Although I’m not a huge fan of concept cars, every so often there’s one that really gets me excited. Probably my all-time favorite concept car is the Italdesign Columbus, which was a massive minivan concept car that used a mid-mounted BMW V12. Yes, this actually existed. One example, anyway.
The Columbus was shown as a concept car in 1992, theoretically commemorating the 500th anniversary of Christopher Columbus’s discovery of America in 1492. I can’t find whether it was shown in an auto show, but there are enough photos floating around the internet to make me think this thing had some sort of wide debut with at least a little press interest around it.
And why shouldn’t it? The Columbus wasn’t just a minivan, but a minivan designed by the world famous Italdesign studio, home of Giorgetto Giugiaro, who designed many famous vehicles like the Maserati Ghibli, the original Volkswagen Golf, the DeTomaso Mangusta, the DeLorean, the Lotus Esprit and the Alfa Romeo Giulia. More importantly, the Columbus used a BMW V12: a 300-horsepower, 5.0-liter V12 with 332 lb-ft that was midmounted to free up space for a large passenger compartment.
And oh, boy, was there a large passenger compartment. The Columbus was 236 inches long, making it longer than the majority of full-size pickup trucks, and it had this bizarre front bubble design that was more than a little distinctive. The interior was absolutely huge, and the Columbus had windows everywhere, swiveling seats, four rows of chairs, televisions and a center-mounted steering wheel. It was also all-wheel drive, which was ahead of its time for a van.
Shockingly, or perhaps not at all, the V12-powered, Italian-designed, center-steer, 4-row Columbus never made it into production and my assumption is that the sole unit built was retailed by Italdesign. I can only imagine the quirks and features.