Concept Debrief – 1999 RINSPEED X-Trem M.U.V.

Flashbacks can be good….

and they can be bad.

The one thing both have in common:  a livid, full-color reminder of something you otherwise never think about.

Livid and vivid certainly describes the Rinspeed X-Trem MUV from 1999.

The firm was embracing a bit of Americana in the late 90s, and this monstrosity was the ultimate expression of the bright, loud and obnoxious USA, at least as seen from new Geneva.  Less an expression of actual American wants/needs for trucks, and much more a reflection of SoCal life as seen on tv and movies.  The whole machine attempts to embrace the functional, hard-working elements of a pickup truck — but blend them with high-fashion design and whiz-bang tech innovations.

This pickup truck runs a Mercedes-Benz platform with 5.5-liter V8 engine, and likely some mix of G-wagen and E-Class for the rest of its muddy parts underneath. The integrated crane and hovercraft are charming and cool, if a bit impractical. (A jetski and scooter platform could be swapped for the hovercraft, which is pretty cool actually.)

How capsule-like was the thinking for this X-Trem Multi Utility Vehicle? Not just a time capsule, a xanax capsule!?

The photoshoot pics on some beach are even tagged ‘Baywatch’ to give you an embarrassing sense of Euro love for dated US re-runs.  Was Baywatch even still on TV in 1999?

We would have guessed it ended in 1995, but a quick search shows it was still produced until 2001, albeit with few of the original cast.

Even so, this truck seems behind the trend curve overall, and reflects syndication efforts showing old episodes of just about everything abroad — years after the shows stopped thrilling US viewers.  Think of this as a retro 1995 Ford Ranger SPLASH meets PT Cruiser meets Unimog.

Overall, we cannot hate this machine more.  At the time, though, it was definitely a statement piece and emblematic of the dotcom boom, boyband craze and many other cultural milestones best left in their California dream.  When they become real, the west coast as seen through RINSPEED eyes is an alarming nightmare.

Concept Debrief – 1999 RINSPEED X-Trem M.U.V.

World Première at the 1999 Geneva Motor Show

Rinspeed X-Trem M.U.V. – the new definition

As many times before RINSPEED DESIGN has come up with something very special: the small Swiss automobile specialist has created - in cooperation with its partners - a "business card" of competence in concept, design and application of technologies of the future in for the industry and the public. Following this, a new and revolutionary perception and definition of the pick-up has been created: the

Multi Utility Vehicle (M.U.V.) Concept.

The idea

In the words of Frank M. Rinderknecht founder and owner of Rinspeed Inc.: "Pick-up vehicles are - especially in the U.S. - very popular. However, many times I remarked that these kind of cars were pulling a trailer loaded with objects for sporting activities or for the job. Yet, the pick-up bed stayed empty for most of the times. The actual vehicle was not being used for what it was designed for". In the analysis of this fact it became quickly obvious that the obstacles of the height of the bed and the tail-gate were not easy to overcome. How - for example - does one load a motorcycle quickly and safely on the bed?

In order to accommodate all aspects of life - from the sport to leisure activities to the job and public services - a universal lifting device had to be developed: the

"X-Tra-Lift" (+patent pending)

Equipped with this unique loading device, any new or used pick-up truck can take all kinds of goods or platforms. These goods are swiftly loaded by an electrically or hydraulically powered swivel crane - which at the same time can be designed as a anti-roll-bar - from the ground to the bed and of course unloaded the same way. The obstacles of the weight, loading height and tail-gate are easily overcome.

The universal conception of this lifting system allows an extensive and comprehensive use as a multiplex system. The car transforms itself easily from a sport to a leisure as well as to a commercial vehicle and back.

Frank M. Rinderknecht: "Due to our invention, the use of the pick-up truck is considerably enhanced and enlarged. The vehicle now can be loaded swiftly, easily and without effort and therefore can be used in every aspect of life".

