Monday, April 27, 2009
I noticed the Mantide is receiving a lot of critics in the major sites and blogs, while followers on Twitter and smaller bloggers, like me, seem to like it, badly.
It's easy to understand why: on twitter, or on your own blog, you chose to follow the project and to cover it's style with some posts, therefore it's pretty obvious you like it too. While if you stumble upon it on your daily check list of your favorite sites, it could just look like another silly and selfish concept no one will give a look again in about a month, and you just say “no, thanks”. Sort of.
Probably in this way you missed one of the main point of this car, or project: the involvement. I don't know specifically why I've been chosen to be there last Thursday, but you have to admit inviting the “ordinary guy” was like creating a bridge between the automotive world and the enthusiasts world. Mission accomplished, I dare to say.
I can't hide I was very excited about being there. So probably my judgment on the car could result quite biased. Among the various feedback I got here and on other sites, the main was “I'm so jealous”, and I perceived I was sort of a privileged person while entering the track.
Let alone the fact that this whole event, and Inside Project M own “advertising” my reviews, is providing me the renowned “15 minutes of fame”, as Andy Warhol would say.
Thanks everyone for the great feedbacks and huge following of these days.
Now let's talk about the car.
I would never repeat enough that the main point about it is not only to see it in the flesh, but even moving.
The reflections of the light running on the body recreates its shape as during a scanning, allowing you to almost see Jason's pencil drawing the car once another time.
You can see every line converging on the following one while the car runs its laps around you in complete souplesse. Despite being an extreme design, it didn't appear as an extreme car.
Let me explain. It's a really light car with a really powerful engine and a really capable chassis. But even while driving relaxedly, it didn't appear as a beast in a cage, being nervous delivering the power or trembling on rock solid suspensions. In other words, it maintained all the ZR1's flexibility.
It doesn't look as easy to get used to though. It's a really radical design, with a lot of themes going on simultaneously, creating a hard to decipher puzzle.
First of all, the biomorph front is so strikingly resembling a Mantis, I found myself wondering how did they managed to make it so aerodynamically efficient. Other cars designed only after aerodynamic, as the Gumpert Apollo or the never born MBR Eos, generally look mean or rude, but never particularly pretty or even resembling something in particular. They don't carry on a theme.
The similarities between the insect and the car don't end on the front though, with the wings of the car right after the cockpit exactly developing as those of the green bug, creating a rear part larger than the front one. They also wrap the car as protecting its more important part, the cockpit, with a shield.
The tail points backward a a little upward exactly like it develops itself on the insect too.
Let alone the fact that the Praying Mantis is considered the Queen of the insects' world, and possibly this is more than a subtle menace for the other exotics out there.
In this case it also resembles something between a Kamm tail and the “codatronca” style developed by Ercole Spada in the sixties and seventies, and lately re-interpreted on its last creation, the SVS Codatroca TS, another C6-based exotic.
Those wings on the other hand could have been adopted for a hypothetical B.A.T. 13 concept, as it's pretty easy to see in them an evolution of those created for its predecessor, the B.A.T. 11. As on that car, even this time the design is very geometric, and it doesn't look so just for the sake of it.
Geometry is a pretty complex subject. What you can see here aren't just sharp lines, and squared body panels. I can easily see some similarities with other Bertone's cars, as the same Ramarro exposed in front of the villa, or the wheel arches of the Countach, or the wedge-shaped Stratos Zero.
But there is much more.
The car appears to be composed by geometrical parts and forms, with those sharp lines actually being the borders between each parts. It's not a patchwork, or a car designed adding pieces here and there to the original design. Despite the numerous critics, I find it very organic, homogeneous.
The first thing you noticed are the wheel arches, resembling a hexagon. Inside of them you find the rims, with the central part composed by a triangle (not to remember you can fit a regular hexagon with six regular triangles), and the spokes composed by three series of semi-hexagons, again.
Now look laterally to the wings surrounding the rear wheel arches.
What do they look like?
Hexagons, perhaps quite pyramidally shaped. The same happens with the central part of the tail, another semi-hexagon.
Now try to follow this line. It starts right after the front tire, perhaps on the left side, where there is that small wing developing underneath the car. The line raises while proceeding backward, and after passing the air intake in front of the rear tire, it follows the wing's profile upon the wheel arch, and then it goes down while turning on the back of the car, following the profile of those hexagons-fitted air vents, and then raising up again while creating the tail's profile. Now the line proceeds in the same way to the other side, until it reaches the front tire again.
At the same time, the central part of the tail seems to be like a reduced in size projection of the cockpit, which indeed has a semi-hexagonal front profile (vertical door's profile, inclined windows, horizontal roof). So it seems like we have the main part, the cockpit, with inward reclined wings attached to it.
The front part. You have actually to start front the inner side of the rear lights. Moving towards to the external side, the light become larger until it fits the almost elliptical niche it's positioned inside of. Now try to project this niche onwards, while increasing it's size, mainly towards the lower part of the car, while passing underneath the wing. Once you reached the front wheel arch, the series of hexagonally shaped air vents spread this volume to occupy the whole front part of the lateral view, including the front wheel.
Frontally, the two lateral air intakes (resembling those small arms on the mouth of a mantis) creates a angle, together with the superior border of what we could call the grille, and this angle seems to be directed towards the superior border of the lateral volume we just created starting from the rear lights, while the lower profile of the grille raises between the front light and the wheel arch and merging on the volume with the other line.
Now this is tough: imaging this two volumes, the rear one made of the cockpit with the reclined wings, and the front one getting smaller and smaller while moving backwards.
I don't know if it's the same on your mind, but I think they are pretty symmetrical, and the tip saying this are those small wings developing under the hood, being “exactly” the opposite of those reclined behind the cockpit.
So basically these volumes, front a lateral view, are like to “L”s, with the horizontal line longer than the vertical one, with one of the two (the front volume) being upside down. Now connect this two “L”s using those four wings, and here is your car.
While talking to Bradley about the look of this and other cars, I found pretty hard to express what was going on trough my mind. Describing what the car looks like is one thing, and is already a tough job, but explaining what it is, or what it stands for, is even tougher., especially when it's just you personal opinion.
I would really like to show you how many lines converge into the front or the rear, but you really need to see this car running, or to walk around it at sunset, while the car gets darker and the reflections whiter.
A lovely detail are the two ribs on the roof, following the doors' joined sides, which ideally connect the inner ribs on the hood with the Kamm tail.
The roof itself is capable of creating a much more dynamic body rather than the already excellent examples of the P4/5 and the Birdcage, both similarly styled in this part.
On a final note, my girlfriend noticed the absence of the famous "b" on the side of the car, but the signature "Stile Bertone" appeared near the doors. What do you think about it? Even the recent Alfa Romeo GT lacked of the distinctive signature.
Now, I'm no way a professional (designer, or even critic), so this is probably enough just to make you wonder how much could still be found while looking carefully at Jason's latest creation, perhaps even with much more trained eyes than mines.
Maybe I'm the only one who sees all of this going on in this bodywork, and it's all a creation of my fanboystic mind. Fair enough, once another time.
I don't have any claim, just a lot of opinions.
Hope you enjoyed this direct review of the car.
And for your information, Inside Project M just released a new video of the Shangai show, with a few more images including some officials from the Balocco event: http://www.insideprojectm.com/
The Italian Junkyard
PS: Thanks to freelance journalist and photographer Matt Davis for the nice chat while on the bus on our way out of the track.
I tried again to play a little with Photoshop, just to find out colors are different from Windows to the program. Hope the result is good on your monitors though.
All images Copyright: Damiano Garro