21C Ford Concept Car, 1999
The Ford 021C is Marc Newson's most ambitious design project yet. Built at Ford's Ghia studio in Turin, Italy, the 021C has taken more than nine months' full time work to complete. Newson has personally designed every component apart from the powertrain, suspension and other mechanical and electrical ancilliaries.
Reaching out for a new generation of consumers
"The Ford 021C is an honest, simple, engaging car, and these are values which resonate with this important group of emerging automotive consumers," said Ford's Vice-President of Design, J Mays. Mays took the unusual step of commissioning acclaimed Australian-born designer Marc Newson to create the 021C and challenge Ford's own design processes. "We're thinking outside the square with this car," said Mays, "and we're doing it in public."
Mays said the project has helped change the way Ford designs new vehicles. "As car designers we tend to approach everything from an automotive perspective," Mays said. "The Ford 021C treats the car as a cultural icon. We have created a distinct point of view with this car and if you don't get it, don't worry - you're probably not meant to."
Mays said the philosophy behind the 021C lays the foundation for new generation of Ford vehicles which will appeal to a new generation of consumers into the 21st century. "This is all about making that vital connection with customers, no matter how different their world view and life experiences might be from our own."
The O21C was also designed to bring some fun back to the Tokyo Motor Show. "It's probably more George Jetson than Georg Jensen," said Mays, who describes the 021C's unique look as retro-futurism.
Built around elements of Ford's next generation small car platform, the Ford 021C is a three box sedan with extremely short overhangs. Although it has a 37mm longer wheelbase, the 021C is actually 19mm shorter overall than a Ford Ka.
The carbon fibre exterior features simple shapes and clean surfaces with no superflous decoration. The doorhandles, for example, are simple aluminium buttons surrounded by a translucent plastic ring which is illuminated as the remote central locking is activated.
The glasshouse is light and airy, with thin pillars all round and clamshell door frames to ensure the widest possible apertures. The front and rear views of the Ford 021C are dominated by single light lenses and a wrap around bumper. The rear light uses conventional LEDs; the front features an innovative white LED/fibre optic display which is programmable via a ROM chip.
Despite its relatively conventional exterior architecture, the Ford 021C is very roomy inside, thanks to its ingenious design. The interior features a flat floor which curves smoothly 021C interior
Every element of the Ford 021C has been designed by Marc Newson, apart from the mechanical and electrical systems. Newson even designed the instrument panel graphics, all the switches, the wheels and the tread on the specially produced Pirelli tyres. "It's easily the most comprehensive design job I've ever done," he said. "It was like designing 500 products at once."
This extraordinary attention to detail gives the Ford 021C a coherence rarely seen in concept vehicles. Newson, who owns a classic Aston Martin DB4 and has designed everything from glassware to furniture to restaurant interiors, said he wanted to design a car that wasn't intimidating. "I wanted to create a car that was light, likeable and fun," he said. "But more importantly, I wanted the car to connect on an emotional level.
"Ask children to draw a car and they'll draw something like this, so in many ways the 021C is a familiar and comfortable object," Newson said. "But it doesn't use many typical automotive design cues, and while it does incorporate some interesting technology, it's not technology used simply for the sake of it." The 021C is a familiar and comfortable object," Newson said. "But it doesn't use many typical automotive design cues, and while it does incorporate some interesting technology, it's not technology used simply for the sake of it."