As innovative the "X-Tra-Lift" presents itself, as futuristic and avant-garde the latest creation of Rinspeed Design, the X-Trem, is concepted. One of the most remarkable features is surely the fact that the Rinspeed X-Trem complies with valid European Union legislation and is a fully-fledged road-going design. "We wanted to build an exclusive car, but one that could be taken out on the roads as well as acting as a pilot project at exhibitions." This ambitious target has certainly been achieved.

One of the world’s smallest, yet functional hovercraft is loaded as a special "presentation cargo" on the Rinspeed X-Trem. This air propeller driven and hovering fun vehicle can be piloted easily over all kinds of surfaces: water, land, sand and snow.

The technical features

Under the wide engine cover which electrically tilts forward, power is supplied in plenty by a 5.5-litre-aluminum-block V8 engine from Mercedes-Benz, it develops no less than 347 bhp. This engine, coupled to an automatic transmission, whisks the four-wheel-drive two seater - the base consists of an extended chassis from the Mercedes-Benz M-class - from a standstill to 100 km/h in only 6.9 seconds, with a top speed of 235 km/h attainable when conditions permit. The torque is herculean: at 3'500 rpm already the maximum of 520 Nm is developed.

The technical base of the M-class by Mercedes-Benz inspired the typical "four-eyes-face" of the DaimlerChrysler Group - known from the model E- and CLK. The pronounced engine hood links unmistakably to the typical design lines of the American offshoot Chrysler.

The composite body gives the X-Trem an exceptionally rigid structure and a gross weight of only 1’860 kilograms, with the result that its power-to-weight ratio would be the envy of many a driver of exclusive Italian sports cars.

The two windshields are electrically adjustable and move in and out of the powered engine hood in order to protect the passengers from unpleasant wind drafts.

All wheels are hung independently and the 18-inch wheels and tires of sizes (285/50 at the front and rear) guarantee a perfect handling.

1999 RINSPEED X-Trem 9 1999 RINSPEED X-Trem 5 1999_Rinspeed_X-Trem_016_3641
The interior

The interior presents itself also in a new way. At the first glance the centrally located LCD-screen with touch-screen functions is attracting attention. All functions of the car, the navigation-system, the radio, the access to email and the internet via a GSM- or satellite-connection are controlled at a finger-tip. All menus are easily and discretionary called up.

The materials used for the interior connect to the leisure time use of the Rinspeed X-Trem: deep black Neoprene, steel colored and checkered Carbon-tissue. As an unusual element the seat cushions are easily reversible. By this feature not only the look of the interior can be swiftly changed, but the tissues are adapted to the use of the vehicle.

The drivers are not neglected: An exclusive stainless steel humidor with a integrated humidifier invites to a cigar break.

The development work

For the realization of this project Frank M. Rinderknecht worked with the most modern technologies and the best specialists of the Swiss car industry. Despite that Switzerland does not have an international reputation in the automotive industry, every year an astonishing numbers of concept cars and prototypes are made in this country.

For the first time, Rinspeed called upon the services of the Swiss engineering company Esoro as a general contractor for the design, the engineering and the construction of the X-Trem. Esoro materialized this demanding task in cooperation with Richard Gresens - a the former designer of VW and partner in William M. Schmidt Associates - and the prototype and suspension specialist Schwaller Movement Engineering who also manufactures components for Sauber Formula One. In just six and a half months the X-Trem with its new lifting system and a hovercraft body have been fabricated by the competent and efficient engineering team.

Since ten years Esoro is active and renown for its efficiency and innovative solutions as a custom developer in automotive technologies and light-weight constructions. Its possibilities have been demonstrated on various prototypes especially in the field of light-weight constructions, composite materials and hybrid vehicles.

The partner-companies

The Continental company contributed the tires: as one of the world's largest manufacturers of tires for high-volume motor vehicles and also of high-performance tires, it possesses an immense amount of experience. The ContiSportContact in its new offroad dimension stands out by its excellent cornering stability, its precise steering capabilities, its superior wet handling capabilities and its big safety reserves.

