RoboCop fans had a lot to say last year when pictures of Joel Kinnaman in the remake’s redesigned black armor first appeared online — most of it bad. But while the cracks about Robo raiding Batman’s wardrobe were entirely valid, the reboot did at least give Officer Murphy a new set of wheels in the form of a sleek black motorcycle. And while Paul Verhoeven’s original film has plenty of things to recommend it, Peter Weller’s RoboCop had to tool around Detroit in a lousy 1985 Ford Taurus. But did you know that he almost had his very own unique “TurboCar?” That may sound like something created to sell toys, but the original RoboCop really was set to give Murphy his own equivalent of the Batmobile, and you can see the final design for the vehicle above. Unfortunately, director Paul Verhoeven replaced the TurboCar with the generic Tauruses at the last minute. Why? Read on.
Artist Robert Webb was one of the chaps tasked with designing RoboCop’s trademark ride back in the day, and he shared a little bit of sci-fi history by posting concept art revealing the evolution and final designs of the so-called TurboCar/RoboCar. Webb lays out the full story of how he got involved with the RoboCop production on his blog, and shows how he began riffing on different possibilities for the TurboCar, using a Camaro as the starting point. In fact, Webb is even more of a RoboCop veteran than most of the better-known talents involve: he was working on designs for the TurboCar before director Paul Verhoeven or lead actor Peter Weller had been hired on to the project.
The vehicle went through numerous changes, including this one, which was nixed because there was nowhere to stow prisoners (except maybe the trunk or strapped to the hood).
So what happened? As the story goes, the TurboCar was actually built and ready to go, but when it was brought on set it quickly became apparent that what had looked good on paper didn’t necessarily translate well into the real world. Put frankly: the crew laughed at it. Thus were Murphy and the rest of Detroit’s finest downgraded to Ford Tauruses.
While the TurboCar may not have made it to screen, Webb does have one lasting legacy when it comes to RoboCop. Apparently early on the title was always written with the C lowercased, but Webb kept writing it as “RoboCop” because “it read better that way.” Writer Ed Neumeier decided Webb was right, and so Robocop became RoboCop — a small but notable improvement, if you ask me.
You can see more of Webb’s TurboCar designs below, and a ton more over on his blog.