the 80's called
January 26, 2018 9:27 AM   Subscribe

At the 1980 Paris Motor Show, Citroën introduced a very unique concept car: the Karin

The car was designed by Trevor Fiore, among others.
posted by the man of twists and turns (48 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
 
No thanks, if I want a low, wedge-shaped, wide-bodied concept car with three-across seating and the driver in the middle, I'll take the sexy one.
posted by Naberius at 9:31 AM on January 26 [10 favorites]


I can't eat a meal next to my teenage son without his elbow causing havoc. Driving that with him sitting next to me? Nope. Lovely interior though. Mind you I've owned a couple of big Citroens: lovely to sit in, but a bit crap to drive and own.
posted by dowcrag at 9:38 AM on January 26 [1 favorite]


I can't understand why cars (which mostly just move one person around) seat two across much less three.
posted by BrotherCaine at 9:40 AM on January 26


I can't understand why cars (which mostly just move one person around) seat two across much less three.

Partly because, when you do have a passenger, you want to be able to talk to them easily, and for them to be able to see out the windshield. And when you don't, it's a good place to put a bag, etc. for easy access.

The Karin and the Manta (linked by Naberius) are both awesome. The Manta wins for elegance, but I'd probably have more fun zooming around in the Karin, pretending that I'm running from the Sandmen in Logan's Run. Look at that cabin! None more 1980.
posted by escape from the potato planet at 9:48 AM on January 26 [7 favorites]


I can't understand why cars (which mostly just move one person around) seat two across much less three.

Passengers tend to get annoyed when you shove them into the trunk.
posted by happyroach at 9:54 AM on January 26 [7 favorites]


This was featured quite some times on car mags of the late 80s and early 90s. As much as I prefer the angular cars of the 70s and 80s to the curvier ones, this one was a wee too angular for me. I have limits, dammit.
posted by lmfsilva at 9:58 AM on January 26 [1 favorite]


The Karin only failed because nobody was interested in a car that kept their razor blades sharp.
posted by ardgedee at 10:00 AM on January 26 [19 favorites]


Is it the wedgiest? The Bulldog is pretty wedgey.
posted by Stonestock Relentless at 10:32 AM on January 26 [2 favorites]


I can't understand why cars (which mostly just move one person around) seat two across much less three.

I'm guessing like many things automotive it comes from carriages, a narrower vehicle being easier for horses to pull.
posted by rhizome at 10:34 AM on January 26


Back when I was a magazine photographer I worked with a journalist who had a decaying Matra-Simca that had virtually the identical interior to this, although the outside was a bit more normal.
The 3 abreast seating was fantastic, and we'd often pick up his girlfriend on the way back from a job and cruise to the local curry house, side-by-side. You were so low down it felt like you were gliding around on a futon.

The Matra-Simca eventually died on the way home to London from a job we did in Frankfurt, stranding us in the dodgy outskirts of Paris. It was a cool car though.
posted by w0mbat at 10:42 AM on January 26 [7 favorites]


"Is it the wedgiest? The Bulldog is pretty wedgey."

I got to see the Bulldog in person at a party in the mid-80s at the private residence of its then owner, a Saudi Prince who was living in Newport Shores, a waterfront community near Bellevue, WA. He also had several other exotic cars, including a Rolls Silver Spur and a Koenig Ferrari Boxer 512. Plus there was the three-masted schooner and a freakin' PW gas-turbine powered cigarette boat moored in front of his house.
posted by bz at 10:53 AM on January 26 [2 favorites]


My heart belongs to Citroën.
posted by palmcorder_yajna at 10:55 AM on January 26 [1 favorite]


That's pretty much exactly how I drew cars in 1980.
posted by chococat at 10:58 AM on January 26 [11 favorites]


I can't understand why cars (which mostly just move one person around) seat two across much less three.

Nearly every decision a designer makes with a car is a compromise. One compromise is in one's ability to carry passengers. We have two cars just about every time I drive the 2nd one, I'm the only one in the car. But there are occasionally times I need to carry passengers in both cars. I'm not about to buy a third car to use when I'm just driving myself. So the 2nd car needs to have at least two seats. That's also the car that usually transports the dog around which means I need a backseat.

Sitting in the middle of the car gives you a better field of view and makes it easier to feel what the car is doing to better judge if you're taking that turn too fast or spinning out or the hundred other things you sense without realizing while you're driving. If the car has the engine in the front and is rear or all wheel drive, a drive axle and/or some other transmission components are probably going to go between the front two passengers. You can make your vehicle taller so that the driver can sit on top of those components but now your center of gravity is higher which might not be an acceptable compromise.

