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Concept Car of the Week: Pontiac Pursuit (1987)

Fri, 06 Jun 2014 00:00:00 -0700

Wheels are an essential element of car design. They contribute graphically by adding a level a rhythm and details. They can also dramatically affect the impression of power and luxury, and even improve aerodynamic performance.

But in 1987, Pontiac unveiled the Pursuit concept, a futuristic four-seater coupé exploring the aesthetic of a car without wheels. Although it made a short appearance in Back to the Future II, the Pursuit did not fly, it had four wheels discretely hidden behind its uninterrupted body surfaces.

The main volume was extremely simple and rounded, typical of an era when cars where drawn freehand. Up front, a long strip of light formed the headlamp and a wing graphic on the hood was a nod to the famous decals of the Firebird Trans-Am.

The only line on the car undulated along the side to create a soft light-catcher covering the front wheel.

Flush-designed wheel skirts enclosed the wheels in sleeves, which could move inward and outward as the wheels turned, and all four wheels steered. The rear wheel cover was partially cut at an angle helping to give a sense of direction to the car.

The linear tail-lamp graphic on each side of the Pontiac logo extended all the way forward into the doors. Finally the white, pebble-like body was topped by a full wraparound DLO leaving a small patch of body-coloured roof.

Not just a pretty face, the Pursuit also introduced an array of technologies that were innovative at the time, such as a unique 'Saginaw' steer-by wire system, self-adjusting suspension, and four-wheel steering.

There was more future inside with a head-up display, GPS, comlink with conferencing, and portable television sets with wireless earbuds docked into the back of the headrests that looked strangely like a Nintendo Game Boy.

Organic forms from the exterior were echoed inside with a very soft dashboard blending with the door panels and a wide cigar-shaped center console.

The rectangular-ish steering wheel had vertical handles on each side and was covered with a variety of buttons and toggles controlling the digital display and even a keyboard. 

The front seats swiveled towards the inside to give access to the rear seats, one of which contained a clever built-in child seat.


First seen 1987 Detroit Auto Show
Length 4,773mm
Width 2,005mm
Height 1,190mm
Wheelbase 2,982 mm
Engine four-cylinder, 2.0-liter, turbocharged
Power 200bhp

Your author, Flavien Dachet, is a UK-based, French-born car designer. You may know him as the purveyor of KarzNshit, a photo blog that if it isn't already in your bookmarks, it certainly should be.


By Flavien Dachet