World's largest automobile encyclopedia 13.000 makes - 5000 concept cars - soviet cars - automotive news

24/01/2011 1551

CSIRO - aXcess australia Mk I


The Australian aXcess concept cars originated from an idea developed by the Melbourne-based automotive designer Gary Millard in the early 1990s to produce a one-off custom made motor car that would showcase the skills and innovative design of Australia's automotive components industry to the world's major automotive manufacturers. Co-ordinated by the Melbourne-based company, Axcess Australia, the project was a joint initiative of the Australian Federal Department of Industry, Science & Tourism, Market Australia, the Energy Research & Development Corporation, CSIRO and the State Governments of Victoria, New South Wales, Queensland and South Australia together with in-kind support from 130 independent Australian automotive component manufacturers and designers.

Development of the two cars represents a significant innovation story incorporating both dozens of examples of state-of-the-art Australian automotive technology and a world-first in automotive marketing in which one-off cars were developed neither as prototypes for possible future production cars or concept cars designed to developed ideas from a single manufacturer. Instead both vehicles were intended specifically to showcase the products of Australian component manufacturers to best advantage in the highly competitive international automotive manufacturing industry. They were to incorporate environmentally sustainable materials and low-emission technology.

This is the first aXcess Australia car powered by a 2.0 litre super-charged two-stroke in-line six-cylinder Orbital petrol engine and programmable 'intelligent' four-speed automatic transmission or alternate "Touchtronic" manual control. Following its launch at Parliament House, Canberra, on 9 February 1998, the car was taken direct to the Society of Automotive Engineer's International Congress and Exposition in Detroit where is created an overnight international sensation. Following this the car returned to Melbourne for the International Motor Show and Australian Grand Prix in March 1998, before embarking on an extensive overseas promotional tour that saw it visit 28 destinations in 11 countries, including the United States, Germany, France, Italy, United Kingdom, Japan, Korea, India, Malaysia & Singapore. Over a five year period, publicity generated by the aXcess Car was claimed to have generated Aus$1.25 billion in export orders for Australian automotive component manufacturers involved in the project. It was featured again at the Australian Formula One Grand Prix in Melbourne in March 1999 when it completed laps of the circuit before the race and was displayed to the public.

The futuristic looking car with its distinctive metallic red colour, curved lines and bubble-shaped roof created enormous interest, particularly amongst young motorists and in the process became something of an Australian design icon. The car was featured in the exhibition Innovative Australians and was displayed at Scienceworks for six months during 2001 as part of this exhibition. Amongst the innovative Australian technologies featured in the car are an advanced Australian-designed Orbital engine, sequentially interlocking electrically-operated clam-shell passenger doors with electronic & optical controls, a lightweight Henrod riveted steel chassis, carbon-fibre frame and body panels, in-built solar roof panels, magnesium frame, airbags, Autoliv bucket seats for improved passenger comfort, a programmable "intelligent" four-speed automatic transmission, fluid-coupled limited slip differential, a unique VDO slimline steering column mounted instrument console and advanced voice-activated electronics including automated road hazard warning and satellite navigation systems.

Along with the later aXcess Hybrid Low Emission Vehicle, this car was donated to Museum Victoria by aXcess Australia in 2003.


Product Description and Principal Function(s)

A Concept Car highlighting the opportunities in opening up the conventional idea of the automobile design to showcase alternative ideas and methods of construction. 


The principal function of this vehicle is to showcase the local Design and Manufacturing companies’ expertise. The car was built to be used as the main vehicle to showcase the contributing Australian companies componentry in a package that is able to increase the awareness and profile for each in-kind contributors componentry, therefore the external and internal design became the focal point of customer enquiry. 


The challenge of this project was to use Australian componentry to create something unique, a benchmark for the Australian industry. 

The external designer focused on elements that would express something about the Australian industry 

He came up with the idea of the exoskeleton frame, which became the dominant feature of the exterior and acts as a structural member for the car with every other panel integrated around it. There was also a need to create a sense of openness and with the clamshell door design you can see the whole interior. The interior itself has a theme of openness and leisure representative of the Australian lifestyle. The fact that the frame is also visible above the passengers, with see-through roof panels like a glasshouse roof, gives the openness that we were looking for in the whole design. 

