For no reason that I can determine, legendary designer Giorgetto Giugiaro’s Italdesign concern wanted to commemorate the 500th anniversary of Christopher Columbus discovering the Americas. And they thought the best way of doing that, again for no reason I can determine, was this gargantuan hyper-luxury MPV.
The Italdesign Columbus was six metres long, over two metres wide and almost as tall. The chassis was simple box-section steel tube with a carbonfibre body to keep the immense weight down. Power came from a BMW-sourced, 300bhp 5.0-litre V12 engine driving all four wheels.
The, erm, distinctive styling was the result of the driver being placed above the engine. With a centrally-mounted seat in front a space-age dashboard and a panoramic view, sitting at the helm probably felt like piloting the Starship Enterprise.
The passengers sat lower down in three row of two plush armchairs. Access was are via a pair of two-piece doors, the lower part sliding, the upper part lifting a portion of the roof. Each seat had TV and VHS feeds. The interior could be reconfigured for more seats, or emptied for use as a van.
I first came across the Columbus in a book of concept cars, probably 20 years ago. Despite it looking like an enormous primordial fish, I though it was really cool and I still kind of do. It proved to be ahead of its time, as well. These days there are dozens of companies offering ultra-luxe conversions for minibuses.