Carbon fibre bodywork. Twelve cylinder BMW engine, mounted in the middle. Centrally-located driver's seat. If you weren't looking at an all-wheel-drive, MPV-shaped suppository, you'd almost think I was talking about the McLaren F1. Wait. Is this the McLaren F1 of vans?
Shown in 1992, it's Giorgetto Giugiaro's look at ultra-luxury transportation for the future, and it's quite the rig. About the same size overall as a big American pickup truck, Giugiaro played musical chairs with drivetrain components to create a concept prototype that defies classification. Is it a van? MPV? Crossover? Sedan?
As stated above, its stats are quite impressive. At low speeds, the Columbus had rear-wheel steering—just imagine the parking lot doughnuts you'd be able to bake with that 300-plus horsepower V12 over your shoulder.
Even better, with a load of seven on board, it's the ultimate church van. As they say: Only drive as fast as your guardian angel can fly.
I'm most amazed that Giugiaro managed to cram in all manner of luxury: captain's chairs for everyone, TV screens galore (even if my phone now sports a larger display), sliding sunroof, glass rear roof section, and 'starry' fibre optic interior accent lights in the headliner years before Rolls-Royce offered the same.
ItalDesign even felt the need to tout how reconfigurable the Columbus is, as if we needed another reason to appreciate it: "The seven seats may easily be increased to nine due to the ease with which the interior outfit can be modified. Or they may be removed to take advantage of the space as a commercial vehicle."
Commercial vehicle!? Maybe it would have been a modern-day Loadrunner…
So-named to mark the 400th anniversary of Christopher Columbus' discovery of America, Giugiaro posited the Columbus could be a new form of urban transportation for the America's elite. Me? I think a fleet of them would be a great way to start Uber Express.