Rapid and safe transportation is a fine thing, but let us not forget that the automobile was first — and for many, is still foremost — a fashion accessory. The pretension that a car has value beyond its appearance has recently been stripped away by Dutch design company United Nude, a concern most famous for designing the popular transportation technology known as shoes. The result of their experiment — other than a design award from Wallpaper magazine — is the Lo Res Car.
The Lo Res is a wedge of black poly carbonate, and resembles nothing so much as the tanks from the 1990s computer game Spectre VR. But where Spectre was just doing the best it could with limited computer processing power, United Nude is making a conscious design decision, creating an abstract auto with the same process they use to create hats and faceted rubber flats. The Lo Res was, in essence, uncreated. The design team took a 3D model of an early 1970s Lamborghini Countach and rendered it in polygons.
They then lowered the resolution — increasing the size of the polygons — through successive generations. The result is a rolling sculpture that is still clearly a car; even when composed of a dozen or so triangles, the Countach’s cabin-forward crouch remains recognizable. The Lo Res is electric, speed-limited to 31mph “for safety.” In the cockpit — and it’s a two-person affair, with passenger behind driver as in a fighter plane — is a badge-shaped steering wheel of sharply angled stainless steel pipe, clearly airbag unfriendly. The entire canopy is translucent, and raises on lifts rather than take up the extra polygons a door might require. The interior (other than that steering wheel) is curiously unfinished.
The banks of naked lead-acid batteries that flank the driver make it clear that this is a design project rather than a engineering one — a focus on lo-res rather than hi-tech — and that performance was not a consideration. We applaud the idea of a high-concept car, even as we doubt it’s much fun to drive. But we’d relish all the attention we’d attract gliding slowly down the street — and isn’t that exactly what a car is for?