Though the theory behind the 1988 Ford Splash concept car design was wild adventure, the little machine had some very sensible features.
High-mounted, high-intensity driving lamps, for example, were retractable for daytime running, but could be let out for nighttime off-roading. Mud flaps moved upward, out of the way during off-road travel, but could be lowered for highway driving to protect the car's body from stones and mud.
A variable ride-height system adjusted to suit a variety of conditions, so that around town or rolling down the highway, the Ford Splash concept car could be lowered to the level of an ordinary automobile. Pull off the road and onto the desert, and it would quickly rise to give the added ground clearance that was needed to prevent bottoming on rough terrain.
Just about every auto enthusiast has scribbled down a design or two for a dream car of some sort -- often during high-school study periods. Very few of them ever get an opportunity to let the products of their imaginations take actual shape; certainly not under the auspices of a major auto manufacturer. Yet that's exactly how the Splash came into existence.
The Ford Splash concept car was created not by a multi-member professional design team, but by a quartet of transportation students at the industrial design department of Detroit's Center for Creative Studies. Assigned to the project by Jack Telnack, Ford's Vice President of Design, the students were asked to "design and build a vehicle they would like to use year around as well as on a summer weekend."
Work began in the spring of 1988, with the hiring of the four students -- Brad Baldonado, Chris Gamble, Warren Manser, and Ricky Hsu -- who devoted their summer vacation period to creating a vehicle.
The students were given plenty of freedom to decide on the type of vehicle they wanted, how big it might be, and the design theme. Only one tangible goal was suggested: that it be "flexible, youthful, exciting and just plain fun."
Ford wanted to see a vehicle that might appeal to a broad spectrum of young and entry-level drivers, not just to a narrowly focused group. Like everyone involved in the auto industry, Ford values the youth market.
The under-25 crowd's spending power and untapped brand loyalty can't be ignored. Everybody wants to attract that segment of the market, but not everyone seems to know what might appeal the most. Splash, was one possible answer.
To learn how Ford executives went from desiring a vehicle that would appeal to the under-25 demographic to actually building one, go to the next page.