The Helios concept is a true automotive rarity--a four-door convertible. The last production four-door ragtop was the 1967 Lincoln Continental, which was stylish, to be sure, but has nothing on this stunning car. In this customized Chrysler 300C, ASC thinks it has hurdled the primary stumbling blocks to such a vehicle--namely side-impact safety and structural rigidity--through the use of items such as an innovative bulkhead and what they call "tunnel doublers."
The bulkhead runs behind the front seats and is affixed to the stubby B-pillars created when the roof was removed. This creates greater structural stability while also allowing, ASC claims, the forces from a side impact to diffuse through the body of the car. The bulkhead does not impede front-seat movement, as ASC has devised a clever nesting system that allows to seats to move as normal. The "tunnel doublers" run the full length of the interior and form a spine-like element that further strengthens the car. This causes the standard rear bench seat to become dual buckets with little penalty to rear occupant leg and shoulder room, the loss of a passenger notwithstanding.
The top itself is noteworthy, as the nearly six-foot-long soft top folds itself into an eighteen-inch wide, twelve-inch tall stack that disappears underneath a hard tonneau and leaves the original, factory trunk lid untouched. Even with the top down, there's still plenty of space for all four occupants to bring along luggage for a long weekend. Surprisingly, the entire conversion only translates into a 300-pound weight penalty.
Seeing the top chopped off our Automobile of the Year made us gasp--in delight. The possibility of four-person, top-down motoring with no contortion involved sounds too good to be true. Were this car to be produced, the Helios would certainly find its way into many homes and, with those twenty-inch wheels, more than a few hip-hop videos.