If you’re into really outrageous concept cars, there’s probably no better place to look than the Tokyo Auto Show.
And at this year’s exhibition, Toyota’s KIKAI is likely to be the strangest one on display.
With a nod to iconic hot rod design, the company has brought everything that’s mechanical into the open. Now you can easily see what’s normally hidden, such as the engine and its components, the vehicle’s braking and suspension systems, the fuel tank and even the exhaust pipes.
But it’s all done in a tasteful, eye-catching manner that – despite its futuristic flourishes – somehow evokes the retro look of a custom-built T-bucket street rod. The logic behind the KIKAI, says the company, was to bring man and machine back together and re-imagine the car as being much more than just an amalgam of electronic driver-assist components.
The throwback look continues inside, with an unadorned steering wheel and an instrument cluster that’s simply four analog gauges on a section of tubing. Sliding doors on both sides provide access The driver sits in a center position, and the two other seats for passengers offer plenty of legroom. Windows in the floor help to create a sensation of speed. You may find yourself thinking “dune buggy”. But the carbon-fiber-reinforced cabin is really quite rigid and safe.
In Japanese, the word “kikai” can be translated as both “machine” and “opportunity”. And this time, Toyota’s designers have gone all out to show what’s possible if you discard conventional thinking as to what a car is supposed to look like.
The KIKAI is powered by a four-cylinder, gasoline-electric hybrid engine mounted behind the passenger seats. It has rear-wheel drive and an automatic transmission. As with most manufacturers’ design studies, there are no plans whatsoever to bring this one to production. Although it’s sure to generate significant buzz among the automotive press and public alike. The company stresses that the KIKAI is definitely not a preview of an upcoming vehicle.
But take heart. Rumor has it that Toyota’s equally impressive S-FR concept car – also on display at the Tokyo Auto Show – is likely headed for a showroom near you in the not-too-distant future.