Tuesday, June 11, 2013

The Most Beautiful Car You Have Never Heard Of

                First thing you know about any car is how it looks.  Before manufacturer releases specifications. Before the press gets a chance to drive the car and well before the public can buy the car we get to see it.  If a car doesn’t look the part there is a good chance it will sit on dealer lots no matter how great it drives or how practical it might be.  Recently I got a chance to see a car that was not a major leap forward in sales or technical specifications but is an absolute beauty to behold.  The Weidner Condor is shocking to look at.  I saw this great example at the Lane Motor Museum in Nashville, TN only one of two known to still exist.  My first thought of the car and the thought of friends when I showed them pictures was it must be an early Porsche design.  With its round headlights and slanted back end, it is easy to confuse the Condor with a 911.  However, the 911 was introduced in 1963.  The Condor was released in 1957 at the Geneva Auto Show.  It had to have been an impressive introduction. 
                Even though the Condor was not penned by the famed Ferdinand Porsche, automotive aficionados might know the name of Hans Trippel who went on to design the Amphicar.  The Amphicar has to be in the top 100 cars of all time for all car lovers.  For those who aren’t familiar with the Amphicar, as its name entails it was a car that also drove on the water.  The Weidner Condor isn’t quite as radical as the Amphicar but still used futuristic building materials such as fiberglass and an all steel chassis.  Like other small German cars of its time the engine of the Condor was located in the rear.  The engine was a small 3 cylinder unit from Heinkel that would push the car to a top speed of around 80 mph. 
                Alright, so the Condor isn’t exactly a speed demon on the track.  The spirit of this car is the design.  The car has a real presence to it.  From a distance it looks a lot larger than it is.  This car is small.  However, the details make it huge.  The first things you see are the headlights.  Those Porsche-like units grab you and draw your eyes over the silky body lines.  You flow over the cabin to the sloping rear and then over the tiny little fins that house the tail lights.  So many cars we call beautiful share body lines like this but what makes the Condor unique is all the other features your eyes catch the second time you look at it.  Below the rear lights is a body color bumper that extends past the body.  Stand at the right angle and you miss the bumper all together.  I couldn’t help but look at the perfect curve the bumper takes along the bottom of the frame.  Does the front have the same design feature?  I run the front and yes there it is a beautiful bumper outlining the front end just like on the back.  I couldn’t believe I missed it the first time.  It is such an elegant feature.  I thought I was done with the exterior so I moved on to look at the inside of this red pearl.  The Condor wasn’t done surprising me.  I got stopped by the doors of the Condor.  It would have been so easy to just have put normal doors on the little coupe and never thought about it again.  The Condor is not a normal car however.  The doors are suicide style.  Suicide doors on a coupe!  Scissor doors wouldn’t have surprised me more.  After I got over the doors I did look inside and the Weidner did not disappoint.  Compared to modern cars the Condor looks very simplistic.  I personally miss this attribute of older cars. Cars of today have all the electronics and creature comforts but when all I want to do is drive I just want something unassuming in front of me.  The Condor looks like my perfect interior.  Just a steering wheel, two seats, two dials, and of course a manual gear box.  Is that too much to ask for?  I really hope not. 
                What resonates with me over the Weidner Condor is the uncluttered approach this car has to design.  Modern car designs are all about being busy and full of features.  Sales prove that is what buyers want.  The Weidner was not a sales giant.  Only 200 examples ever found homes mostly due to a high asking price.   Even with the low production numbers time has not been good to the Condor.   A car with this passion should be remembered.  No car on the road today has this kind of style and design.  I feel that modern designers could take inspiration from the Condor.  I know I was inspired just standing next to this very special car. 

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