The idea of a four-in-one car sounds great: sedan, wagon, cabriolet, and pickup — all interchangeable in about 15 minutes.
Cars serve multiple purposes as one buys a sedan or wagon for the family, another person gets a droptop to get the most out of summertime driving, while a pickup truck is used as a workhorse. More than two decades ago, Mercedes wanted to bundle them all in the Vario Research Car, a two-door compact vehicle with a FWD layout and a versatile body made out of CFRP.
Each of the four available bodies weighed between 30 to 50 kilograms (66 to 110 pounds) and guaranteed “a high level of stability and crashworthiness.” The VRC was not envisioned only for people with garages big enough to store the bodies when not in use as Mercedes had the idea of a rental station where the owner would go to pick up the desired body and keep it without any time restrictions to worry about.
Aside from its customizable body, the concept also featured a traffic sign evaluating system, which can be best described as an early sign of today’s traffic sign detection. It was able to identify the speed limit in a certain area and then visually alert the driver whenever speeding.
Moreover, the VCR was Mercedes’ very first research car to benefit from drive-by-wire technology for the steering and brakes by eliminating the mechanical linkages.
Such a concept will probably never see the light of day as it wouldn’t be a wise business decision for an automaker to sell just one car when it could have four models at different prices generating bigger profits.