophisticated Style
Glossy and matt aluminium accentuate the exterior look of MINI Concept Tokyo, adding a very special additional message particularly where the car proudly bears design features carried over from the classic Traveller. The rear view of the C-pillars in striking aluminium look, for example, emphasises this powerful heritage. And the radiator grille, the front light surrounds as well as the exhaust tailpipes are also made of aluminium, emanating a blend of high performance and luxury.
Driver’s and Front Passenger’s Seats “Hovering” in Space.
Opening the driver’s and front passenger’s door, you will immediately enjoy the elegant and open impression conveyed by MINI Concept Tokyo: The driver’s and front passenger’s seats would appear to “hover” in space, being fitted at the inside directly on the front centre console by special load-bearing arms. This not only gives the rear passengers additional freedom for their feet, but also adds a particular touch of generosity to the floor area as a whole. This impression is further enhanced by the slender structure of the seats reduced in principle to two bucket elements reminiscent of an open seashell. To give the rear-seat passengers convenient access to the seats at the back, the front seats come with a unique Easy Entry System, moving forward electrically and at the same time swinging to the outside. This turns away the driver’s/front passenger’s backrests (instead of folding them forward) and ensures conveni-ent access to the second row. Then the seats move back automatically to their original position.
As a further feature, the driver’s and front passenger’s seats come with a seat-integrated bolt system keeping the seat belts within perfect reach at all times and avoiding any obstruction when moving to the rear.
Room for Sitting and Loading in the Second Row.
The long wheelbase of the car offers adequate space for two in the second row of seats. The front-seat backrests fold down individually, forming a flat surface together with the floor of the luggage compartment. This facilitates loading conditions from all sides, whether through the rear doors or the driver’s/front passenger’s doors, enabling the driver and passengers to place bags and other objects conveniently where they belong.
The extra-large and flat loading area is also perfect for larger objects and bulky cargo, and the centre armrest positioned horizontally between the two seats is integrated in the flat surface, offering an additional storage compartment. Opening up wide, the two rear doors allow convenient access to almost the en-tire cross-section of the interior, keeping the loading sill particularly low.
As a result, the passengers benefit from loading capacity quite acceptable for a car of this size, even with both rear-seat backrests in upright position.
Cupholders: Everything Where it is Needed and at the Right Temperature
Two things would obviously be inappropriate in MINI Concept Tokyo: luke-warm tea and luke-warm Coke. So showing its usual consistency, MINI Concept Tokyo offers special “on-board” service also to meet this challenge: The chrome rings around the air vents at the side fold down to form cup holders at exactly the right place inside the car. First, this keeps your drinks within easy reach at all times. Second, your Coke remains cool on hot days, with fresh air from the air conditioning flowing directly past the cup holders. And on cold win-ter days, warm air not only de-mists the side windows, but also keeps your tea at the right temperature.
The Interior –Leather, Chrome, and Brass Look
Inside the car, white leather underlines the modern style of MINI Concept Tokyo and the generous space available, at the same time conveying a genuine touch of sophisticated class. Indeed, the colour white accentuates the clear lines of MINI Concept Tokyo all the way from front to rear of the interior.
High-quality leather is featured in various types of surface finish, the headrests as well as the interior panels on the side and rear doors coming in grained cow-hide. This distinctly structured leather exudes a feeling of lasting, sporting qual-ity and forms a clear contrast with the white leather on the seat backrests and the steering wheel.
The inserts in the seat bottoms and seat backrests on all four seats, in turn, con-vey a touch of discreet “Britishness” combined with an equally convincing feeling of “vintage” origin: The leather used at these points is finished in the same way as the leather on the armchairs in the typical British club, featuring diamond-shaped sections sewn in Chesterfield style and thickly upholstered, with an additional touch added by stylish buttons. And last but not least, the interior colour is also “very British”, varying from British Green to Bronze, de-pending on your angle of vision.
A feature of particular interest in optical terms and in its surface feel is the “hovering” dashboard – and another highlight is the use of particularly “velvety” leather on the armrests in the side doors offering a particularly fine and gentle touch. Through its white colour alone, this sophisticated leather accentuates the luxurious and imaginative flair emanated by the green armrests, providing a wonderful contrast of colours. And again last but certainly not least, the roof lining comes in extra soft Alcantara feeling almost like silk.
The soft, natural surfaces in pure white are supplemented by cool-looking metallic surfaces and further highlights in British Green. Just one example is the aluminium-coated glass-fibre structure covering the elliptical lining inside the doors, another example being the carbon-fibre look of the foot wells.
The inserts in the interior floor, in turn, are made of light-green woven nylon, an innovative material so far only used in the production of furniture. Numerous other features within the interior are made of solid aluminium. The circular instruments and air vents, in turn, come with glossy chrome rings. And as the final highlight, the load-bearing arms on the seats are finished in a matt-brushed surface.
Rotating Centre Speedo with Digital Display
The large central instrument on the MINI’s dashboard is acknowledged as an absolute cult item by aficionados of design icons thrilled by these nimble athletes from Great Britain. Precisely this is why the rotating Centre Speedo in MINI Concept Tokyo is particularly self-confident as a genuine “point of action” boasting displays both front and rear. The digital side presents the MINI Cruise Mate complete with an info display for the navigation system and a tuner quite conceivable in future as the central instrument for controlling numerous functions within the car. Turned vertically by 180°, the Centre Speedo then presents an engraved world sphere on the back. And it presents both the road speed of the car as well as your current compass course in both positions.
The Key as a Multifunctional Man/MINI Interface
The centre console “island” between the front seats forms what you might call the “backbone” of MINI Concept Tokyo: This central unit holds the driver’s and front passenger’s seats and boasts attractive elements in white china look, creating an unusual highlight also in visual terms.
This is also where all the “nerves” of the car come together, MINI Concept Tokyo possibly using a start/stop key unit with an integrated clock serving as a multifunctional interface between the user and the car. All you would then have to do is place the key on a control unit at the front of the centre console serving as a push button.
The MINI Design Team could well image using this little “genius” for all kinds of functions ranging from engine start/stop via individual adjustment functions in the car itself (seats, air conditioning, audio system) all the way to controlling the MP3 player.
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