Is This The New Batmobile

By: Catherine Harvey

BMW are world leading car manufacturers who pride themselves on their innovative ideas and like to produce many firsts in the automobile world. And boy have they managed it this time! Their latest vehicle to be uncovered is the BMW Gina. And what is it that makes this car so different? The fact that it is made of cloth!

Looking like some sort of futuristic Batmobile, the BMW Gina can change shape at the touch of a button. Instead of the metal panels that normal separate a driver from the outside elements, BMW have introduced their vehicle with wire mesh panels covered in fabric.

The peel back fabric covers over the lights give the car an extreme aero dynamic feel during the day and the look of a hybrid beast when they peel back at night. The fabric on the doors wrinkles back on opening like the skin of a new born baby. But BMW's new baby can morph with the flick of a switch to take on a different look - the choice is between classic or aggressive, depending on driver's mood. Quite a good warning that rage road might be coming up behind you, then.

The BMW Gina has the chassis of a Z8 but with a moveable outer skin. The skin is made of silver expansion-resistant textile that stretches across metal wires controlled by hydraulics. Just as well then, the last thing you want is your car skin shrinking in the rain, or worse still, going baggy like an old pair of leggings!

And why Gina? Geometry and functions IN Adaptions is the phrase that they have loosely (as loose as an old pair of leggings!) taken the name from. What would normally be a metal roof, bonnet and boot is now fabric, encasing an ultra modern cabin. In this driver's console is the controls for the hydraulics that control the moveable parts.

The fabric is such a good fit that it allows for surface changes without slackening the tension (if only they could work this technology into a skin cream). A BMW spokesman says that this 'has a major impact on the interaction between driver and car and enhances it by offering a variety of new option'. It sure does.

Clip lock fasteners hold the bonnet together down a centre seam and will snap apart, opening up the bonnet like a delicate operation. Until they can overcome all the problems associated with a cloth car, this model will be on show at the BMW museum in Munich and it is hoped the concept will be considered on future models, setting a precedent.

And what conceivable problems could there be? Safety is the most obvious one. Granted, the mesh frame would have to be pretty strong but how can mesh and fabric possibly be as strong as being cocooned in a metal body? I know where I would feel safer.

Then we have vandalism. It would bring a whole new concept to the idea of 'keying' a car because it would rip its entire skin. Imagine coming back to your car to find it naked. And how could you repair it? Would it need a whole new body? Would it be supplied with interchangeable covers, like those floral sofa's you see on the back of Sunday supplements? Or would it be a case of looking like patchwork after a few hundred miles with all the repairs?

Theft would be easy - all you would need would be a pair of scissors. And what about the smokers? Cigarette burns in the exterior of your car will do your reputation no favours!

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