The hood and hatch are also separate units. Both have their top and side surfaces integrated as single modular units, which eliminates the need for separate side panels or, in the case of the bonnet, side quarter panels. 

Another emphasis was to give the car an aggressive stance by locating the wheels at the far corners of the car. 

The sunburnt orange colour is derived from the Australian desert and the outback, showing the richness of the Australian soil and setting it apart from any production vehicle built, which adds further excitement to the finished vehicle. 


The challenge accepted by Millard Design Australia as the vehicle build coordinators of the Axcess Australia project was to design and build a car that not only showcased the contemporary capabilities of the entire Australian components industry, but one which will also capture the imagination of car makers and major suppliers worldwide. 

Particular emphasis was placed on the industry’s expertise in the areas of energy-efficient, lightweight, recyclable and environmentally friendly materials and processes. 

The successful design was chosen for the high level of innovation inherent in the overall design; it’s aggressive and sporting image; and most importantly, it’s outstanding ability to showcase the car’s componentry.

Key Product Features and Benefits

The idea to build a fully functional prototype show car that would demonstrate the full capabilities of the Australian automotive components industry to the world was conceived by Gary Millard in 1993. 

Gary Millard saw the urgent need for a united effort by the Australian components industry to expand it’s export base and find other ways to secure a prosperous and sustainable future for all it’s members.

Its centrepiece, the Axcess concept car, was independently designed and built by Millard Design Australia within 12 months. 

The design process focused on the exposed hollow carbon fibre frame idea which was derived from a wish to expose the vehicle’s frame to create a sleek and sporty look, in much the same way many modern motorcycles have the frame as a feature of the overall styling package. 

The completed design is a very sophisticated, four door sedan with internal dimensions typical of a large car, while the external dimensions are closer to a contemporary small to medium-size car. This spacious interior in a compact package was achieved by reducing front and rear overhang to a minimum. The four wheels essentially locate the corners of the car, a design that has additional benefits in terms of handling and general manoeuverability. 

The design was unique in many ways, however the one component that was very significant with this vehicle design was the unique way the vehicle was designed inside out. Due to the 130 odd contributors components having as great an opportunity as each other to be showcased, the vehicle’s external and internal design was literally designed in reverse to ensure the package was both practical and desirable to all. 

The project has ensured that the local automotive industry is alive and sustainable and therefore able to highlight the growth of the vehicle designer. This project has proved that innovation and dedication can benefit all parties both directly and indirectly in our manufacturing industry. 


The aXcess Australia Concept Car was designed uniquely from the inside out, adapting the contributor’s componentry to then design the interior and exterior shapes around them. Rather than handing down a pre-determined design for the suppliers to execute. 

Exo-Skeleton Frame 

Made of hollow carbon-fibre, it supports all the body panels and doors but weights just 68 kg. It’s bolted and bonded onto the steel sub-frame that holds the engine, transmission and suspension components in place. The exposed frame arcs up in twin diagonal hoops, which intersect on the roof to form an X-shape. The inherent strength of this configuration eliminates the role conventionally played by pillars between the doors. 

The exposed exo-skeleton frame was manufactured using technology from aerospace, marine and even sporting goods manufacturing to achieve a structure that is hollow but has integrity. All the body panels, many of which are only 2mm thick are made of carbon-fibre composites. The hood and the hatch both have their top and side surfaces integrated as single modular units, which eliminates the need for separate side panels or, in the case of the bonnet, side quarter panels. 


Millard designers wanted to convey a sense of texture in the various raw materials used, including lightweight metals and a variety of finishes including metal, leather and plastics which are all exposed. 

Most of the interior trim is finished in magnesium die-cast treatment and leather and is fully colour-coded with blues and earth tones that reflect the designer’s theme of fun and the adventurous, outdoor Australian lifestyle. One of the most striking features of the interior is again the exposed X-frame, which has created an interior with superb all-round visibility enhanced by a see-through roof. 

Without a roof head lining, the X-shape of the frame forms two see-through panels in the roof, alongside two solar panels. 



ASX Code: "OEC" NYSE Code: "OE"

The most innovative and technologically advanced car ever produced in Australia will be unveiled at Parliament House, Canberra, at 11.00am on Monday February 9, 1998. 

