Opel Junior

Car of the Day #85: Opel Junior concept

Opel Junior
Opel Junior • via Opel

Today, let's revisit a Chris Bangle classic. He was part of the team behind the Opel Junior concept, and responsible for its interior.

More on that in a minute — because this car’s exterior is quietly brilliant. 

Junior was penned by Hideo Kodama, following a theme that sounds simple but most assuredly is not: creating a small car that people want to buy.

That’s tough.

Designing Ferraris, Lamborghinis, and Zondas is relatively easy and straightforward, because the first (and often only) problem to solve is how to clothe high-performance mechanical parts in a sexy body. A body that turns heads, performance that leaves you breathless, aerodynamics honed in the wind tunnel, yadda yadda, and there's your supercar.

Let's say the Junior bought by a fictional young person.

Young people are generally broke, promiscuous, and active in some way. Impromptu road trips in crappy cars, minor fender benders, getting stuck in the mud at a music festival…that sort of thing. (This is how a great many Chevrolet Cavalier left this earth.)

Think of how useful it would be, as a young person, to have an inexpensive, efficient, and space-efficient vehicle. If styling a small car was easy, everyone would be doing it; for what it’s worth, Kodama said it’s meant to be huggable.

Inside the Junior? We’re in Bangle’s World.

Look past the duvet seats. Its dashboard was reconfigurable to house different modules, great for upgrading over time if you're on tight budget or want the latest technology. Those modules were as diverse as its future owners, from practical items like a rev counter to hilarious ones like a shaver. Laugh all you want, but you know someone who'd love that in their car.

The seats, in perhaps a nod to the Citroën 2CV, could be used outside the car, though not as garden chairs—those “duvets” are actually a pair of sleeping bags. Perfect for a cold night at the drive-in or something to sleep in at Coachella. Even the Junior’s roof was interchangeable.

Junior’s interior put function first. The sense of whimsy and fun came from the materials and abilities of the items inside, and how they looked. But it was all for a purpose.

I can't say for sure who on the design team thought of this detail, but consider that the tachometer was actually removable and could be used in the engine, so budget-conscious hobbyists would be able to more easily do a proper tune-up. Tach about a next-level feature.

Imagine a modern car with a detachable screen that doubles as a diagnostic slate: more next-level shit.

Anyway, enjoy the Junior — and do watch the clip above of Kodama talking about his time at Opel design.


Thank you to my supporting members: Ben B., Brad B., Chris G., Daniel G., Damian S., Daniel P., Drew M., Ingrid P., Karl D., Luis O., Michael J., Michael L., Michelle S., Mike B., Mike L., Mike M., Richard W., Sam L., Wiley H.