If you put the engine behind the driver, you solve that problem and, if you try really hard and have plenty of money to make a really expensive car, this how you configure the best car. That's still a compromise because if you have the best car ever made, you want to give rides to your friends which means a pair of passenger seats that make it a PITA to get into the driver's seat. About the only other big compromise the McLaren F1 makes is that it's stupendously expensive.

You could certainly make a mid-engine car with just one seat. If it's just for so that one person can move themselves around you don't need much cargo space and can make the car so light and narrow that you can get rid of two wheels and now it's a motorcycle (which comes with it's own set of compromises).
posted by VTX at 10:59 AM on January 26 [3 favorites]


I thought it failed because most of its drivers wound up being the targets of revenge attacks by replicants.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 11:05 AM on January 26 [7 favorites]


No, no, no, no. What you want is an Alfa Romeo Carabo.
posted by pashdown at 11:31 AM on January 26 [4 favorites]


Hmm, nice, but not quite on the level of a Maserati Boomerang.

There must have been something in the water over there, wasn't there?
posted by Naberius at 11:35 AM on January 26 [3 favorites]


These all look like personal shuttlecraft
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 11:39 AM on January 26 [2 favorites]


I love everything about this post.
posted by Sokka shot first at 11:49 AM on January 26 [1 favorite]


Oh man, I remember when we were going to have a future.
posted by bongo_x at 12:00 PM on January 26 [17 favorites]


It was designed around a three-seater interior layout where the driver sits in the middle, slightly ahead, so that he could have his wife on one side and his mistress on the other.

Was that an actual design criterion or is this just "ha ha the french"?
posted by The Tensor at 12:07 PM on January 26 [5 favorites]


Awesome. I would buy the Karin. That interior is fantastic, and I love the dot-matrix logo on the back.
posted by fimbulvetr at 12:09 PM on January 26


When I looked at the pictures - especially the tan model - for some reason my mind went straight to the AMC Pacer...
posted by Greg_Ace at 12:33 PM on January 26 [1 favorite]


Even production Citroens from that era look like concept cars to American eyes.
posted by octothorpe at 12:37 PM on January 26 [2 favorites]


My personal favourite wedgie concept car is the 1970 Ferrari/Pininfarina Modulo. Aside from that minor detail that you can barely steer them, they really do have some clever design elements, particularly the canopy roof that slides forward to let you in and out.
posted by Multicellular Exothermic at 12:39 PM on January 26 [1 favorite]


Sadly, by the time the Karin came around, Citroën had been reduced to a quirky alternate badge for dreary little Peugeot city cars and the meh...okay Visa. Everyone who'd understood the soul of the company was dead or elsewhere, and Peugeot is called The Southern Volvo precisely because their conservatism was suited to natty blue suit vehicles like the 505, and no one was particularly inclined to chase the old Citroën magic, which had blown the brains out of the company with the tragic stupidity of getting on the idiotic Wankel engine train with Comotor (a move that heralded the death of the once-great NSU, as well, in the sinuous form of the unbelievably beautiful and incomprehensibly unreliable Ro 80) more or less at the same time they collaborated with their then-subsidiary Maserati to produce the incomprehensibly beautiful and unbelievably unreliable SM.

Citroen arrived in the eighties with the superb GS, futurglorious CX, and the still avant garde 2CV/Dyane, but the heart was gone and the company didn't have the intellectual drive to ever come close to producing the distinct vehicles that they once had. Like the mildly attractive BX that followed, the Karin was zombie Citroën giving us a mildly Citroën-flavored variation on the wedge that virtually everyone else was doing (and the three-abreast seating was a French thing poached from Matra, who did it earlier and with some meager success).

As a kid, I saw that thing in Popular Science and ooh-ed and aah-ed, but the seventies wedge really only looks great until you sit in it and think, holy fuck, this is horrible, while getting brain-damaged by claustrophobia as you look at the world through refraction-warped mail-slot windows and roast alive under an acre of windscreen like an ant under a magnifying glass. As an adult, I worked my way up from Saabs into driving a GS, a Dyane, and a DS as my daily drivers, and man, you don't need a squat little pyramid of glass to be in the world of the future. Like all supercars, they're just tractors in Italian suits, full of angles and fury, but little substance.

Now, if you wanna talk holy-fuck-did-they-really-almost-do-that for Citroën concept cars, you want to see the Coccinelle. I mean...I just...I think I need to lie down with a cold compress on my forehead every time.

I'll tell you one thing, though—once you've owned a peak-period Citroën as a daily driver, everything else is just a goddamn toaster with wheels.
posted by sonascope at 12:47 PM on January 26 [16 favorites]


roast alive under an acre of windscreen like an ant under a magnifying glass

Ah, right, that's probably why I thought of the Pacer.
posted by Greg_Ace at 12:57 PM on January 26


The term “concept car” gives me hives, ever since I got amped up in the early 80’s for a Lean Machine and it never materialized.

