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BMW’s GINA features fabric skin

August 1st, 2008 / By: / Markets, New Products

BMW's GINA concept car sports a flexible fabric skin that can be reconfigured to suit driving conditions. Photos: BMW Group of North America.
BMW’s GINA concept car sports a flexible fabric skin that can be reconfigured to suit driving conditions. Photos: BMW Group of North America.

She’s slick, sleek and hooked on speed, but BMW’s GINA isn’t your girl-next-door concept car. The radical GINA, which stands for Geometry and Functions in ‘N’ Adaptations, is a vehicle dressed to impress in a fabric skin over a mechanized electro-hydraulic metal and carbon frame.

The GINA Light Visionary Model (LVM) roadster wears a fabric skin comprised of a wire-mesh inner stabilizing layer and a water- and temperature-resistant outer layer stretching over the frame. The frame shifts on driver command to optimize airflow in certain driving conditions, wrinkling and stretching the skin as it moves. The eight-cylinder engine hides under a 1.6-foot slit that opens and closes. Turn signals and taillights glow through the fabric. The skin opens to reveal BMW’s traditional round headlamps.

Flexibility, resistance to temperature extremes and water resistance weren’t the only fabric challenges to BMW designers. The dimensional stability—retaining surface tension despite humidity, temperature and constant expansion—posed the greater obstacle. BMW tapped the expertise of its fabric experts, designers of car interiors, to develop patterns, cut the webbing with maximum precision, determine the strategic attachment points and stretch the fabric over the frame.

Don’t expect GINA on the road tomorrow, because moving a car from vision to prototype to production is a process fraught with road blocks. One wag commenting online about the new design writes “Instead of a paint scrape, some bounder can slash your body, leaving a gaping hole.” Still, with the continuing evolution of composites that combine fabric flex and carbon strength, GINA may be the “It” girl of the car cognoscenti within a few short years.

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