2010 Detroit: Something's Fishy About Mini's Beachcomber Concept

If there’s one thing we’ve come to expect from Mini at the Detroit auto show, it’s a whimsical press conference. As you can see from the above photo, we weren’t let down this afternoon.

To unveil its new Beachcomber concept, Mini crafted a so-called “urban beach” on its display stand, complete with faux dunes (made from an asphalt-like material) and a gigantic onyx palm tree. Billabong-clothed hipsters danced across the dune-like stage, until the Beachcomber rolled into view with some sort of man-shark hybrid (or “EfficientDynamics,” if you’re into using BMW corporate lingo) behind the wheel.

Appropriately, the Beachcomber itself is just as whimsical as the stage show. Largely inspired by the old Mini Mokes from the ‘60s, the show car exposes its four passengers to the elements -- ideally, sun, surf, and sand. Should inclement weather blow in, we’re told there are soft doors and a roof that can be installed, but we wouldn’t want to use them in the frigid weather currently surrounding the city of Detroit. (The proposed hardtop, however, would suffice.)

The concept is chock full of unusual details, especially within the cabin. Plastic floors can be hosed off after a day at the beach, and so can the seats, which resemble wetsuits. A black plastic palm tree -- essentially a miniature of the tree on the display stand -- sprouts from between the plastic seats, while an unusual grain finish is applied to both the dashboard trim and the edges of the wheelwells. The asymmetrical cargo hold is reminiscent of the Mini Clubman, and requisite for the faux spare tire, which is actually a storage compartment.

If the lack of substantial side-impact protection didn’t already give you a clue, the Beachcomber isn’t going to be part of Mini’s product portfolio anytime soon. It does, however, give us a preview of the forthcoming Mini crossover, which we’ve learned will be billed as the “Mini Crossover.” Expect the oh-so-cute-ute to sport four doors, all-wheel-drive, and room for (at least) four when it debuts at the Geneva motor show.

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