“Boston Bullet” Wins Local Motors Design Competition

12/18/08Follow @wroush

Local Motors, a Wareham, MA, startup that has incorporated Web-based community collaboration into its unconventional new process for designing consumer automobiles, today announced the winner of its latest online auto design competition, which challenged community members to come up with a design fit for Boston’s narrow streets and urban lifestyles. Mihai Panaitescu, a Romanian who attends Istituto Europeo di Design (IED) in Turin, Italy, won Local Motors’ $2,000 first prize for the “Boston Bullet,” a three-passenger electric-powered sports car with a transparent roof.

It’s the seventh time Local Motors has run an online competition since launching its online design studio in March, and the fifth time it’s used a geographic theme (previous challenges imposed engineering requirements specific to Miami, Southern California, Hawaii, and Manhattan). Members of the Local Motors Web community chose Panaitescu’s design from more than 50 submissions through an online vote.

The competitions are the company’s way of generating designs for its nascent car manufacturing effort, which I’ve described at length in a separate post. If the company decides to build a production car based on Panaitescu’s design, he will earn an additional $10,000.

Huynh Ngoc Lan\'s Combatant Car conceptPanaitescu describes the Boston Bullet as “a vehicle for narrow city streets and quick nature escapes.” The second-place winner in Local Motors’ Boston competition was Vietnamese designer Huyng Ngoc Lan, who proposes building a 2-seat diesel called the “Combatant Concept” (shown at left). Grégory Rossi of France took third place for the P-s4h, a compact with extra cargo space.

Jay Rogers, Local Motors’ co-founder and CEO, says the company’s online design competitions—which are partly modeled on the design challenges sponsored by Threadless, a trendy Web-based T-shirt maker—have already attracted more than 1,600 participants who have submitted over 20,000 designs. “They come because there is a chance that their car will actually be made,” Rogers says. “The design studios in Detroit are blocked off from most people—you have to take a job there and then spent ten years as an apprentice just to get the chance to be the lead designer on a car.”

Local Motors has chosen one of the car designs submitted by a community member, Sangho Kim’s Rally Fighter, as the basis for its first production vehicle. The company hopes to deliver the first finished car next November.

Wade Roush is a contributing editor at Xconomy. Follow @wroush

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