Thanks to the early years of fibreglass and plastic development, you can't buy a new car in 2014 with at least the front and rear bumpers made from the stuff. Plastic engine intakes, plastic interior components (especially "chrome"-wrapped plastic), synthetic seating materials, and a number of other components are now standard fit on vehicles sold around the world.
We've come a long way with the use of composites, especially now that the Alfa Romeo 4C, BMW 'i' cars, and a few other, more exotic models, use carbon fibre and composite-based chassis. Using composites in the structure of a vehicle presents unique challenges, not only with regards to outright strength but also in durability—the constant pounding our roads subject a car to will destroy just about any material short of good ol' steel.
For body panels, as Saturn and smart have shown, plastic isn't that bad. But the structure is another matter entirely.
I was surprised, then, to learn that my favourite pain relief manufacturer, Bayer, had developed in 1967 not only a car with plastic bodywork but also with a plastic chassis. Where the engineering was done by BMW. And where the styling looked, well…pretty fantastic. Meet the K67.
Now, this car is so unknown that a huge source of information will be this incredibly well-made internal Bayer video on the car—which is, of course, in German. If any German-speaking readers want to watch it and send me some notes on the car, please do!
It's a hugely impressive film, not only because it provides an unprecedented look at the birth of a plastic car—in 1967—but also because whoever shot the footage was quite good. For car footage, you'll want to skip ahead to eight minutes in.
If the video does not display, please go here to Bayer's website.
So what do we know about the car? It was one of the very first vehicles ever made with a full plastic chassis. It was also one of the first with nearly everything inside and out made from the stuff; the battery, the headlight covers, and the interior.It is, without a doubt, the first modern all-plastic car. First shown at the Hanover Fair in 1967,
There's an inline 4-cylinder BMW engine up front, likely from either the 1500, 1600, 1800, or 2002 'Neue Klasse' cars. From the footage, it looks quite quick and is even shown on the banking at Avus, Germany's legendary temple of speed.
The bodywork was designed by German industrial designer Hans Gugelot, often credited as the first designer to create furniture, stereos, and other fixtures as parts of a complete modular system. Assembled by Waggonfabrik Donauwörth, the prototype was tested in anger by Bayer and BMW engineers.
It was also reportedly shown in Chicago at the 1968 Design Engineering Show, and likely a number of other trade events. But unlike the Lamborghini Countach Evoluzione, destroyed to examine the effects of a crash test on a composite chassis, the Bayer K67 is still around today. Amazing.
Enjoy the gallery filled with screenshots from the Bayer film, as well as some recent footage from YouTube of the car running!