THE HYDRA SCHMIDT COUPE is technically a roadster, but was originally designed as a Coupé and never changes its name. Lets just say its stubborn owner Johann Schmidt the Red Skull liked the sound of it. The car was explained in the film script to be the fastest road car of its time. Not due to its aerodynamics but its incredible power – a supercharged, 16 cylinder engine.
This key sketch illustrates the long wheelbase, lifted chassis, twin rear wheels, modern integrated rear fenders, and sloped rear deck. Over the course of the further design development, more automotive elements form the 1940’s era were introduced – like long sideboards, exposed exhaust pipes and straighter cross sections – to give the car a believable and classic 40’s look as opposed to the originally intended utility look.
I modeled the Coupe in Auotdesk Alias and kept modifying it continuously to new requirements. Examples of those changes are the chassis used, adding a third seat due to a changed script, and trying different rear ends for pure stylisic reasons.
Together with Director Joe Johnston and Production Designer Rick Heinrichs, we researched Coupés of the 40ies to define the style for this vehicle. At first, I envisioned an extreme car shaped like a 1937 Auto Union Type C streamliner, but I soon understood the film’s director was looking for something classic and upright. A style-blend of a Mercedes 540K, a Mercedes G4 off-roader plus some hints of Bentley and Duesenberg turned out to be the perfect language.
Due to the shear size of the final concept we decided to use a truck chassis and truck wheels. That also meant to spent serious time on finding elegant curves and shapes on that giant scale, while maintaining a small real size cockpit. Proportions were really hard to keep in balance, with a constant danger of getting comical.
The vehicle was manufactured in England, using a Ford V8 dragster engine to pull the prototype weight. Little details like the asymmetric bulb on the engine hood turned out to look good in the establishing shot of the car.
The rear twin axle is supposed to give formidable off-road characteristics, comfort and safety; a tool box under the front fender added the right touch of utility look. Pronounced rear fenders are quite modern with a feature crease line coming all the way from the front grill.
The entire rear end is elegant and streamlined with an enclose spare tire. Only few details indicated military use, such as the toolboxes, radio equipment and body enforcements. Director Johnston, a massive vintage car enthusiast, insisted on a supercharger.
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