Movie Cars Inspire This Year's LA Auto Show Design Challenge

From Blade Runner to Bullitt, cars have played a starring role in countless big screen productions.

Capitalizing on that trend, this year's LA Auto Show Design Challenge introduced an element of fantasy to their competition by encouraging automakers to create their versions of the ultimate four-wheeled cinematic star.

Design studios from Germany, Japan, and the U.S. responded to that call, and Mercedes-Benz's Advanced Design Center in Carlsbad, California offered up a sexy number dubbed the "Silver Lightning" as their entry in the annual contest.

The Concept

Inspired by the "Silberpfeil" (or "Silver Arrow") racecars of the 1930s and the Uhlenhaut SLR of the 1950s, this fantastical concept incorporates wild proportions, sensuous curves, and a tiny cockpit that only seems viable in the freeform world of filmed entertainment.

To emphasize the concept car's filmic context, designers also created a fictional backstory involving Hans05 and Franz02, two crash test dummies that abscond the roadster in order to save it from destruction.

The Formula 1-inspired ride incorporates a diagonally configured, hubless roller track that enables omnidirectional turns.

In the Flesh

We checked out a full-scale mockup of the car at the Mercedes-Benz Advanced Design Center in Carlsbad, California, and were impressed with its low-slung road presence and finely finished details.

Hubert Lee, who penned the Mercedes-Benz CLS, served as design director for the project, with Jackson Luttig and Yasu Sato earning designer credit. A computer-generated sequence was rendered by Alan Barrington, depicting the fictitious car's origins.

The project required months of work that were completed the night before the unveiling. But without Mercedes-Benz's 125-year history, this futuristic vision could not have been imbued with the power of the past.

See more LA Auto Show news.

author photo

Basem Wasef is an automotive journalist, author, and photographer with two coffee table books under his belt, and is a regular contributor to Popular Mechanics, Robb Report, and Maxim among others. When Basem isn't traveling the globe testing vehicles, he enjoys calling Los Angeles home.

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