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BONNEVILLE SALT FLATS PLAYS HOST TO LINEUP OF 13 FUTURISTIC VEHICLES

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They came from Europe, 13 strong, through New Jersey and stops along the way, to "where else," said Robert Ward at a briefing on Monday, "but Bonneville Salt Flats.

"It is the only place we can accomplish what it is we want to do."Which is? Save gas, reduce pollution and, where possible, set speed records. All this, Ward explained, with vehicles as different as any ever designed, yet as natural looking as fish and birds and tiny little bugs.

Ward and his Automorrow team brought with them 13 vehicles designed by the famed Luigi Colani, of West Germany, once called the "Leonardo da Vinci of the 20th Century."

And, indeed, the cars are unusual looking, with low profiles, bubble tops and a mixture of power sources ranging from leg muscles to electricity.

All built, said Ward, using the concept of bio-design.

"Animals," he continued. "Birds, fish, bugs . . . anything that shows aero- or hydrodynamics. Nothing is more efficient than nature.

"Our goal is to create cars that get better economy. This will help reduce pollution and greatly help the ecology of the world."

Colani got the idea one year ago. Since then, teams of engineers and design specialist have been hard at work building Colani's creations. "The last one we finished the night before we left to come to Utah," said Ward, an assistant designer with the project.

Probably the most imposing of the 13 is a semi-truck and trailer - Utah No. 12. (Each of the 13 carries the Utah name and a number in order of completion.) It is a futuristic transport built with a bubble-cab set up high and windshield wipers that rotate like helicopter blades.

The truck is built over a Mercedes Benz chassis, has a fiberglass and plexiglass body, a 15,070 cubic centimeter Mercedes engine, took only 12 weeks to build and gets between 11 and 12 miles per gallon, or about twice what most of today's semis get.

What the other cars will do or get, Ward said, is top secret.

Results from Bonneville will be analyzed, digested, reviewed and then released sometime between now and when the 13-vehicle team returns next year with even loftier goals.

Even if all this weren't a secret, Ward said he couldn't tell much anyway. Most will be driven for the first time at Bonneville.

"We just don't know what they will do, or what we'll find, or what changes we'll have to make," he added.

In this pool of vehicles comes a variety of concepts. Utah No. 1, for example, is an aerodynamically designed bicycle with a carbon fibre/chrome moly frame.

Utah No. 5 is a two-wheel motorbike fitted with an 80cc, V-8, overhead cam engine. The engine is, said Ward, the smallest V-8 in the world.

Utah No. 8 is a two-seat, low-profile sports car with a BMW 1,000-cubic centimeter motorcycle engine.

"Think of it," said Ward, "you could have a motorcycle in the summer, then take the engine out, put it in the car, and have a sports car in the winter."

The bicycle will, of course, only go as fast as a good cyclist can pedal. Ward hopes that some of the higher-powered cars will hit speeds approaching 400 miles per hour.

Actually, though, this visit to the salt is more for sampling than for record setting. After Bonneville, the cars will go to California, then back to the East Coast and the return home to Europe.

Next year the team will again return to the salt, hopefully with interested parties from Russia and Japan. The goal, in fact, is to make this an annual visit to Utah.