Cool concept, quirky name

2001 Oldsmobile O4 conceptOkay, so a couple of days ago I wrote about GM’s 2002 Hy-wire concept vehicle and mentioned what I think is a surprisingly clever name they gave it.

While the O4 is certainly a cool-looking car, its designation is anything but clever.

First off, that’s not a zero in its name but rather an O, as in “oh,” and it doesn’t stand for Oldsmobile.

Oxygen for four
2001 Oldsmobile O4 front three-qtrOldsmobile’s 2001 O4 is an open top concept designed for driving with friends. Up to four friends, hence the “4”. Does the “O” stand for open? Nope. It stands for oxygen. Actually, GM says it’s technically intended to invoke the chemical symbol for oxygen, which is “O”.

So, essentially the convertible’s name is meant to imply oxygen for four.

I think they could have done better.

Categorized as a coupe, the sporty car was designed to reflect Oldsmobile’s “architectonic” theme. Architectonic is defined in Merriam Webster’s Dictionary as “of, relating to, or according with the principles of architecture.”

2001 Oldsmobile O4 rear three-qtr

The O4 was designed to attract recent college graduates looking for a small, fun vehicle–but one that is also practical. Notice the rear-hinged, rear doors providing exceptionally easy access to the rear seats.

In a statement made in 2001 by Ed Welburn (GM’s current Vice President of Global Design, however, then executive director of GM Design’s Corporate Brand Character Center), “Ten years ago, younger customers wanted a two seat roadster. Now, the ability to carry four passengers is more desirable. It’s appeal to younger buyers and its function across all four seasons is undeniable.”

2001 Oldsmobile O4 profileThe interesting part about O4 is that it is not a convertible in the traditional rag-top sense. Instead, it is equipped with a two-part targa top. Once removed, and stowed behind the rear seats, the sky’s the limit.

Want even more air rushing around you and your passengers? The concept’s rear glass can be lowered into the trunk area.

And in the event you’d prefer an entirely unencumbered vertical-viewing experience, the remaining targa airfoil can also be detached and stowed in the trunk.

Built on a borrowed chassis
Oldsmobile’s O4 made use of GM’s rapidly-growing global capabilities by building the concept upon a contemporary Opel Astra chassis. Further, the exterior and interior design work was performed not only in Detroit, but also Turin, Italy, with help from Bertone. The concept, painted in gold metallic, is nearly as wide as a 2001 Alero coupe but over two feet shorter in length. The headlights, at just 35 mm tall, use fiber optics and, at the time, were brighter than units up to five times their size.

Underneath the hood lies a 2.0-liter, turbo-charged DOHC four-cylinder engine, mated to a five-speed manual transmission. Engine output is at 190 HP while producing 184 pound-feet of torque.

2001 Oldsmobile O4 interior sketchInstead of a traditional dash with gauge cluster in front of the driver, the O4 came equipped with an “information ring” that loops around the steering column which displays vital information and contains all of the control points.

The LCD display can be reconfigured to display speed, engine RPM, heating and air conditioning settings, and entertainment controls. There are ten buttons around the perimeter, most toggling from one function to another, and each is positioned within three inches of the driver’s reach, encouraging a focus on the road.

One other interesting feature on the O4 are its interior docking ports for PDAs (Personal Data Assistants) or the Sony Memory Stick that is included on the key-fob. The Memory Stick, described at the time as holding “enormous amounts of data,” is used to display driving directions, phone numbers or personal calendars on the ring. The Memory Stick key-fob is also used to carry digital music (which must have seemed novel at the time), maps, radio presets and the driver’s settings for the seat and mirrors.

[Thanks to General Motors Company for the facts, quotes and photos, and permission to display the photos in this post.]

Continue below to the photo gallery.

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