Tuesday, May 24

The Aixam Mega Track is the Only Good Crossover

Image for article titled The Aixam Mega Track is the Only Good Crossover

Image: Aixam

Three times a week, I wake up with a headache. I think it’s because I don’t exercise and I sit at a desk all day and my posture is rapidly degrading as a result. Maybe once a week, that headache is almost debilitating. But I’ll tell you what instantly soothes me, and gives me a brief respite from the throbbing pain — the image of the Aixam Mega Track.

I’m writing this because it has come to my attention that only a precious few of you know about the Aixam Mega Track, a car that sounds like a running shoe. Certainly my colleagues didn’t know about it when we were rattling off the names of segment-mashing crossovers in Slack yesterday and I chimed in with this one, alongside the picture you see above.

Image for article titled The Aixam Mega Track is the Only Good Crossover

Image: Aixam

They were puzzled, but I was adamant that the Aixam Mega Track had every right to be here just as much as a BMW X6 or whatever. This website has existed for almost 20 years and we’ve never acknowledged it, save for a passing two-sentence mention in a list of off-roading supercars. Can you believe, a car that a Jalopnik writer hasn’t had some weird, vaguely fetishistic obsession with? It’s unimaginable.

You should know about the Aixam Mega Track because it is a singular entity — a V12-powered supercar with all-wheel drive and ground clearance that could embarrass some new pickups. Aixam is a French manufacturer of microcars that can be driven without a license, and for reasons nobody will ever be able to adequately explain, the company one day decided it’s next conquest would be the domain of Ferrari and Porsche.

Image for article titled The Aixam Mega Track is the Only Good Crossover

Image: Aixam

Sort of. Because, while at least the Porsche 959 can trace its roots back to rally racing, neither established automaker had ever sold an all-terrain, no-expense-spared midship road-going rally car to its customers. Aixam wanted to be the first.

The Mega Track debut at the 1992 Paris Motor Show. Mercedes supplied the engine, the same six-liter used in the W140 S-Class. It was mated to a four-speed auto, because this was the early-’90s and it wasn’t as great as everyone remembers. The all-wheel-drive system was designed by the project’s creative minds, engineer Philippe Colançon and rally racer Bernard Darniche, Dyler tells us. Darniche shares the record for the most Tour de Corse rally victories with Didier Auriol, so the guy would seem to know how power should be effectively deployed for sufficient grip on a multitude of surfaces.

Image for article titled The Aixam Mega Track is the Only Good Crossover

Image: Aixam

With 390 horsepower and 420 lb-ft of torque, the Mega Track was more powerful than conventional World Rally Cars, though not as powerful as the Group B set at the height of its terror. Still, it could supposedly hit 60 mph from a standstill in 5.4 seconds on any surface, which was very impressive for the time, and even more impressive considering the thing weighed 5,000 pounds.

I feel obligated to point out the Mega Track’s sheer volume, because that’s something that doesn’t always come across well in images. At 88.6 inches wide, it was almost an inch wider than the new GMC Hummer EV, or about 11 inches wider than a Hyundai Palisade. Its 122.8-inch wheelbase sits comfortably between the 114.2-inch Palisade and 135.6-inch Hummer. For a more chronologically appropriate comparison in line with the spirit of the car, a Type-964 911 of the same vintage as the Mega Track was almost three feet shorter than it. I mean, just look at the size of the thing as it cruises about Monaco:

It rode 8 inches high, though that could be boosted to 13 with hydraulic assistance, because who ever knows when they might need 13 inches of ground clearance. It could also seat four comfortably, as those wide coupe doors concealed a second row of seating with surprisingly generous legroom.

Image for article titled The Aixam Mega Track is the Only Good Crossover

Image: Aixam

The Mega Track’s unveiling was met with enthusiasm from show goers, potential customers and journalists alike, and naturally Aixam saw fit to sell examples for an eye-watering sum of $400,000, or about $820,000 in today’s money. But the the first production-spec cars didn’t emerge until three years later, and it’s rumored that Aixam ultimately built somewhere between five and 10 total.

It’s also been suggested that when Colançon and Darniche translated their vision to production, they nixed the Mega Track’s all-wheel drive and routed all of that V12’s grunt to the rear wheels exclusively. Supposedly they did this to save cost and weight, which seems like an odd choice for a supercar already priced at almost half a million dollars, at a time before cars typically demanded that much. Likewise, I’ve searched the internet high and low to substantiate that claim, and I haven’t been able to. Any Aixam engineers, feel free to set the record straight on that in the comments.

Articulation!

Articulation!
Image: Aixam

Let that sit for a second, though. This is a car so obscure, of which so few examples exist, that someone can arbitrarily say it had a completely different drivetrain than it might’ve actually had and nobody is really in a position to prove or disprove that claim. Nor can anyone definitively tell us how many were made. The Sultan of Brunei could have four — we simply don’t know and likely never will.

But we know what we can see, and I have always admired the Mega Track’s design. It’s a typical ’90s wedge, like a Nissan MID4 or Venturi Atlantique jacked up with extra gills to the point where it’s probably too wide for any WRC stage, but who cares. The taillights are clearly from an Audi 80 and the wheels may as well have been pulled off a ’95 Maxima, but it all came together in that minimalist way that so many supercars of the era did, and don’t anymore.

Had Aixam succeeded in its mission, maybe enthusiasts would reflect on crossovers today with less disdain; maybe “off-roading GT land yacht” would be an automotive genre unto itself. That’s not how events played out though, and so the Mega Track is real only in the minds of the dozen people who are aware of it, and the same seven images that exist of it on the entire internet. It doesn’t make sense, but then neither does a BMW X6. I know which I’d rather have.

 

Reference-jalopnik.com

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