Rocketman Concept highlights inner space

  • 14-Mar-2011 11:19 EDT

At 3.4 m long, the Rocketman returns to the Mini's 1959 size roots, offering space for three in a compact city car. (Newspress)

For those who think that the latest Mini products are Mini only in name, the Mini Rocketman Concept at the 2011 Geneva Motor Show could provide a breath of fresh air. Measuring 3.4 m (11.2 ft) long compared with the 1959 original at 3.05 m (10 ft), the Rocketman Concept offers a return to the small, lightweight city car that Alec Issigonis conceived.

In the Rocketman’s case, it comes with one less seat and one more door than the original, offering three seats and three doors. A fourth seat could be added if required.

Like the Alfa Romeo 4C, carbon fiber is the chosen material, using a space frame construction. Maximizing access to the interior has been a focus for the designers, so the car is fitted with double-hinged clam doors to improve access to the passenger compartment. Like the Saab 99/900 dating to the late 1960s, the sills of the body are integrated into the passenger doors.

While a split tailgate is not new, the Rocketman Concept adopts an unconventional approach. The top-hinged section extends high up into the translucent roof panel. The lower section, which Mini calls the “Boot Box,” slides out from the back of the car like a drawer, a feature available on some small European General Motors models. On GM models, this is an extending section of the rear fender, designed as a cycle carrier, but on the Mini concept, it is a larger extending section designed either to carry cycles or sports equipment or as an extended trunk providing additional luggage space.

Not surprisingly, retro design is part of the package, and legendary GM designer Harley Earl would have been flattered by the projectile theme for the interior. It features leather and high gloss painted surfaces, using processed paper to form the arm rests and trim strips.

The center speedometer also features a projection surface capable of handling 3-D graphics. Relevant driving information can be displayed in the foreground, and the display can be controlled either by the integrated trackball or from the steering wheel.

A removable section of the infotainment system allows route information or music files to be transferred from an external PC to the car’s system.

Will it make it into production? According to Mini, it is just a concept.

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