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Collection of Colani prototypes, including some Automorrow racers, fails to sell at auction

Published in blog.hemmings.com

Colani’s Utah 8. Photos via CataWiki.

Just a month after designer Luigi Colani died, a number of his full-size design studies and working one-off cars – including some of his Automorrow racers designed to break records at the Bonneville Salt Flats – appeared incomplete and damaged at auction and all failed to come anywhere close to their pre-auction estimates.

Throughout his life, Colani might have applied his visions of a bio-mimicking techno-utopian future to all sorts of consumer products – from TVs to pens to clothes, even to coffins – but he constantly returned to automobile design, the field in which he first rose to prominence in the early 1950s. While he began by designing cars for production and even produced his own kit car meant to use Volkswagen drivetrains, by the late 1960s he turned entirely to experimental and conceptual vehicles that relied heavily on his own sense of aerodynamic efficiency.

While many of his vehicular designs during the Seventies relied on aerodynamics for fuel efficiency, by the late Eighties he decided to prove his ideas with Automorrow, an all-out effort to set land-speed records at Bonneville with 13 different vehicles. Some were human powered, some two-wheeled, hardly any had a straight line.

“Tomorrow’s vehicles have to be lean and mean,” Colani told the Los Angeles Times for a story on Automorrow. “They must generate maximum use within a minimum size. There is no future for the overweight, overpowered monsters now being churned out by the world’s auto industry.”

Three of those Automorrow vehicles crossed the block as part of Catawiki’s recent Automobilia auction. Utah 6, above, used a Volkswagen Golf four-cylinder engine mounted in the rear. Butterfly doors flanked either side of a severely sloped windshield while the underbody lifted sharply upward toward the rear – a feature that permeated Colani’s four-wheeled designs, presumably to take advantage of ground effects. Estimated to sell for 50,000 to 75,000, it bid up to 25,000.

Utah 8, perhaps the most widely photographed of Colani’s Automorrow vehicles, used a turbocharged 1,000cc BMW four-cylinder motorcycle engine good for 160 horsepower and theoretically capable of reaching 150 MPH in part due to its carbon-fiber chassis and overall weight of 1,300 pounds. Estimated to sell for 75,000 to 120,000, it bid up to 24,000.

The third Automorrow vehicle in the auction, Utah 11, used a turbocharged 1,300cc four-cylinder motorcycle engine and a sidecar-configuration three-wheeled chassis. Estimated to sell for 35,000 to 50,000, it bid up to 15,000.

Other Colani vehicles in the auction include his circa 2000 Formula 1 Car of Tomorrow, reportedly one of his most controversial designs; a circa 1983 Le Mans racer design study for Mazda; and his circa 2000 city car, powered by a Hyundai drivetrain. The Car of Tomorrow, estimated to sell for 100,000 to 125,000, bid to 15,000; the Le Mans study, estimated to sell for 50,000 to 75,000, also bid to 15,000; and the city car, estimated to sell for 25,000 to 32,500, bid to 9,000.

Another Colani vehicle in the auction, a golf cart, bid up to 7,500 but didn’t sell.

Except for Utah 8, located in Rome, all of the above vehicles were located in Milan. Similarly, all but the Utah 8 were listed as damaged and in need of restoration.

(h/t to Car Design Archives)