The Neorion Chicago, a 1974 product of the Greek Neorion group of companies, was a car supposed to combine uncompromising luxury, retro-looks and a powerful 4x4, cross-country character. The end result was, at best, one of the most controversial cars ever built.
In 1972, under the ownership of the Greek millionaire Giannis Goulandris, Neorion incorporated Enfield Automotive, originally a British company, already owned by Mr. Goulandris, involved in the design and construction of electric cars. This led to the creation of a new company which undertook vehicle production, "Enfield-Neorion E.P.E.", headquartered in Piraeus, and production of the cars (which had been designed in the UK by British and Greek engineers) was transferred to Syros, where Neorion is based.
Apart from the production of the electric cars, Mr. Goulandris wished to develop "conventional" cars of his own. One of his personal visions was an odd mixture of a luxurious, retro-styled limousine with a very strong cross-country character and capabilities. The design and overall development of the car was assigned to a team of Greek engineers, headed by Georgios Michael, a car designer.
After eight months of development work, the Chicago, as the 4x4 car was named (the name inspired by its 30s retro-style), was introduced in 1974. The construction included a robust chassis built by the Neorion shipyard and an aluminum body on a steel frame, that incorporated particular reinforcements for passenger protection. Power came from an AMC/Jeep (Wagoneer) V8 engine.
Early sketches by Michael suggested a more elegant limousine with a strong retro-look. However, the final design was significantly altered to accommodate the American mechanical parts and cope with the desired cross-country capabilities, and looked rather awkward. In fact, its own designer tried to distance himself from the car (which he often described as a "mountain dinosaur"), arguing that Mr. Goulandris had essentially dictated its basic elements.
Today, in view of the 4x4 passenger cars that have appeared ever since, the retro-look fashion, as well as the breed of luxury SUVs, the car does not look terribly strange anymore; one could actually say that it was ahead of its time (being the second luxury SUV in the world after the Range Rover). In more recent publications, even Mr. Michael seems to have finally given some credit to his own creation.
A production line had been started with four vehicles at various stages of construction, when a change of Greek law condemned the market prospects of the car. Only two complete vehicles were made and sold before the venture was terminated in 1976. At least one still survives to date and is exhibited in the Thessaloniki Technological Museum; the second car is believed to have ended up in a private collection abroad.