(Sold under the Bazard name in the US, but completely an original Centara design. Centara and Bazard are an Automation Universe Brand and an American Brand, respectively, that are technically 2 halves of a single corporation, but in practice act pretty independently.)
The Flamenco was sort of a passion project for Centara. Originally billed as a family sports car, the Flamenco eventually centered itself around being the most exciting budget car available anywhere in the Automation Universe. A wide, short, aerodynamic body atop a comfortably tall and drivably stiff suspension gave this car an iconically unique look, and its wide tires and strong disc brakes made it feel like one of the sharpest, sportiest family cars around, even if the engine was on the weaker side. And it was cheap- even Centara’s higher end models rivaled most city hatchbacks in pricing!
Also, I wrote a story about it :D
The Flamenco was a result of years worth of passion and work. The engineers gave hours of their own time after every shifts to refine the design. They built (and destroyed) dozens of prototypes. Even through the worst financial crisis ever weathered by the company (240 million dollars worth of debt at one point!), the design survived. And after all this effort, Centara released the first models (in the Automation Universe) in 1969.
Bazard, meanwhile, was going a completely different direction. Noticing how last round’s Armada chassis only seemed to succeed in 3rd world markets, they began thinking… maybe the auto industry’s been neglecting one of the world’s biggest markets. After all, how many global companies often consider the needs of the average, say, Rwandan when building a car? With their resources and experience, if Bazard took the time to truly understand 3rd world markets and build a car specifically for them… then there’s a whole untapped market waiting for them.
And so Bazard had spent the latter half of the 60’s committed to this idea. They had invested millions into market research in South America and Africa. They’d gone on recruitment campaigns through these regions, hiring and training local employees to serve as designers and trainers. They’d even partnered with the government of Senegal to help establish a university in Dakar (and had more partnerships underway), so that they could train a new generation of auto-industry workers. They had invested so much around this plan, that many executives were considering dropping out of the American market altogether (at least in the consumer sector).
A top-trim Centaran-spec Flamenco, with fancier taillights and rims, as well as a higher-quality interior.
This was the company that, in 1970, Centara pitched the Flamenco to. They wanted Bazard to make a fleet version of the car, and they thought it also might make a good American budget car. But Bazard didn’t quite seem to feel the same way.
(An excerpt from that meeting's transcript)
“So, it’s got rear hinged doors?”
“Yeah, they’re eas-”
“But aren’t those less safe? Like, someone could fall out, or break in easier?”
“Wha- no, of course not! They’re not any easier to open than a regular door.”
“Hold on a minute, disc brakes on all 4 wheels? You kidding?”
“W-well yeah, they’re better-”
“Yeah, 'cause they’re more expensive. You think the average budget buyer can afford this? It’s a budget car, not a sports car.”
“What, no, it is a sports car! S-Sport sedan, I mean. I-It’s both. It’s a sportier-than-normal family car-”
“Sports car, sure. And it has an I6.’”
“Wait, no it hasn’t!”
“It says here it does. 6 cylinders.”
“No, no, it’s a boxer 6! …It’s like a V6, but laid out flat?”
“The Boxer? I thought you called it the Muhammad?”
“Huh, uh, why would you want it flat it like that?”
“It’s cool, it uh, saves space. And they’re sportier, too, 'cause like Porsches have them and stuff”
“It’s a Porsche engine?”
“You put a Porsche engine in a budget car. Fabulous…”
“Wait, hold on, what kind of Porsche engine makes 83hp?”
“It’s not a Porsche engine, i-it’s just that style-”
“Wait, what did you say there? 83hp?! In a car this size?”
“Well, you don’t really need any more-”
“Our entry level city vans from 15 years ago make more power than this! How the hell are we supposed to sell a car like this as a sports car?!”
“I-i-it has a lot of torque though, a-and it’s sportiness comes from the handl-”
“Oh, for the love of god, I just noticed. It has a solid front axle.”
“What? Oh, this is rediculous.”
“Don’t you remember 7 years ago, we built a muscle car with a solid front axle?”
“Do you remember how it was terrible?! How no one bought it?! How we all learned about what a ******* stupid idea solid front axles are?!!”
“Well t-the design is that old, it-”
“Sorry, what now?”
“W-we first came up with it in 63, uh, back before when the Armada had failed. We’ve been working on it –refining it, uh, for years.”
“All that time, and you didn’t change the suspension?”
“It’s not that easy, uh, w-we’d have to redo the whole design-”
“No no, you didn’t have any time to rework the suspension. 'Cause ya spent all that time building that 83hp Porsche engine, right?”
“Yeah, I’m done with this crap. We spend 240 million bailing you people out of debt and then you show us this ****! This is why you guys aren’t selling anything. I’m done here. [leaves]”
“I have to agree with him, here. I’m not seeing any reason why this car should work.”
“It’s just some sort of childish dream car, is what it is!”
Bazard, a company known for straying away from convention, struggled to understand, let alone accept this strange car. And truth be told, it was pretty flawed. But, with luck, Bazard did accept it, because of one fact that they understood quite well: Sales figures. In just one year, this car had sold very well in Gasmea and Frunia. In spite of its flaws, journalists loved it, and sales had exceeded what even Centara expected. Sure the Automation Universe has much different tastes, but the success of the Flamenco there was nonetheless hard to ignore. Plus, as they began to realize while considering the prospect, the cost of selling this Centara model through their already-set-up infrastructure was extremely low anyway.
A Bazard-built Fleet Flamenco, working as a taxi in North Carolina.
So, Bazard sold it in the end- after making some changes… Most Bazard models came with rear drum brakes, retuned suspension, cross-ply tires, and a traditional I6 from one of their vans. And they did make a version for fleet sales, which Bazard’s analysts thought the Flamenco was best suited for anyway.
But they didn’t completely abandon Centara’s ideas. While Bazard thought the American public wouldn’t care much for Centara’s brakes or engine or etc, they recognized that the original Flamenco had worked for a reason. And so they tried populating a few cars with Centara’s quirks, to see how would resonate with the American public.
The mid-range trim provided is one of said trims, being among the closest Bazard-made Flamencos to what Centara designed and sold in the Automation Universe; the only changes are some differences in the lights, and the use of cross-ply tires instead of radial (Centara kept insisting that radial tires were so much better and worth it, but Bazard just did not get behind the idea).
How well did it resonate? Well, I guess that’s for the host to tell us.
A photo for a Centaran advertisement of the Flamenco. The version shown is the closest match to what was sent in the competition.