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Concept Car of the Week: Ford Indigo (1996)

07 October 2016 | by Karl Smith

Some concept cars are futuristic flights of fancy, some are barely disguised production models, and some are technical exercises clad in a sexy wrapper. The Ford Indigo is a classic example of the latter.

Throughout the 1990s, Ford, through its in-house engineering teams, and its alliances with Tier 1 suppliers, amassed a prodigious amount of racing car technical knowledge. The Indigo was designed to be a showcase of those technologies, wrapped in a proposed street-legal package.

Ford Indigo 2

Two Indigo concepts were built – a non-operational hard model for the car-show circuit, and a fully functional testing prototype. The Indigo was first presented at the 1996 North American International Auto Show in Detroit. There was some head scratching about the name, given the brilliant red colourway, but the name had nothing to do with the intensely dark blue colour. Indigo was short for “Indy – go!”

Ford Indigo 3

The moniker might have been lame, but the technology underpinning the car was serious and cutting edge. At the core of the car was a monocoque tub of carbon fibre bonded to a unique aluminium honeycomb shell. This tub framed the interior of the car, and had the front and rear suspensions attached to it. The suspension – race-style double wishbones with pushrods operating inboard coil-over shock absorbers – and the tub were developed by UK-based Reynard Motorsports which partnered with Ford on many racing projects.

Ford Indigo 4

The design of the car, by Claude Lobo, was meant to evoke an Indy racer, in spite of the street legal constraints. The overall shape was a curved wedge, with a narrow shark-nosed front, and a body that flared up and curved around to form a wing at the rear. The body did not extend over the wheels, and, at first glance the Indigo appeared to be an open-wheeled car. But the wheels did have thin black fenders that curved over the top of the wide performance tyres.

Ford Indigo 5

The front of the Indigo was dominated by the spoiler, which doubled as a bumper. It was also a mounting point for running lights and sequential LED turn indicators. The spoiler seemed unnaturally high due to the extreme low overall height of the car, at just a metre high. The headlights were mounted on the rear-view mirrors. At the rear, all lighting was integrated into the trailing edge of the rear wing.

Ford Indigo 7

One stepped through the scissor doors across a wide sill to access the interior, where a spartan ensemble awaited. The two bucket seats were simple and straightforward. So was the IP, with minimal instrumentation all combined into a single LCD screen beyond the steering wheel; no classic composition of analogue gauges there. The windscreen was half height, and there was no provision for weather protection.

Ford Indigo 9

Although Ford insisted that the Indigo was a concept, there were also Ford executives that spoke off the record of the car going into limited production. But it was not to be. The revived GT was already in the works and would become the supercar that gathered all of Ford’s racing car knowledge into a street legal package.

Ford Indigo 14

As for the Indigo itself, Ford kept the running version and auctioned off the show car, which then met an untimely end with its new owner – it was wrecked under mysterious circumstances. A sad ending for such a promising concept – and a wonderful conceit: a racing car in every garage.