Antera took up the challenge of producing special wheels to carry these Continental tires. An Italian company, it is famous for its avant-garde wheel designs and for the unusual technical principles which it adopts. For example, the tire valve is hidden behind the hub cover made of titanium so that the wheel's overall appearance is not affected by the valve protruding from the rim.

In the running-gear area, Rinspeed was able to call upon the services of the Eibach company, the leading international manufacturer of suspension components. Eibach Suspension Technology, which as its name implies specializes in such matters and supplies the world's top motor sport entrants and more than half of all Formula One teams, undertook to develop the suspension struts and stabilizers for the Rinspeed X-Trem. Eibach certainly justified its reputation: for the Rinspeed E-Go Rocket it designed competition shock absorbers with four adjustment settings. These hi-tech components were developed and manufactured at Eibach's R & D center in England, and utilized the company's experience as a global supplier, which extends back many years and entitles it to claim an equally significant position as a specialist running-gear developer on the markets of the future.

Austrian specialist company Remus developed an free-flow exhaust system for the Rinspeed X-Trem. Here too, the Remus name is closely associated with both high quality and ingenious technical solutions to clients' problems. Throughout the motor sport scene, from touring-car racing and rallying to Formula 1 (Damon Hill), this exhaust systems manufacturer feeds its immense know-how back into its successful range of products.

The largest Swiss automotive supplier company Rieter Automotive Systems provided the custom made acoustic foams and the heat-shield components. Although this activity of the textile machine manufacturer Rieter has a low profile amongst the general public, integrated noise and heat insulation materials and interior trims for motor vehicles are purchased by just about every leading automobile manufacturer throughout the world.

In order to optimize the interior and exterior design to a harmonic entity, the Austrian company Burg Design with its designers and modern technologies has proved its competence once more. Burg Design concentrates on decor requirements for special-series vehicles and on high-tech interior designs and applications in wood, aluminum and carbon fiber. Following the latest trend Burg Design already offers chrome components in their program. Among the processes Burg Design has developed two products named EVOTEC, INOTEC, INOFORM and VACUFORM which offer a large variety of applications for OEM- and After Sales-use of the automotive industry.

The brain of the Rinspeed X-Trem consists of a sturdy Compaq Deskpro computer with an 333 MHz Celeron processor. This power machine of the leading manufacturer and the second largest computer company of the world controls all functions as the GPS navigation, radio, email, internet access or the "X-Tra-Lift". The operation is easily controlled by a touch-screen while driving.

The development and adaption of the screen for this "communication cenrter" has been realized by the industry specialist Fabrimex. Fabrimex is an engineering, production and trading company in the field of industrial computers, picture processing and power supplies. Fabrimex provides the solution where others give up.

Other cargo can be swiftly taken by the X-Trem than a hovercraft: For example a futuristic scooter from Malaguti: the FireFox F15. The Italian manufacturer created a European top-seller in the 50-ccm class with the F15 FireFox. A part from the striking design this scooter convinces with its technical innovation, comfort and detailed care for avant-garde solutions. Most remarkably is the space provided to transport any goods.

A well kept cigar is provided by the modern humidor of the young Swiss enterprise relaX design. relaX design hand makes these humidor containers - in its modern and unique design - from stainless steel and the finest cedar wood entirely in Switzerland. The relaX design humidors are fitted with a proven self regulating dehumidifier system to take care of the ideal humidity.

The Japanese manufacturer Sorex developed one of the world’s smallest hovercrafts and the first one ever being used on a car.

The air-freight specialist Lufthansa Cargo carried out the safe, reliable and timely transport of the components of the X-Trem to make a flawless and on-time debut in front of the world press in Geneva.

Spies Hecker created a new color mix and combination in a bright and dark yellow with pearl-effect in order to present the Rinspeed X-Trem in its best light.

Rinspeed Inc.

About The Author

Tom Burkart is the founder and managing editor of, an innovative and rapidly expanding automotive news magazine. He holds a Journalism JBA degree from the University of Wisconsin - Madison. Tom currently resides in Charleston, South Carolina with his two amazing dogs, Drake and Tank. Mr. Burkart is available for all questions and concerns by email Tom(at)