This bulbous convertible is actually a G-Wagen underneath

French automakers are perhaps the quirkiest bunch in the entire automotive industry. Learning that they would also find a way to cross a Mercedes G-Wagen with an SLK Roadster shouldn’t have been surprising, but it absolutely was.

Yes, you read that right, and you don’t need to adjust your eyes. Underneath all that gushing, topless skin that looks like a cross between a Nissan CrossCabriolet and a Lexus SC430 is actually a G-Wagen. Meet the Heuliez invader.

This unique concept was already built in 1996 by the French coachbuilder Heuliez. Founded in 1920, the company did not consist of building its own vehicles from scratch, but rather modifying cars from French manufacturers such as Citroen, Peugeot and Renault. It built convertibles, station wagons, sedans and even an ambulance. The company eventually went bankrupt and had around 283 employees when it closed in 2013. In 1996, when it completed the Intruder prototype, there were only 25 employees on the payroll.

The Intruder is based on a Mercedes-Benz G320. Not much has changed mechanically. The concept still uses the factory 210 hp 3.2-liter V6 and 4-speed automatic transmission. That means power is sent to all four wheels and the G-Wagen’s factory limited-slip differentials are still in place. Heuliez hasn’t changed anything from a mechanical point of view, except for some slight changes to the suspension and relocated components to match the new bodywork.

Outwardly, however, you would never see the relationship between this car and a regular old G320 if they sat side by side. It looks more akin to the SLK Roadster that had debuted at the Turin Motor Show just six months earlier. The SLK’s folding metal roof was even incorporated into the final design of the Intruder, making it one of the few other vehicles in the world to have this style of convertible top. However, not everything was made of metal. Both the hood and bumpers were molded from carbon fiber.

The interior is perhaps one of the most whimsical parts of the entire car. Like the bodywork, nothing here screams G-Wagen, although various factory components have been reused. One such example is the instrument cluster, although it’s been moved to the center of the dashboard where one would expect a generous screen today.

Other than that, it’s also equally impressive. The striking blue contrast is certainly a head turner, and various bits of natural wood and exposed metal add a little contrast to the ultra-90s carpet and cream paneling.

But why build something so freaky weird? Marc Deschamps, Head of Styling at Heuliez Torino, when the Intruder was built, tells us: “With the Intruder, we wanted to explore a different use case for the sports car,” Deschamps said in an interview with Auto Design Magazine. Of course, street sports cars continue to have strong appeal; but they can hardly ever be used where they provide real driving pleasure. So why not try something that achieves it? There are many opportunities; the one we have chosen fits into our operational area.”

It’s not like the concept of a truck with a removable roof is new. Convertible trucks have been around for a while – there was Scout, the Kubelwagen, Ford Bronco and Suzuki X-90 to name a few. Even the G-Wagen had a 1970s cabriolet version. But the intruder was really something else.

Deschamps says Heuliez built the car with America (California in particular) and Asia in mind. The Intruder was intended to be a fun vehicle that tested the limits of what defined the sports car, although it’s debatable whether the Intruder project achieved that goal. It wasn’t until the early 2010s that the world saw the Nissan Murano CrossCabriolet and the Range Rover Evoque Cabriolet, and only then could some envision an SUV as a sports convertible. In fact, the Heuliez Intruder was ahead of its time.

As for this particular car, it has been for sale at DK Engineering for almost two years. When it first went on sale in July 2020, it cost $228,995. The price has since fallen to $214,995 unless you pay in British pounds, in which case it remains the same at £174,995 today. However, that price might just be a steal. Between its unveiling in 1996 and 2020, someone paid around $300,500 (€280,000) to have the concept car fully restored. That means a cosmetic overhaul, including a repaint from the previous colors of blue and red back to Mercedes-Benz silver, a mechanical overhaul of the engine and a complete makeover of the folding metal roof.

If you miss your chance at this car, you might have a little better luck finding a close relative. After its debut in 1996, the Intruder was reportedly modified by an Italian company called OPAC. Its slightly more refined (and significantly more expensive) version was dubbed the Status Contender XG, of which five were built. But if this convertible crossover-like concept is really your thing, do you really want to miss out?

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#bulbous #convertible #GWagen

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