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Specialised Automotive Designs

Almost as soon as men put engines on wheeled vehicles designers began to create highly specialized vehicles. Some of these designs made a lot of sense, like the Willys Jeep used by the United States military for many decades beginning before World War II, a design that is still in evidence today and is favored by off-road enthusiasts.

Other modifications evolved into ambulances, trucks, buses, delivery lorries and utes, all of which had a specific design intent, but often multiple uses. Some vehicles that were built had very limited uses beyond their basis design purposes. A number of entrepreneurs have attempted to merge aircraft with cars and came up with vehicles that could neither fly nor drive very well. The amphicar was a car chassis with a boat body. Again, this neither drove nor sailed with much agility.

Sports cars could be considered a specialized design, one that accommodates a limited number of people (two) without much comfort and few amenities. But, they were fun to drive and they developed a core of enthusiasts, people to whom the trip was the reason to travel, not the destination. Sports cars are still in evidence today, but without the leaky tops, ill-fitting side curtains and rough ride. A few hold true to the design like the Mazda Miata and the new Subaru/Scion two-seater coupe, but most have morphed into luxury two or four-seat convertibles with power everything and air conditioning.

Many specialized designs evolved over their design-life into more functional vehicles. After the Jeep developed a following amongst the Allied military, civilian versions came on the market. These grew in size, comfort and amenities and spawned several more models. Other manufacturers jumped on the band wagon. In the USA Ford produced the Bronco, Chevrolet the Blazer, International the Scout and Dodge the Ramcharger. European and Asian manufacturers followed suit and today there are many versions of the SUV, from compacts and mid-sized to huge people-movers.

The original design intent of a four passenger, four-wheel-drive utility vehicle has vanished, except in a few models that are really used in rough country and off-road.