35 years waiting for.an affordable, single-person cyclecar-esque transport vehicle that has at least three wheels for stability and an enclosed, climate-controllable interior. But every newly promised innovation has either died on the vine, or never never made it to the vine.

I’m looking at you, Elio. Don’t crush my dream of tooling around in an orange P4.
posted by darkstar at 1:09 PM on January 26 [1 favorite]


Everything about that car screams 1980. The lines, the amber tint of the windows, the tan paint, the ridged upholstery, and especially the cockpit control buttons. It was a short-lived aesthetic but it was EVERYWHERE. It's a VIC-20 on wheels.
posted by rocket88 at 1:31 PM on January 26 [5 favorites]


The thing that's sort of funny about concept cars and Citroën is that those spacey, weird, ergonomic amazing interiors that concept cars have promised for years and never, ever delivered? Well, that's what Citroën interiors actually looked like in their day. When Anglophones everywhere were still putting wood all over their dreadful dashboards, Citroën started with a clean sheet. Hell, even Roddenberry owes Citroën a shout-out.
posted by sonascope at 2:38 PM on January 26 [1 favorite]


they really do have some clever design elements, particularly the canopy roof that slides forward to let you in and out.

Quickly absorbed into the Sterling kit car!
posted by rhizome at 2:53 PM on January 26 [2 favorites]


Oh man, I remember when we were going to have a future.

what if all the cars in the post and comments were the product of everyone thinking they wouldn't have a future. Like "If i'm going to die in nuclear fire, I might as well have this car I drew when I was 10".
posted by Dr. Twist at 3:09 PM on January 26


Oh man, I remember when we were going to have a future.

I remember when the future looked like the Ford Taurus and Ford Probe! When the then-new Taurus showed up in RoboCop, I was honestly like "wtf is that space car."
posted by rhizome at 3:17 PM on January 26 [1 favorite]


Yes, but this one can do 90-degree turns.
posted by linux at 3:34 PM on January 26 [7 favorites]


I'm happy to see my favorite concept car ever getting the MeFi love. It's the wedgiest wedge that ever wedged.
posted by hilberseimer at 3:54 PM on January 26 [1 favorite]


From Canada, there's the 1975 Bricklin.
posted by bonobothegreat at 4:13 PM on January 26 [1 favorite]




I can’t believe I just spent 5 minutes watching that and looking up that Charlie Sheen vehicle. Thanks a lot rhizome. I’ll never get that time back.
posted by sara is disenchanted at 4:50 PM on January 26 [2 favorites]


I remember when the future looked like the Ford Taurus and Ford Probe!

Though unlike RoboCop's Taurus, the Ford Probe wasn't considered sufficiently futuristic enough for the production team on Back to the Future II, so they added an extended canopy windshield and back wheelwell covers .
posted by radwolf76 at 5:02 PM on January 26 [1 favorite]


For your consideration, the Dodge M4S.


And another fine Clint Howard performance.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 6:14 PM on January 26


Now, if you wanna talk holy-fuck-did-they-really-almost-do-that for Citroën concept cars, you want to see the Coccinelle.

The outside of that car is beautiful, but the inside is way more austere than I would have thought from the exterior.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:34 PM on January 26


It's the wedgiest wedge that ever wedged.

I think the Stratos Zero wedged slightly wedgier.
posted by sonascope at 6:36 PM on January 26 [2 favorites]


Let’s also not forget that in the 70s, even Mercedes-Benz tried out a wedge.
posted by stannate at 9:47 PM on January 26 [1 favorite]


Meh, the whole "wedge" thing was done already a long time ago - though granted that was in a galaxy far far away.
posted by Greg_Ace at 9:56 PM on January 26 [2 favorites]


All of those have zero Charlie Sheen.
posted by rhizome at 10:29 PM on January 26


My google news feed showed me this this morning. One of them has a whole lot of wedges! Can you figure out which one?
posted by Snowishberlin at 2:11 PM on January 27


darkstar waiting for.an affordable, single-person cyclecar-esque transport vehicle

Does the electric SOLO fit the bill? MSRP $20k CAD ($15k USD).
posted by porpoise at 4:42 PM on January 29


Does the electric SOLO fit the bill? MSRP $20k CAD ($15k USD).

When I was a kid my parents took me to an aquarium. In one of the tanks there was a small fish who had gotten chomped by something bigger, so it's entire back half was gone. Despite missing much of its body, it was swimming around with the other fish and keeping up. That car reminds me of that fish, truncated but still mobile.
posted by Dip Flash at 7:19 PM on January 29


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