A Nissan ahead of its time

Auto manufacturers spend an inordinate amount of time, and money, brainstorming about future products. Most of these design studies never make it to the showroom, at least not intact. But looking them over after the passage of 20 years of more reveals ideas that were more broadly applied in years to come across vehicle choices that really did make it to the marketplace. Nissan unveiled one such concept more than 30 years ago, the Gobi compact all-activity pickup, which made its debut at that year’s North American International Auto Show in Detroit. Named for the endless expanse of Chinese desert, the Gobi made the rounds of other major auto shows that year and then disappeared – almost. Read on.

If the basic shape of the Gobi rings any bells, that’s because both its exterior lines and interior layout were inspired by light helicopters, such as the U.S. Army’s Little Bird gunship, with rounded shapes and a control-laden cabin environment. Created by former Nissan designers late Jerry Hirshberg, Bruce Campbell and Diane Allen at Nissan Design International, which today is known as Nissan Design America, the Gobi featured storage binnacles labeled “stuff” and “things,” plus a detachable glove compartment that could be transformed into a backpack. Today, the Gobi is part of the Nissan Heritage Collection, which is maintained at the Lane Motor Museum in Nashville, where Nissan now has its base of North American operations.

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