An automobile is, at its core, rolling sculpture.
It is fashioned from sheet metal. Its shapes can be infinite – predictable, or less so.
And then there is Citroen.
Citroen is the 92-year-old French automaker, for whom the styling of new models has often seemed as tortured and prolonged an exercise as the 22-month birthing cycle of African elephants. The proof is in the product.
At the 2011 Frankfurt Motor Show, Citroen is unveiling another eye-popping new model, the Tubik concept – which like a baby elephant, is equal parts cute and intimidating.
Over the decades, Citroen styling has become as French as a crepe, and nearly as formless. Older Citroens have become much loved, at least by the French, for their quaint homeliness. Models like the 2CV, H Van, DS, CX, GS and SM are coveted by a small cult of collectors and automotive sado-masochists.
The Tubik is said to be inspired by Citroen’s pre-war TUB van, particularly the Type H model.
Although seldom seen outside of France (would a German, or an Italian own a TUB? I think not.) The TUBs were once ubiquitous throughout Gaul, and they were used for all manner of tasks – holiday caravans, commercial deliveries, mobile repair facilities and even portable crepe stands.
The Tubik does suggest, however, that van styling need not necessarily be boring. The Tubik is anything but boring.
Will Citroen ever build such a vehicle, for retail sale? It is certainly possible – they’ve built worse, wags say – although the concept shown at Frankfurt would need to overcome several challenges prior to becoming a production-ready vehicle (for instance, its side windows can’t be opened; it has no windshield wipers…or doors, for that matter).
The problem with many retro-themed vehicles is that manufacturers who produce them can never quite figure out how to subsequently up-date them. Ah, the conundrum: How to you modernize old?
Let’s hope Citroen doesn’t look for inspiration for a second-generation Tubik from another storied van from its styling hall of fame: The HY.
September 8, 2011