The aXcess australia concept car is certainly a world-first in that it has been designed and built entirely by the components industry as a way of showcasing the industry's capabilities to the world.

The car is the centrepiece of a united export development and marketing program by the components industry which, under the name of aXcess australia, aims to increase export sales of components, technologies and services.

More than 130 component companies and service suppliers have donated their expertise and resources to design and build the fully-functioning prototype vehicle. It is not intended for volume production, but rather has been built to capture the attention of the world's car makers and major suppliers.

After its unveiling in the Great Hall of Parliament House, the car will be flown to Detroit where it will make its international debut at the global automotive industry's most prestigious technical event, the Society of Automotive Engineers International Congress and Exposition in Detroit, from February 23 - 26 1998.

The aXcess concept car will then return to Australia to appear at the Melbourne International Motor Show and the Australian Grand Prix. It will then spearhead an industry "Roadshow" throughout South East Asia, commencing at the inaugural Automechanika Asia to be held in Singapore from April 27 - 29.

The contribution by the project's participants to the design and building of the car and their input to marketing has been valued at approximately $13 million.

Funding for the project has been provided by the Department of Industry, Science and Tourism, Market Australia, the Energy Research & Development Corporation and the State Governments of Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia.

The aXcess concept car incorporates numerous design features and technologies never seen before. Particular emphasis has been placed on the industry's expertise in the areas of energy-efficient, lightweight, recyclable and environmentally friendly materials an processes.

New or advanced technologies showcased by the aXcess concept car include voice activation of many functions; extensive use of magnesium and lightweight alloys; an exposed carbon fibre frame; and a revolutionary instrument cluster - amongst many others.

Key Features of the Concept Car

AIR QUALITY SENSOR: An innovative function by Air International Air maintains acceptable air quality in the vehicle cabin. The interior air quality is monitored via a sensor in the front cowling. If the sensor detects polluted air, the ducting will be automatically changed to recirculating until air quality improves.

AUTOMATIC LAMPS AND WIPERS: Automatic control systems developed by Australian Arrow monitor the ambient light and turn the headlamps on and off as required; and control windscreen wiper operation and speed via an integrated sensor/controller, measuring only 45mm x 47mm.

AUTOMATIC PARKBRAKE: When the concept car transmission is shifted to the PARK position, the on-board computer automatically engages the handbrake, locking all four wheels. The patented Banksia parkbrake, provided by PBR Automotive, has 60% fewer components than a conventional brake and uses the latest lightweight single shoe design.

BODY PANELS: Body panels by Venture Asia Pacific are made of 2mm carbon fibre to mirror sheet metal in both fit and strength. The panels are one-piece and easily removed to expose internal workings.

BRAKING SYSTEM: Four wheel disc brakes stop the car, aided by a four-channel Antilock Braking System from Robert Bosch Australia. The braking system incorporates PBR aluminium callipers and lightweight, alloy brake rotors by Disc Brakes Australia similar to those currently used in World Rally Championship vehicles.

CENTRE CONSOLE: The centre console houses push-button gear shift controls, CD player and a colour driver information display. It automatically adjusts to suit driver position. The driver display unit incorporates climate control, car radio, telephone and satellite navigation.

CHASSIS: The metal chassis was fabricated using a revolutionary riveting system invented by Henrob that is self piercing and sealing, thus removing the need for spot welding. It is ideal for difficult to weld or non-weldable material combinations and has important safety advantages in production line manufacture.

ELECTRONIC, POWER DOORS: The car has a unique, interlocking clam-shell power door system by Millard Design Australia. The four, single-hinged doors open and close sequentially through sophisticated electronic and optical controls. The front doors are single hinged while the rear doors are rear-hinged. They are operated by electric linear motors, requiring no manual force.

ENGINE: A supercharged, 2.0 litre, 2-stroke, inline, six cylinder engine from Orbital Engine Corporation. Dry weight is 120kg, about 75% of a conventional six cylinder, 4-stroke motor. The motor uses a wet sump lubrication system for improved component life.

EXPOSED VEHICLE FRAME: The single-piece hollow carbon fibre frame by Millard Design Australia was awarded the 1997 Innovative Product of the Year Award by the Composites Institute of Australia. At just 68kg, it forms the backbone of the car on which doors and body panels are hung or mounted.

