For industrial designers, vehicles must seem like an awful way to expend materials and space. First, vehicles are compromises between a number of things—regulations, to start—and especially in recent years, these compromises seem to be pushing our cars into an ever-shrinking box.
I often wonder if our governments would be more lax on regulations if we had a few companies who willingly produced practical, inexpensive, efficient, and logical vehicles like the LogiCar, the thought being that with a few million of these things crawling around we'd be able to retire a whole whack of older, less-efficient vehicles. (And loosen the noose in other areas…may I request the return of concealed headlights?)
Reconfigurable vehicles like this have been attempted many times before, with varying degrees of success. In recent years, the Honda Element is, in my mind, a good example of making a really practical vehicle desirable. Honda's box is just a box with cleverly-folding seats, though, and to approach the LogiCar we'll need something more complex.
To create a truly practical vehicle, designers need to figure out a way to move body panels around. Recently, automakers haven't enjoyed much success: the Subaru Baja, I love that the turbocharged, manual transmission-equipped examples are essentially Legacy GT trucks; the GMC Envoy XUV, awful beyond belief; and the Škoda Felicia Fun—with a name like that, how could it be anything but?
The past has shown us that moving body panels around isn't as simple as it looks, and maybe that's where Danish designer Jacob Jensen's LogiCar—a small hatchback/van and truck, all in one—fell flat. For my money, the closest analogue would be Sir William Towns' low cost, Mini-based Hustler line, but Hustlers can't change body styles on the fly.
Jensen kept the vehicle itself quite simple: a tube frame and air-cooled Volkswagen Beetle engine. On top, the body had roll-up rear windows, a roof that collapsed into the "bed", and a rear section that slides forward to seal off the passenger compartment—a simple and clever design. I'd love to have seen these after years of use—I bet when wearing faded, hand-painted lettering from years spent as a local parts delivery truck, the LogiCar would look right at home ambling through our towns.
Of course, the LogiCar never quite made it. In appreciation of our refined tastes, however, it's important to remind you that Jensen had a second car design in his mind: the incomparably awesome and very mad Citroën XM-based Jensen One by Max René.