Icons get a makeover: a divinely airy ŠKODA FELICIA
In the mind of designer Martin Leprince, the ŠKODA FELICIA is a cabriolet for a fun, carefree life. The latest in the series of Icons Get a Makeover presents a modern vision of another famous ŠKODA.
It may be chilly outside, but a drive in the sunshine in a beautiful cabriolet is always enjoyable. Sure, sometimes you need to grit your teeth against inclement weather, but that’s the beauty of cabriolets. The connection between car, driver and their surroundings is perfect. And it was bringing these three elements as close together as possible that French designer Martin Leprince from ŠKODA Design wanted to achieve in his modern cabriolet version of the ŠKODA FELICIA.
A body without boundaries
When Martin sits behind the wheel of the magnificent turquoise specimen of the original FELICIA cabriolet in the ŠKODA Museum, he takes particular pleasure in the details, running his hands over various features in the historic car. “I like touching materials,” he admits. That makes him an ideal designer of interiors, which is exactly what his job at ŠKODA involves. His passion for interiors is obvious in his study. He chose the FELICIA cabriolet because of its interior.
“Choosing a cabriolet was important for me, because you can see the exterior and interior at the same time. People may buy cars for their exterior looks, but most of the time they see the car from inside, and in a cabriolet the two combine beautifully,” says Martin. And he opted for an unusual and, at first sight, perhaps impractical detail in the interface between interior and exterior: a “floating” windscreen that hovers a few centimetres above the body and curves inwards to serve as the instrument panel and infotainment display. This feature means there is no boundary between the car’s exterior and interior. This sense of unity is enhanced by the upholstery, which reaches as far as the body panels.
One of the most beautiful Czechoslovak cabriolets was made at the Kvasiny plant in the years 1959–1965. The FELICIA was based on the OCTAVIA model of the day in terms of both looks and technologies. Just under 15,000 units were made of what is still the last mass-produced ŠKODA cabriolet.
“I call the car Bohe Vita, because to me it speaks of a bohemian lifestyle, a kind of Czech version of La Dolce Vita,” Martin explains. What inspired him most in the original model were its elegant lines and proportions. The occupants’ space is situated between the wheels in the same way as in the original, and the long rear overhang and bonnet length are also reminiscent of the original. His FELICIA is more than just a retro study, though. “I tried to use ŠKODA’s current clean design language to create a more modern and unique interpretation of the old model,” Martin says.
He used what he calls “strong features” to reference the beautiful cabriolet. These include the originally designed “fins” on the rear, most of which are taken up by the rear lights. The carmaker’s plastic logo that seems to form the entire steering column is another nod to history as well as referencing sculpture, a discipline Martin is very keen on.
From sketches to visions
He started work on the study by making some small sketches. “When you work to a small scale you can get a quick idea about basic proportions. You don’t waste time on details, you’re interested primarily in the main lines that give the car its identity,” he says, describing how he works. After a series of small sketches on paper, he picks up his tablet. “Once you have the basic lines, you can start on the details. But the first strong vision is exceptionally important,” Martin Leprince explains. The first sketches took him half a day, then he spent four more days producing a more detailed design.
He admits that the idea with the curved, floating windscreen was a tough nut to crack. “I studied glass statues, and with the help of photographs and pictures I tried to come up with a way to draw a 3D glass object so that the whole was comprehensible and looked realistic. That kept me busy for quite a few days,” he concedes.
After consulting his study with the heads of the design department, he tried to stick as close to his original vision as possible. “In design you have to listen to others and understand their vision, but you also have to be true to your own,” Martin says. There’s no doubt he honoured that principle in his distinctive vision of the ŠKODA FELICIA cabriolet.
He started drawing cars at the age of five and never really stopped. After graduating from design school in Paris, he focused on UX Design (user experience design), but in the end he chose to specialise in interior design. “I view it as a place where people live,” he says. He has taken part in the VISION X, VISION RS and VISION iV studies. In his free time he likes to make things with his hands, mainly sculptures and models.