Lada Gorbi by Colani


Have you noticed how the more specialized a vehicle gets the more its form deviates from, say, what a Toyota Camry or Ford F-150 looks like?

Anything designed for a wide range of tasks, from doing 85 on the Interstate to taking a load of groceries home to moving your kid to college will always look and perform pretty much the same.

It's simply how the mass market operates. Many people have the same needs; meet those needs with your design and you have a wide audience to appeal to.

Get more specialized—or remarkable—and the price (along with your potential audience) starts to shrink. 

So: How many people need an off-road moon buggy in Russia?


With a name that translates into "wheat field" (thanks, Wikipedia), the Lada Niva is already pretty specialized for a certain set of tasks.

Many of these tasks involve mild off-roading in Russia and other less-developed countries, where most of the rural roads are beat up and most people don't have the means to buy a Mercedes-Benz G Class, Land Rover, or Jeep Wrangler. 

I've seen it described online as "a Renault 5 on a Land Rover chassis"—passenger car comfort over off-road mechanicals, a design theme similar to the original Jeep Cherokee.


What if the body wasn't designed for "passenger car comfort," but for something more extreme, like being able to go anywhere off-road?

Luigi Colani had the same brainwave, and executed it in typical fashion. Starting with a Lada Niva chassis, he worked out what would make the Niva truly unstoppable off-road:

  • More ground clearance
  • Larger diameter tires
  • More wheel travel to tackle obstacles
  • Four wheel steering for better maneuverability
  • Mid-engine layout for better weight distribution
  • More powerful engine
  • Better aerodynamics
  • Reclined seating to minimize back injuries

Sadly, there's not much information online on the Gorbi, but by all indications the single prototype produced ticks all of those boxes.

Still in Colani's museum, its plastic body is shaped similarly to the rest of Colani's designs. A Colani design will focus on natural-looking aerodynamics, with shapes hard to reproduce in traditional metal bodywork.

The video above, a walkaround without commentary, gives a good idea for its size, shape, and overall look (not to mention a rare glimpse at its swoopy tan leather interior.)

Was Colani on to something with the Gorbi? One look at the Local Motors Rally Fighter or a modern Dakar buggy and you'll nod "yes."


Sources / Recommended reading