AN INDEPENDENT designer has proposed the merger of the minivan and sport-utility themes.
'It is inevitable that hybrids like the Gear Box will emerge,' said creator Stewart Reed (below), an independent designer who has worked for Chrysler and Toyota.
The Gear Box is based on an all-wheel-drive Chevrolet Astro van. Plastic composite body panels are bonded to a vehicle structure reinforced with a truss-and-beam steel framework.
Body panels are load-bearing. The exposed truss-and-beam structure of the interior is fitted with webbing, clips and other attachments that make it easy to load gear into the cargo hold of nearly 5.6 cubic meters.
Reed's firm, Stewart Reed Design, is based in Holland, Michigan. He said he wanted to build a vehicle that had 'the heart of a truck with all-wheel drive.'
The Gear Box goes against the trend of 'gentrifying' the truck market. The interior resembles a 1950s-era US panel truck - all steel and rubber matting. The floor is covered with a molded plastic liner that has a heavy coating of non-slip urethane. The floor has drains, so cleaning does not require a vacuum cleaner - a garden hose will do.
The roof can be progressively dismantled to partially or completely open the space behind the front seats. Special attachments allow removal of the side window panels without the use of tools. The solar panel, once removed from the roof, can be set up near the vehicle to maintain a source of auxiliary power.
Reed is conducting Gear Box market research through a company called Mobility Outfitters.