Blog: Dave LeggettA car barely alive, we can rebuild it, we have the technology…

Dave Leggett | 8 June 2005

Remember Lee Majors, the actor who played Steve Austin, the bionic man, in the 1970s US-made TV show, 'The Six Million Dollar Man' (that sum was the cost of his bionic upgrade)? Well, he popped up last night on TV in an ad for the IBM Think Pad laptop that I caught for the first time.

The commercial itself was a slightly laboured affair actually, but it was nice to see the old fella again. The years – or the plastic surgeon’s knife - appear to have been kind to Mr Majors (I wonder what Farah Fawcett-Majors is up to these days and how well she has worn…?).

Where am I going with this? Please bear with me.

The ‘bionic man’ - some of you may recall - had a physiology that was augmented with some mechanical/electronic parts so that he had much more physical strength and could run much faster than people made wholly of flesh and blood. The bionic man was like a secret government weapon and a force for good that always foiled the bad guys’ plans. But the word ‘bionic’ was forever imprinted in the memory banks of a generation of British children, like myself, from that period - and the word bionic is a word that you don’t encounter very often.

So, imagine my surprise this morning – hot on the heels of the nostalgia trip provided by the Majors ad on TV - to see that DaimlerChrysler has come up with what it calls a ‘bionic car’.

But hang on a minute, how would that work – a car not being part of the animal world to start with? I’m not sure and strictly speaking, I don’t think a car based on the design of a boxfish qualifies as 'bionic' on the dictionary definition of the word. It's a kind of reverse-engineered corruption of the word's meaning. Also, I don’t think the claimed first for taking a specific form from nature for a car design is quite right – what about Ferdinand Porsche's pre-war KdF (Kraft durch Freude - Strength through Joy) Wagen that became the VW Beetle?

Nevertheless, it's an interesting idea and I'm sure the marketing people would have a lot of fun with selling a 'bionic car'.

What other possibilities might there be besides the boxfish, I wonder?

The Mercedes-Benz Bionic Car as a Concept Vehicle


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