A fish? The image Atsushiro Yamada proposes for the hybrid concept car Senku, presented by Mazda at the Tokyo Show, might look somewhat reductive. But then you discover that there is indeed a sense to it, and not just because of the forked tail. “Too many cars”, says the head of advanced design at Mazda, “are like cans on wheels, whereas what they should be is sculptures in motion, forms that suggest an emotional speed, the force and beauty of Nature”.

The vehicle was born and grew up in the advanced design centre of Yokohama, under the watchful eye of Moray Callum, Mazda design chief. The first concept at the end of 2004, then the long implementation process: “The same as for any normal car”, says Yamada. Sketches, scale and other models, and finally the prototype. Work which he calls “intense and emotional” because one aspect of it involved the definition of “a new design language”; with the support of Norihito Iwao for the externals and Koji Sakamoto for the interior. The brief for everybody was: “an elegant, sophisticated form which, without causing shock-waves, triggers a chemical reaction in those who see it and touch it”.

So it’s only a concept car, but we are starting to get used to seeing the weird features of showcars poured into production models. The transparent grille with the luminous image of a rotary engine; the two electric doors – Yamada calls them “flying wings” – which run without invasive rails down the intriguing side panel; the double tailgate, a part that is raised and one that lowers; not to speak of the asymmetrical cabin characterised by quality materials and by instrumentation which today may still appear futuristic. All of this along with an exceptional cleanness of lines; the cleanness, perhaps, which induces Yamade to see a fish in his work.

The article continues in Auto & Design no. 157

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