QUADRIGA One Man's Quest
Report and pictures by Lance Cole, ©1985
THE ANNALS of automotive history are littered with the work of men who have harboured their own particular dream of what should be. Kit cars and sportster prototypes are the usual ingredients for 'one off' ventures that often end up in bankruptcy courts.
Suppose that somewhere in the four wheel drive world, someone dreamed of an advanced vehicle with an advanced structure -- not just another glassfibre monstrosity with torsional rigidity of a blancmange, but a high tech structure with the design and styling intelligence that would do credit to a big name manufacturer. It has been done. Quadriga, the creation of Anthony Simmons, is based on the Mercedes Benz Unimog 406 chassis [more likely a 404 chassis - Ed.] and reflects the design philosophy of one man.
The Unimog's abilities are well documented but the vehicle has always followed a rather understated theme; a brilliant chassis with a predictable almost agricultural body that suffers from rust and draughts. Clearly there was room for improvement. Following his own 'total form and theory' belief, Simmons set out to produce a stylish new body which includes the latest plastics and anti ballistics fibre technology in the structure, a fully trimmed interior with orthopeadic seats, stereo, etc. yet still retaining the raw abilities of the Unimog. Anyone can fiddle with the cosmetics to make a machine fit for the Kings Road poseur, but his dream is something more than the usual leather and fur lined juke box.
Using the latest GRP, resin and fibre ideas, the body forms an unusual double monocoque. Strands of uni directional aramid fibre tape form a skeletal frame through the screen and side pillars. This underframe is then cocooned by joining to a multi layer cross webbed fibre structure up to forty layers thick and part reinforced with 30mm box steel sections. The dictates of security mean that the whole process cannot be revealed, but both the tensile and shear strenghts of the fibre composite are greatly enhanced.
The cab is mounted via rubber blocks to allow for flexing of the parallel rail chassis, with strategically placed expansion joints around the wheelarch/bumper units to allow for chassis/body flex. The design adapts to either a short or long cab configuration, with a luxury eight seater version being planned.
The interior features excellent dust sealing with raised interlocking channels around the apertures, Bostrom seats, Blaupunkt stereo and an unusual instrument display. Most gauges are mounted on the windscreen header rail, the high seating position makes taking your eyes off the road and looking up much easier than searching the facia below -- almost a 'head up' display but not quite. The two seats are seperated by a raised removable engine cover and this exemplifies the cockpit feel. Rearward visibility, the usual bugbear of such projects is excellent. Cabin sealing is aided by the basic styling -- a mixture of curves and straight lines that tie down airflow seperation points, thus aiding cross wind stability and dust control.
The making of Quadriga is also different. A 'walk in' rotating mould allows the placing into the structure of the various fibres that make it so strong, underlining the creator's wish to take a fresh look at the whole process. From a mechanical standpoint Quadriga is pure Unimog but complemented by either Petrol V8 or a Peugot diesel, with respective top speeds of 65 mph and 51 mph on 12.5x20 all terrain tyres. Also added are long range tanks, oil filled air bath and four quartz Halogen lamps with 24 volt electrics. The handling remains Unimog with no lurching or shuffling induced by the new body and its inertial effects on what is after all a proprietry chassis. The minimal overhang is retained.
For a project conceived and handcrafted by one man the finish is good, no jagged edges or add on addenda mar the overall effect. The cab was built in traditional manner, a body mock up growing from plywood and model filler, then sanded to a standard ready to make molds that even the likes of Lotus would see their face in. Special attention was paid to increasing side impact protection -- often a weakpoint in fibre glass structures. Other novel features include bumpers integrated into the body that are still strong enough to take severe knocks. The overall styling theme is of course highly personal but the slanted front end and swage line that runs around the cab and into equal width indicator lenses show a high degree of intuitive design skill. Rather like the Stonefield 4WD vehicle. Quadriga would look the part on any film set.
The unique ingredient in this exercise has got to be the combination of style and off highway ability. The Unimog chassis still clambers about like a mountain goat but now does it in style and comfort. Quadriga's future is secure, it represents a considerable investment in financial terms not to mention the two years it has taken to develop.
Small scale production is a possibility but that wasn't really the point of the exercise. The creator, hooked by the potential of new technology resins and fibres has moved onto other design work whilst he waits to see what direction Quadriga will choose to take.
Report and pictures by Lance Cole
Unimog Network Int'l ©1995-2004