Would you have driven a BMW made of fabric? | Top Gear
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Wednesday 6th December

Would you have driven a BMW made of fabric?

The 2008 BMW Gina concept was a spandex-covered roadster for the future

BMW Gina concept front three-quarters
  • What’s this relatively normal looking concept car?

    BMW Gina concept front three-quarters

    This is the BMW Gina, a roadster designed by rogue design chief Chris Bangle, the man who set fire to the rulebook and in the process wrote a new one that everyone else comprehensively copied for the next decade. Phew. It was revealed in 2008, but the BMW designers had been working on the car since 2001. Hard to see where all that work went, at first glance…

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  • So what was wrong with it? It looks like it would’ve been a shoo-in for production.

    BMW Gina concept front end with the doors open

    The Gina all seems terribly conventional (lack of windows aside, where are they hiding?) until you get up close and realise that the satin paint job is no paint job at all, rather this car is covered in fabric.

  • Wait, fabric? They just cut up some curtains and turned them into a roadster?

    BMW Gina concept front end with lights on

    Well, not exactly. The fabric covering of the Gina was formed of four separate sections, with the fabric made up of a mesh lower layer and a waterproof, heat resistant polyurethane-covered Lycra outer layer supported by a metal wire structure and carbon struts. Various parts of the body were movable – a pop-up spoiler would change the shape of the back end while the kidney grille could change size depending on cooling requirements. Or social media backlash, maybe.

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  • What does the Gina name mean? Seems exotic for a BMW.

    BMW Gina concept rear end

    Turns out that ‘Gina’ isn’t a cheeky reference to one of Chris Bangle’s long lost summer romances, but rather is infinitely duller. Gina stands for “Geometry and Functions in ‘N’ Adaptions”. No, us neither, but Bangle said that he enjoyed the project because it allowed him and his renegade group of expensive designer glasses-wearing pencil wielders to “challenge existing principles and conventional processes”. 

  • Was there a real car under the curtains?

    BMW Gina concept rear lights

    There certainly was. In fact, Gina’s innards were remarkably similar to those of the erstwhile Z8, built from 2000 to 2003. There were some crazy touches to reveal the car, though – when the headlights were switched on a little gap would appear in the fabric to allow them to blaze out, while the rear lights were revealed behind a translucent section at the rear of the car. 

  • What was under the flimsy bonnet?

    BMW Gina concept engine bay

    So, you need access to the engine? Well, it’s a bit tough to lift the bonnet here. In fact, the fabric parts in the middle of what would usually be the bonnet to access the oil filler cap like you’re doing open heart surgery or something. It’s not all craziness though – the engine was a cheeky little V8 number, with quad pipes at the back of the car letting everyone know that Gina means business (or Geometry and Functions in ‘N’ Adaptions).

  • Why didn’t the BMW Gina go into production?

    BMW Gina concept interior

    We’re not sure that anyone would have been able to cope with a fabric covered car back in 2008. Or even now. How would you clean it, on a 30-degree delicates cycle? It was supposed to be a glimpse forward at what we’d be driving in 10 years’ time, but 2018 turned out decidedly duller, so you got that one wrong Bangle. Or did he? The cockpit featured moving seats, wheel and instruments that are now standard in many cars, and the idea of different outsides clothing the same mechanical innards is only what Volkswagen and the like have pioneered with shared platforms spinning off dozens of models. Maybe the Gina wasn’t so crazy after all… no, it definitely was. 

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  • Whatever happened to the Gina concept?

    BMW Gina concept rear three-quarters

    With no real prospect of going into production, the Gina concept was put out to pasture, where it could scamper about with its friends. If you wanted to visit it, maybe feed it a carrot, it can be found at the magnificent BMW museum in Munich. Perhaps not the most iconic car in the company collection, but a great sign of a company that’s not just willing to think outside the box, but even to make the box out of weird stuff. 

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