At the Geneva Motor Show in 1995, Mercedes-Benz revealed a revolutionary new research vehicle whose basic concept continues to set it apart quite clearly from conventional passenger cars. The two-door compact Vario car was a master of all trades, whose appearance could be given a full makeover in just a few quick steps. The body section, which comprised the roof, sidewall and the rear end, could be interchanged with any of the other body variants. For example, the Estate could be turned into a cabriolet or the saloon transformed into a pick-up to suit either the owner’s personal preferences or the transportation task at hand.
In short, the Vario Research Car succeeded in combining four different vehicle concepts into a single car, presenting motorists with a new way of remodelling their vehicle as they wished to suit their own requirements.
To create their “four-in-one” car, the engineering team in Stuttgart separated the body into a basic vehicle and a removable top section. Inside the basic vehicle could be found all of the technical systems, as well as the front windscreen, the doors, the dashboard and the seats. In other words, an independent unit whose design remained unchanged and which contained all of the vehicle engineering. By virtue of its ingenious styling, the basic body section seemed to flow harmoniously into whichever top section was being used, cleverly concealing the interfaces between the body sections. The joins were actually positioned beneath the waistline along the sides, along the side windows and the top edge of the windscreen frame, as well as at the rear.
The research car metamorphosed within a matter of minutes, a procedure involving a minimum of technical fuss. Electromagnets and special locking systems kept the body securely fastened to the basic body. A central connector at the rear linked the body up to the vehicle’s power supply. The electronics automatically detected which variant had been fitted, and enabled the required connections accordingly.