EYE BALL TILT STEERING COLUMN: The car has a new, lightweight steering column by Steering Systems Australia that uses a patented, compound tilt mechanism, known as eye ball tilt. This allows infinite adjustment in every plane.

HAZARD EARLY WARNING SYSTEM: Patented by Vehicle Early Warning Systems Pty Ltd. the EV-ALERT system activates an LED pulsing amber light and audible warning when the vehicle approaches within approximately 300 metres of a range of hazards such as emergency vehicles, rail crossings and accident "black spots".

INSTRUMENT CLUSTER: The extremely slimline instrument cluster by VDO Australia weighs less than 1 kg and is just 58mm thick. Mounted on the steering column, not recessed in the dashboard, it incorporates switches and controls usually fitted to the steering column.

LIGHTING: Australia's state-of-the-art slim-line combination headlamps incorporate a clear lens turn indicator, a projector-type low beam and halogen high beam spot light. An interior, centre high mounted stop lamp features an innovative LED system with low current draw, low voltage drop and even light distribution.

MEMBRANE SWITCHGEAR: Touchpad membrane switches by Luna Nameplate Industries operate the car doors, gear selection and several controls on the instrument cluster, removing the need for components such as indicator stalks. The membranes have a urethane, raised, dome-shape lens and run off a 12 volt DC system.

MULTI-FUNCTION MIRRORS: Power memory-position external mirrors (700g each) by Britax Rainsfords contain a temperature sensor, signal lamp and antenna used in the passive entry system. The internal mirror has photo sensors on the front and rear that enable it to self dull in intense light.

ONE-PIECE PROP SHAFT: The single-piece propeller shaft by BTR Automotive Asia Pacific is made of lightweight aluminium metal-matrix and transfers higher torque loads with less "whip" than conventional propeller shafts. At 7.2kg, it's about 40% lighter than a similar steel shaft. It uses constant velocity joints (homo-kinetic) instead of conventional yolks and bearings as well as patented balance weights to ensure smooth performance.

PASSIVE ENTRY/EXIT: Robert Bosch Australia's security system identifies drivers via a personal identification card. When a recognised card comes within range, the car is automatically "unlocked" and various memory position functions are activated. Entry is then via a door touchpad. From the interior, doors can also be opened and closed by voice activation.

SEATING: Four bucket seats by Hendersons Automotive incorporate air bags and passenger restraint systems by Autoliv. Each seat has a lightweight metal frame incorporating a magnesium backframe and cushion pan. Front seats are power adjustable and the driver's seat has a memory position system.

SOLAR ROOF PANELS: Air International's climate control system incorporates extraction fans that keep cabin temperatures in a comfortable range while the car is parked or empty. The system is solar powered via two arrays by the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology built into the roof panels.

TRANSVERSE REAR LEAF SPRING: The rear suspension is sprung by a transverse, composite fibre rear-leaf spring manufactured by SP Products. It is an extremely light weight alternative to conventional steel springs and occupies very little space.

TYRES: The low-profile tyres provided by Bridgestone Australia are a standard 225\40 HR 18 size with an S-02 tread pattern.

VOICE CONTROL SYSTEM: The Voice Control System from Robert Bosch Australia recognises 35-40 verbal commands that activate functions including gear selection, passenger and driver temperature control, CD and radio station selection, engine start and stop and door open and close. The system also delivers speech output of warnings and information.

WINDSHIELD AND ROOF PANELS: The front windshield is made from a Shinkolite acrylic material supplied by Cadillac Plastics Australia. The roof solar cell skylight panels are made from a Lexan polycarbonate supplied by GE Plastics Australia and the rear windows and roof panels are made of an acrylic material that represents polycarbonate technology supplied by GE Plastics. The polycarbonate is protected from UV, abrasion and chemicals by an NRC Silicone hardcoating process. Polycarbonate delivers a weight saving of approximately 40% over standard auto glass as well as high resistance to impact and forced entry.

WHEELS: The 18 x 8 inch wheels by Castalloy are made of lightweight, magnesium alloy and are considerably lighter than conventional steel or aluminium. Each five-spoke wheel weighs 8.54kg, compared to about 12kg in aluminium.




Door types



Gary Millard
Facebook Twitter Google+ LinkedIn