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Mitsubishi: RPM 7000 Concept


NAIAS 2001

MITSUBISHI MOTORS RPM 7000 HAS DEEP ROOTS IN RALLY RACING

Mitsubishi RPM 7000 Concept
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Rally Racing Merges with Sports Car Styling

They burst out of the forest like some sort of demented beasts, sending up great gusts of gravel and belting out a wail that could raise the neck hairs on a Tasmanian Devil.

It's an image that drives Mitsubishi Motors designer Michael Desmond wild. "That's who we are - right there. If you want to see the heart of this company watch one of our rally cars sailing over the French Alps.

 


Mitsubishi RPM 7000 Concept
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Watch a Lancer EVO kick out a 40 foot rooster tail as it rockets across Portugal." Looking at Desmond's concept car, it's obvious that Mitsubishi's 30-year rally racing heritage is at the heart of his car.

As he puts it, "…this is a company with a sporty image and competitive spirit. A company with a racing heritage. And I want the RPM 7000 concept car to say that so loud that it sets off car alarms. Mitsubishi is known internationally for its wins in rally racing – and frankly, I want my car to brag about it."

Mitsubishi RPM 7000 Concept
Click image for larger view

With a 315-horsepower, twin-intercooled, twin-scroll turbo 2-liter engine, variable torque all-wheel drive system, three-plate carbon clutch, fully independent suspension and eight-piston front brake calipers, the vehicle is anything but a clumsy leaf-spring land barge.

The Mitsubishi Lancer EVO model has four World Rally Championship driver’s titles and two Asia Pacific titles. Mitsubishi has a World Cup Cross Country manufacturer’s title and has won the Paris-Dakar Rally four times. In the rally world, this is the big time.

Of course the Montero SUV has a whole closet full of trophies from the most challenging high-speed transcontinental blasts in history, the Paris-Dakar rally. As Desmond explained, "I wanted the RPM 7000 to come from something real, and for Mitsubishi, rally racing is very real."

A lot of people are talking about "cross-over" vehicles, where an SUV and sports car meet, tango, marry and produce exotic offspring. Unfortunately, the offspring is usually just a pickup truck or minivan in drag, and the "cross-over" can't dance. In the case of the RPM 7000, this is an off-road rally car that slipped into some Hugo Boss and "crossed over" from the wrong side of the tracks.

"Call it a hybrid, call it a cross-over, call it what ever you want. To me this could be the future of sports cars," Desmond said. "The term used to refer to cars that were designed primarily for competition. But let's face it, there's a new reality in the market place and people want a car that does everything. So we took competition running gear and added day-to-day utility – without turning it into a tank. The rear window slides down into the body and the rear deck-lid disappears like the cover on a roll-top desk. Fold down the back seat and you can fit a jet ski or a couple of full-suspension downhill bikes in the back – which gives a cool little twist to the term 'sports' car."

Desmond goes on to point out what cross-over means to him. "As for the whole cross-over thing, look at the passenger's side of the concept car. You've got center opening doors that make it easier to get into the back seat, and the interior door-frames are exposed because they're part of the roll cage. On the driver's side there's a clean coupe profile, one long door and a big side pipe. Now that's cross over. " There's clearly some outrageous cross-pollination going on here. Part GT, part SUV. Part rally racer, part F1 racer.

"I wanted the nose on this car to be a visual gut punch, but the back end has to be high and square so you can haul your toys around. I got around the traditional high-back wagon look with a wedge belt line and a geo-mechanical break at the hip point." As Desmond points out, huge, voluptuous fenders are offset by a sliver of side glass and a recoiled profile. The complex curves and geometric surfaces are visually fascinating, and yet it's still the front end that sets off the stylistic swagger.

Mitsubishi RPM 7000 Concept
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Look into the car’s projection-beam eyes and you might recognize the face. The RPM 7000 leading edge has an F1 style nose cone and front wing. Not only does it look menacing, but it makes an incision in the atmosphere just big enough for the vehicle to pass through at high speed.

"You want 'cross over', we crossed over from rally racing to F1", Desmond said. At the same time, the recessed surfaces in the hood create 3-dimensional rally stripes, set off by contrasting satin-finish paint. According to Desmond, these embossed stripes are all about attitude. "Lots of cars have tried to work the rally image by using big stripes on the hood. This is a rally car at its core, so we literally branded the hood and created a unique automotive face. Some people paint on the rally stripes. We carved them in steel. It pretty much tells you what kind of car this is."

Mitsubishi RPM 7000 Concept
Click image for larger view

Speaking of attitude and energy, the vehicle’s anodized finish was inspired by the glowing turbo housing and red-hot brake rotors of a rally car in the heat of battle. A true competition color if ever there was one.

Riding on 245/60VR19 tires with F1 rain tread, and sporting enough torque and traction to turn the earth on its axis, the RPM 7000 concept car is a strange brew of rally car and reality. "Concept cars let you play with the future," Desmond said. "And this is what I want the future to look like, sound like and drive like."

 Photos: Mitsubishi


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