A Car Designed for (Group) Sex – or Just a Windup?



Now, we at Influx are no prudes. Hell no. And we understand intimately the visceral relationship between cars and the libido. There’s not many of us here at Influx towers in fact who haven’t associated the throbbing power of a V8 lump – or the feline curves of a sheet of steep tempered lovingly in a carrozzeria in Emilia-Romagna – with the urge to get down and dirty. There is of course something essential about the act of movement – through a landscape and into ones imagination, that will always link the lust for life with the desire for the open road. Even so, it’s difficult to get our heads around what renowned Italian industrial designer Mario Bellini really had in mind when he penned the Kar-A- Sutra.


The project was a collaboration for Citroen and Pirelli in 1972 and It was first exhibited at New York’s Museum of Modern Art in 1972. The show in which it appeared, The New Domestic Landscape, is credited in art-historical circles with having introduced modern Italian design to the US. It’s difficult not to titter at the thought of Woody Allen in tweed blazer, chinos and a neurotic expression coming across the thing and urging partner Diane Keaton that they should take the thing for a drive up to the Borscht Belt that summer. The thing is straight out of The Sleeper. According to the Bellini’s own promo material (replete with black clad mime artists offsetting the stick man squiggles nicely) the lime green wagon was not just a car, but a ‘mobile human space’ designed to be more than a living room on wheels. It had panoramic glass and soft seating for seven that you could configure either for conversation pits or beds. The corrugated body panels evoke two classic, much more prosaic Citroens, the ungainly HY van, and the stripped down Mehari.


Now any reader will attest that we are neither prudes as mentioned above, nor Clarksonian philistines. We can do cars as art and art as cars. It was the seventies, this was the Museum of Modern Art. To give the great man himself the final word the point of the design was to broaden the definition of the car. He wanted to see the vehicle as a place “…to stretch out, sleep, smile, chat face-to-face, stand up, enjoy the sun, take photos, play cards, eat and drink, make love, buy a horse and a piano along the way… forerunning (sic) the future…” But you can’t help thinking that Bellini was taking the mick out of the art-yanks.