Could this be the future of fun for the company that has brought us such spectacular production cars as the twin-turbo 300ZX, the 370Z, and the mighty GT-R? While still a bit of a hushed mystery almost 18 months after its unveiling at the 2013 Tokyo Motor Show, the triangular-shaped roadster known commonly as the “BladeGlider” still remains a potential contender as a next generation high-performance electric sports car.
But is this sliver-shaped sports car still going into production like Nissan promised it would, and what makes them think that something like this will sell in the first place? I am of sound mind that in order to better understand the future it is sometimes best to review the past, and Nissan is no different than any other company when it comes to this matter.
Back when Nissan still sported a “Datsun” badge, there were a large number of earth-shattering innovations that propelled the Japanese car company past the likes of its expensive European competition, and heavy American adversaries. Its sports car line proved to be an ideal combination of something that was lightweight, rear-wheel-drive, rev-happy, and incredibly inexpensive to own and repair. Revolutionary roadsters like the Fairlady-Z and Paul Newman’s irreplaceable SRL 2000 of the 1960s were all well received by Americans who wanted something sporty and nimble, but didn’t want to drop boatloads of cash at the dealership.
But over the years Datsun has slowly morphed into a very different entity all together, eventually becoming modern day Nissan, which has ushered in things like big V6 engines, large SUVs for American markets, and turbocharged monstrosities like the Skyline GT-R. But along with all the increased power gains in their sports cars came another issue: weight gain. Long gone were the stripped down simplistic cars of old, and Nissan suddenly found themselves in a totally different sports car bracket all together.
For years die-hard enthusiasts clamored for a car that was an homage to the days of old, when Datsun was a nimble beast, prowling around mountain passes in search of fresh prey. Then suddenly, in 2013, Nissan unexpectedly rocked the world with a teaser of a stripped down, angular, and very aggressive looking automobile at the Tokyo Auto Show that offered an unbeatable driving experience for fans of their classic offerings.
Aptly named BladeGlider, this eye-catching concept car was described as an electric interpretation of a futuristic Deltawing race car. A recent report by U.K.-based AutoCar goes on to say that the car was originally “built around an Ariel Atom” and that “Deltawing race car designer Ben Bowlby was reported to have been involved with the project.” When asked as to why Nissan was interested in creating such a uniquely designed car, Andy Palmer, company president at the time, replied, “We are exploring ways of getting back to a sports car that is affordable, challenging and appealing for young people.”
So the Blade Runner-looking futuristic fun factory certainly shook things up a bit, and excited throngs of classic Datsun fanatics and their offspring alike with the thought of an inexpensive sports car that could rocket Nissan back to its roots. With its wedge-shaped styling, lightweight carbon body, unorthodox three person seating arrangement, jet fighter cockpit design, torquey electric motor, and unabashed futuristic flare, this car certainly has undeniable appeal to racing enthusiasts. But then it suddenly just seemed to disappear from the radar. Then Nissan surprised again when they said that they had a big announcement regarding the long-awaited production of the BladeGlider.
Nissan states that the BladeGlider is now officially “not among the immediate priorities” for the company on a production level, according to chief planning officer Philippe Klein. This was not the kind of news many were looking for. Klein tried unsuccessfully to console us by stating that the car “is still on the table, but at the end of the day it has to make sense to the company. We have the concept car, and it has the ability to surprise, but it is not big in our plans now.”
After all that talk, media hype, testing, and research Nissan just tosses the BladeGlider back into the ideas pool from which it emerged. This had to have have been frustrating for guys like Deltawing mastermind Ben Bowlby, who doubtlessly spent many a long day and a sleepless night transforming the BladeGlider into something that he could proudly call a “handling benchmark” for the automotive industry.
To Mr. Bowlby, this 100% electric contraption he helped co-create isn’t just “about efficiency, it’s about pulling a lot of G [Force], it’s about [having] an exciting and pleasurable ride and yet being very efficient while doing that.” It is truly disheartening to see a man’s hard work be so easily pushed aside, even when it is something that he claims has “extreme handling and extreme fun and a whole new experience, a totally different driving experience.”
Originally slated for a 2017 release with a base price of around $32,000, this unexpected postponement of the clever 30/70 front to rear weight-distributed “deltoid” designed roadster has left many of us in the auto industry scratching our heads. Perhaps issues with safety and road legalities came into play, or maybe there have been some grumblings from higher-ups in the company that the 370Z and the Skyline are more than capable enough to bring joy to the average enthusiast. And then there is the undeniable fact that this is not a practical car by any definition, and most people would never even consider this as a viable option to begin with when shopping for a car.
So despite the fact that Nissan design chief Shiro Nakamura says that the model seen here is “an extreme interpretation” of a production version, many critics continue to question the automobile’s aggressive angles and unusual layout. The car’s narrow front track has also been quite the cause for concern, and even though Nissan says it is “stable” many skeptics feel that the hybrid’s minuscule meter-wide front end could be a recipe for disaster under hard braking and tight turns. So for the time being we will just have to go back to driving our trusty old Datsun Z’s, and when Blade Runner comes on TV we’ll fantasize about what it might be like to one day drive a BladeGlider through the dirty, rain-swept streets of the future.
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