Take A Look In The Background
While taking some spy shots of the Rivian R1T being driven around its Michigan headquarters (complete with its modular roof rack in place), our photographers noticed something very interesting in the background. Visible through an open door, a blue design buck can be seen, and it has a shape that's completely different from the R1T pickup and R1S SUV that wowed everyone at the Los Angeles Auto Show. Intrigued, we ran the photos by an associate with decades of experience working in one The Big Three’s design studios. Our source confirmed that what’s on unintentional display appears to be a seating buck for a new design that's under consideration.
What’s a Seating Buck, Exactly?
A seating buck is a very early stage of the design process, which represents one the first physical manifestations of the design’s ergonomics. The rough form—usually built out of plywood and painted foam—gives designers a real-world chance to sample the ergonomics and sight lines of a design. The seating buck provides a hands-on opportunity to sample a design's packaging, head clearance, and the vision enabled around the A-, B- and C-pillar, as well as the back glass. So the shape revealed on this particular seating buck would be representative of what the stylists have in mind for the packaging of the design under consideration.
So What Does It Tell Us?
The seating buck is clearly a four-door design, with an arching silhouette that is a complete departure from the very linear roof line seen on Rivian's R1T and R1S. The seating buck’s foam panels also suggest the possibility of drastically flared front fenders. While our designer source told us not to make too much of the exterior look of the seating buck’s shape, he acknowledged that the bulging nature of the buck’s front fender could have some meaning, as the visibility tests could very likely include the outward view of the car’s extremities—namely its hood and front flanks. If that is the case, what this seating buck reveals is a very nice match for what was promised by Rivian’s CEO in media interviews.
A Rally-Raid Style Performance Car
In an LA Auto Show report, British Mag Autocar wrote: “Rivian founder and CEO RJ Scaringe said that the model to follow its initial R1T pickup truck and R1S SUV would be ‘bananas’ in the way it performed.” Scaringe was quoted as saying: “The third vehicle will have a smaller wheelbase [than the R1S SUV] and will be the Rivian interpretation of a rally car with a lot of ground clearance.” The article goes on to further call it a “rally-raid style performance car.”
The description of Rivian’s promised third model is largely consistent with what we see on the seating buck tucked inside its workshop. The arching roofline is certainly car-like, and a departure from the R1T and R1S. And those supposed flared front fenders—one can make the case that they further support the promise of a Rally-Raid model being fettled as Rivian’s third model offering.
A Fleeting Glimpse, But Compelling Nonetheless
The question of whether an automotive EV startup can actually deliver on its promised performance and actually reach production is always the issue when something makes a splash like Rivian did with the R1T and R1S. Is it vaporware? Can the claims of the CEO be trusted in light of the harsh realities of the automotive industry and the EV market?
While this quick, long lens peek inside a Rivian workshop gives us just a brief glimpse at the seating buck in question, we’re fascinated that it seems to match up with the CEO’s promised follow-up to the company’s first salvo. The R1T and R1S were reportedly the result of about a decade’s work, and the outside world knew nothing of what was in store until they debuted under the bright lights of a major auto show. To perhaps get a taste of Rivian’s next project—at a very early stage—is very compelling.