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The Story of the Citroen Karin, the Pyramid-Shaped Car With a Central Driving Position
From the DS to the H van and the M35, Citroen built quite a few daring vehicles in the past. But none of them were as edgy as the Karin, a pyramid-shaped concept car that debuted in 1980.

The Story of the Citroen Karin, the Pyramid-Shaped Car With a Central Driving Position

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Showcased at the Paris Motor Show, the Karin concept was a rushed idea. Simply put, Citroen had nothing to show at the event and asked designer Trevor Fiore to come up with an attention-grabbing vehicle. And needless to say, the Karin raised quite a few eyebrows when it unveiled itself to the world.

The truncated pyramid design with flush glass panels was the main reason, even though the shape wasn't completely new. The Lancia Sibilo showcased a similar design in 1978, but the Karin was a far more radical proposition.

But Citroen might have gotten inspiration for the Karin from a couple of concept cars it designed in the early 1970s, including the GS Coupe and the GS Camargue by Bertone.

The Karin was a mix of familiar design features and futuristic cues. While its outer shell was indeed wilder than the average late-1970s concept car, the Karin's headlamps were reminiscent of the Citroen SM, a high-performance grand tourer that Citroen developed in cooperation with Maserati in the late 1960s.

At the same time, the partly covered rear wheels were similar to production models like the CX and GS.

But it was the massive amount of glass panels that turned the Karin into an oddball of the wedge-design era. As did the roof panel, which might still be the smallest ever produced. The size of an A3 sheet of paper, the Karin's roof was smaller than that of a bubble car like the Peel P50.

Like many concepts from the era, the Karin featured butterfly doors, which were actually necessary given the truncated shape of the greenhouse.

Things were just as wild inside the cabin, where Citroen opted for a three-seat configuration with the driver seat in the center. The latter was also positioned slightly forward compared to the side passenger seats, a layout that McLaren made popular with the F1 supercar in the 1990s.

Still, the Karin wasn't the first vehicle with a centrally-mounted driver seat. This feature had already been used in a 1947 Land Rover prototype, the FAB 1 movie car of the 1960s, and the 365P Berlinetta Speciale concept that Ferrari built in 1966.

The wrap-around dashboard looked futuristic as well, while the steering wheel had an unusually long and thick column. The design made room for a display surrounded by controls in a circular dash shaped around the steering wheel.

The latter had a V-shaped lower rim section with additional controls. The layout enabled Citroen to bragged about the fact that the driver would be able to control every single car feature without taking his hands off the steering wheel.

On the flip side, the French firm didn't talk much about the Karin's drivetrain. Perhaps because it didn't develop the concept as a fully functional vehicle. But it wasn't a static piece, as the Karin was spotted on the go at least one time.

Some materials from the era do mention a four-cylinder engine, but it's safe to assume it was far from special and most likely sourced from an existing production model.

While Citroen promoted the Karin as a car that showcases technology for the future, none of its features were used in production cars that followed. But it's an edgy idea that may have, to some extent, served as inspiration for the Tesla Cybertruck.

What happened to the Karin, you ask? Well, it currently resides in Conservatoire Citroen, where the company stores nearly 300 cars built over 100 years.

 
 
 
 
 

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