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GM Concepts 2001

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General Motors: Concepts 2001

Oldsmobile O4 Showcase

The poised and confident Oldsmobile O4 showcases innovative design in a fun-driving, sporty four-seater that takes its cues from Europe.

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It’s a clean, tight reinterpretation of a small, sporty four-seater which reflects Oldsmobile’s great-looking “architectonic” house style geared toward a younger audience.Its name plays on the chemical symbol for oxygen, the “O” denotes oxygen and open air, and the “4” stands for its four-place seating and its unique ability to adapt for four seasons.

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The Oldsmobile design studio worked in cooperation with the world-renowned Bertone Design studio in Turin, Italy. Underneath the supple exterior are the O4’s chassis and 1.8-liter turbocharged engine are borrowed from Opel. Using components from global partners is an important strategy for General Motors Corp.

“Ten years ago, a young customer wanted a roadster, but now they want to carry four passengers,” said Jeff Perkins, 33, brand character chief designer for Oldsmobile. “We’re using a global platform for this year’s theme of youth appeal.” According to Ed Welburn, 49, executive director, Corporate Brand Character Center, “O4 is geared to a recent college graduate who is looking for a fun, small vehicle. Its appeal to younger drivers is undeniable. They are going to want this car!” Also, O4 is a new way to do an open-air car, Perkins added.

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The twin targa tops made of ultra-strong lightweight carbon fiber snap off and are stowed behind the rear seats. The rear window, or backlite, retracts into a space behind the rear seats as well, leaving behind a stylish targa airfoil. Then the driver can choose whether to leave the spoiler in place or remove it and stow it too.

“We consider it a four-season car,” Perkins said. Current Oldsmobile style is reflected in the clean front profile, which gives a sense of solid protection and determination and the strong, prominent fender flares over the wheels. The car’s wholistic, pulled-together look extends to the exhaust, which emerges from a pair of trapezoidal ports at the rear. O4’s headlamps and taillights are sharp and thin, with bright, laser-like focus, thanks to fiberoptics and projector beam technology.

The headlights are only 35 millimeters (1.4 inches) tall, versus 100 to 150 millimeters (4 to 6 inches on conventional headlights, but burn brighter than current headlights.Minimalist, high touch instrument panel To carry the O4’s grace and assurance into the interior, designers looked to ergonomically designed tools and the latest personal data assistants (PDAs) for cues. The resulting “Information Ring” around the steering column replaces a traditional instrument panel and center console with a single point for all important driver information.

 The entire liquid crystal data display can be reconfigured to show the information the driver wants. “For one person, it might be speed and tachometer, for another it could be the heat settings or what selection is playing on the stereo,” Perkins said.Ten buttons around the outer perimeter of the ring are all the controls needed with the reconfigurable display. Most of the buttons simply toggle from one function to the next, Perkins said, and all can be reached within just a few inches of the steering wheel.

The controls can be operated by feel, so that the driver’s attention stays on the road. “It’s very thin, and it feels good in your hand,” Perkins said. The driver can carry enormous amounts of data into the car through integrated docking ports for a PDA and a Sony Memory Stick™ data storage device on a keychain fob. The PDA might be used to display driving directions, phone numbers or calendar reminders on the Information Ring. The Memory Stick can carry digital music, maps, radio presettings and mirror and seating settings for driver and passenger.

Thanks to BlueTooth, a universal operating system for wireless devices, all of this electronic gear can be integrated to minimize distraction and confusion. An OnStar operator could search through the driver’s PDA to find a phone number and dial it at the O4 driver’s request. The marriage of design and function is a big part of the O4 story, and a natural outgrowth of its European origins.

The O4 concept provided an opportunity to leverage a contemporary global platform and benefit from Bertone’s superb craftsmanship, said Perkins.“The passion for well-executed and beautiful show cars runs deep in the Bertone culture,” said Perkins who spent time in Turin overseeing the O4’s construction. “We set the theme, and Bertone helped make it happen.”

all photos: General Motors


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