Based near Amsterdam, Ruben Ooms is a noted Dutch illustrator and concept and storyboard artist who studied at the Amsterdam Graphic School and Estor Studio School. Ooms spends the bulk of his work time collaborating with advertising agencies and film studios but also executes concept sketches and renderings for custom-car builders and super-yacht architects. He works primarily in digital mediums, but he rediscovered paint and brushes when he started pinstriping, lettering, and sign painting.
Jobs for traditional automakers including Renault, BMW, and VW have given Ooms exposure to contemporary vehicles, and one look at his portfolio site will tell you that depicting cars and car culture are among his primary passions. Recently, Ooms set his skills and imagination in a direction that caught our attention: How would today’s vehicles have been styled if they had been developed in different eras? Somewhat like a reverse Futurama using contemporary cars as the tableau, these four-wheeled flights of fancy are delightful representations of the present past.
1974 Audi R8
Audi in the 1970s always seemed to flirt with the idea of producing a super sports car but never quite got there. While Porsche did all the sports car work with its 911, 928, and 924 (which Audi contributed parts to), Audi concentrated on safety with its signature four-wheel-drive system, first introduced on the 1980 Audi Quattro. In 1978, BMW launched its futuristic M1—a homologation special built in Italy. Audi eventually chose to go rallying and had tremendous success with its Quattro Group B cars, but what if Porsche hadn’t been dominating the prototype and GT classes at Le Mans and Audi had tried to change the game by introducing an R8 Quattro to compete in road racing? The R8 you see here is the result. Eat your heart out, M1, and watch out, Porsche.
1956 BMW i8
In the automobile’s early days, not unlike today, there was much debate about how vehicles would be propelled in the future, with the internal-combustion gasoline engine ultimately winning the day. But what if electric power had prevailed? Perhaps then BMW’s i division would have emerged much earlier, and the 507 would have become the 1956 BMW i8 instead. The fuel-station attendant wouldn’t have carried a greasy rag; rather, he would need something to ground himself with. Perhaps he’d add a splash of distilled water to top off the battery pack before plugging a cable from the charging tower into the car’s terminal. The sexy coupe with scissor doors and flying buttresses would have been a worthy competitor to the Mercedes 300SL-EV.
1979 Range Rover Evoque
In the mid-1970s, Chrysler’s French outpost Simca teamed up with Matra to build the Rancho, Europe’s first real SUV and a cheaper, more road-oriented version of the Range Rover. The Rancho looked big and tough but in reality was front-wheel-drive only. Range Rover, Land Rover, and Jaguar spent the 1970s under the British Leyland umbrella, the same company that brought out the dreadful Austin Allegro in 1973 instead of a front-wheel-drive hatchback, and was starved of money to invest in developing new products. Let’s pretend BL and Matra combined to produce a vehicle with the rugged look of a Range Rover with a front-drive hatchback platform, adorned with the luxury of a Jaguar to create a whole new niche vehicle. And, more important, how sleek and cool would that 1970s Evoque coupe have been without all the encumbrance of modern safety regulations?
1972 Porsche 911 Cayenne
Car buyers of the 1970s hadn’t wrapped their heads around the idea of a sport-utility vehicle as a primary means of transportation, but what if the team in Stuttgart had bucked the trend? Porsche has been active in off-road racing for decades, and we can only imagine what upscale couples would think about how this lifted 911 with plenty of room for four would play at the country club. No question, an air-cooled boxer engine would be in the back, with vents in the rear pillars for the oil coolers. And the name Cayenne? In the case of the off-road vehicle and similar to Carrera, it would have been used for the specially upgraded variant based off of an experimental model Porsche created for the Baja 1000 to battle Volkswagen, here sporting a vinyl roof, front driving lights, and side-sill protection with footboard function.
1936 Tesla Model S
Anyone who has read about the incredible life of electricity pioneer and inventor Nikola Tesla knows he had plans for all manner of amazing electrified machines, so just imagine if he’d teamed with a billionaire financier to build his own electric car decades before Elon Musk was even born. And now imagine that by the mid-1930s, the nationwide charging infrastructure was struggling to compete with the alternative-fuel gasoline engine, mainly due to range issues (sound familiar?), but in larger towns and cities the quiet and clean electric was still king. Tesla planned to change that with his Model S, which would be powered by a miniaturized take on his Tesla coil, delivering a 400-mile range. As an added bonus, it would come with an emerging electric technology, the television. Sadly, the financier backed out, and the car never got past the drawing stage.
1977 Toyota Prius
The 1970s OPEC oil embargo led to a U.S. fuel crisis, leaving automakers scrambling to build smaller, more fuel-efficient vehicles. Toyota was one of the beneficiaries of this move. If Mr. Toyoda had been a couple of decades ahead of the curve, the Prius would have been a perfect vehicle to launch in the era. With a giant nickel-metal hydride battery augmenting a small four-cylinder powertrain for up to 60 mpg, the Prius would have been the wonder of its day. And with its louvered hatchback design making it versatile enough to function as a small wagon, it would have caught on with families looking for affordable relief from those incredible $0.50-per-gallon gas prices.
1970 Dodge Viper R/T
Dodge was a force on the muscle-car scene in the late 1960s, with its Chargers and Challengers making life hell for the legions of Ford and Chevy faithful at the dragstrip. But what it really needed was a car to challenge the Corvette, a two-seat sport coupe that could even compete at Le Mans. Enter the 1970 Viper, with its split bumper that Camaro stylists swear Dodge stole from them, hidden side-pipe design, and a removable hard panel stored in the back making for a targa-top look. The Dodge team stuffed a Hemi under the hood, though the special 340-cubic-inch V-8-powered R/T package was intended as more of a grand-touring coupe to roll along roads such as California’s Pacific Coast Highway.