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The Aixam Mega Track is the only good crossover

The Aixam Mega Track is the only good crossover

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Three times a week I wake up with a headache. I think it’s because I don’t exercise and I sit at a desk all day and my posture deteriorates quickly as a result. Maybe once a week, that headache is almost debilitating. But I’ll tell you what immediately calms me down and gives me a brief respite from the throbbing pain – the image of the Aixam Mega Track.

I’m writing this because I’ve noticed that only a few of you know the Aixam Mega Track, a car that sounds like a running shoe. My colleagues certainly didn’t know when we were rattling the names of segment-mashing crossovers in Slack yesterday, and I chimed in with this one, next to the photo you see above.

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They were amazed, but I was adamant that the Aixam Mega Track had just as much right to be here as a BMW X6 or whatever. This website has been around for almost 20 years and we have never acknowledged it except for a few mention in a list of unlikely offroaders† Can you believe, a car that a Jalopnik writer hasn’t had a weird, vaguely fetishistic obsession with? It’s unimaginable.

(The readers have pointed out to me that Mark Arnold gave the Mega Track some love back in ’08! The Internet: It’s older than Google sometimes leads you to believe.)

You should know about the Aixam Mega Track because it’s a unique entity – a V12-powered four-wheel drive supercar with ground clearance that might embarrass some new pickups. Aixam is a French manufacturer of microcars which can be driven without a driver’s license, and for reasons that no one will ever be able to properly explain, the company decided one day that the next conquest would be the domain of Ferrari and Porsche.

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Kind of† Because, while at least the Porsche 959 can trace its roots back to rally racing, neither established automakers had ever sold an all-terrain, free, midship rally car to its customers on the road. Aixam wanted to be the first.

The Mega Track debut at the 1992 Paris Motor Show. Mercedes supplied the engine, the same six-litre used in the W140 S-Class. It was mated to a four-speed automatic as this was the early ’90s and it wasn’t as great as everyone remembers. The four-wheel drive system was designed by the creative minds of the project, engineer Philippe Colançon and rally racer Bernard Darniche, Dyler tell us. Darniche shares the record for the most rally wins in the Tour de Corse with Didier Auriol, so the man seems to know how to use power effectively to get enough grip on a wide range of surfaces.

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With 390 horsepower and 420 lb-ft of torque, the Mega Track was more powerful than conventional World Rally Cars, although not as powerful as the Group B at the height of its terror. Still, it could reach 60mph on any surface in 5.4 seconds from a standstill, which was very impressive for the time, and even more impressive considering the weight of the thing 5,000 pounds

I feel obliged to point out the sheer volume of the Mega Track, because that doesn’t always come across well in images. At 88.6 inches wide, it was almost an inch wider then the new one GMC Hummer EVor about 11 inches wider than a Hyundai Palisade† The 122.8-inch wheelbase sits comfortably between the 114.2-inch Palisade and the 135.6-inch Hummer. For a more chronologically appropriate comparison in keeping with the spirit of the car, a Type-964 911 from the same year as the Mega Track was nearly a meter shorter than him. I mean, just look at the size of the thing as it cruises through Monaco:

It rode 8 inches high, although with hydraulic assistance that can be increased to 13 inches because who knows when they need 13 inches of ground clearance. It also comfortably accommodated four people, as those wide coupé doors conceal a second row of seats with surprisingly generous legroom.

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The Mega Track unveiling was met with enthusiasm from showgoers, potential clients and journalists alike, and of course Aixam saw fit to sell samples for a dazzling $400,000, or about $820,000 in today’s money. But the first production-spec cars didn’t show up until three years later, and Aixam is rumored to have built somewhere between five and ten in total.

To be also been suggested that when Colançon and Darniche translated their vision into production, they nixed the Mega Track’s four-wheel drive and channeled all the V12’s growl exclusively to the rear wheels. Presumably they did this to save costs and weight, which seems like an odd choice for a supercar that already cost nearly half a million dollars, at a time when cars typically demanded so much. Likewise, I have searched extensively on the internet to substantiate that claim, and have been unsuccessful. All Aixam engineers, feel free to rectify that in the comments.

Articulation!

Articulation!
ImageAixam

However, let that sit for a moment. This is a car that is so obscure, of which there are so few examples, that anyone can arbitrarily say it had a very different powertrain than it actually could have had and no one is really able to prove or disprove that claim. Nor can anyone definitively tell us how many were made. The Sultan of Brunei could have four – we just don’t know and probably never will.

But we know what we can see and I’ve always admired the Mega Track’s design. It’s a typical 90s wedge, like a Nissan MID4 or Venturi Atlantique jacked up with extra gills to the point where it’s probably too wide for a WRC podium, but who cares. The taillights are clearly from an Audi 80 and the wheels might as well have been pulled from a ’95 Maxima, but it all came together in that minimalist way that so many supercars of the era did and don’t do anymore.

If Aixam had succeeded in his mission, perhaps enthusiasts today would think of crossovers with less disdain; maybe “off-road GT land yacht” would be a car genre in its own right. That’s not how the events played out, though, and so the Mega Track is only really in the minds of the dozens of people who know about it, and the same seven images that exist all over the internet. It makes no sense, but neither does a BMW X6. I know what I’d rather have.