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Concept development today is done in virtual 3D environments on powerful computer workstations. Wickham prefers software from AliasWavefront which has also been used to create the special effects in Star Wars and Lord of the Rings.

The XST would have to follow a single ground rule. Its design would have to be based on the currently produced Isuzu Axiom SUV, which originated as the ZXS concept at the 2000 Tokyo Auto Show.

Starting out as paper sketches, Wickham was able to quickly move his ideas for the XST from traditional two dimensional media to a state of the art virtual 3D environment within a computer graphics workstation. Nearly all new car design today starts out on these powerful and expensive platforms where ideas can be tested and refined long before they reach production.

To take full advantage of these work stations, today's designers also rely heavily on 'object oriented design' principles to speed things along and cut down on research and development costs. Object oriented design enables designers to plug in data about existing components into their new designs so they don't have to start from scratch building components that might exist somewhere else within the company's truck lineup. In this case, Wickham simply grabbed the existing digital design 'objects' he needed from the Axiom SUV, created a few years earlier, up to the C-pillar where the rear passenger doors end. He then combined them with brand new pickup truck design elements to form the XST's bed and other unique features behind the C-pillar. In Wickham's words, "it's about minimizing the hand work involved on a vehicle because it's a one-off." It's also testimony as to how today's concepts make the leap to production so quickly.

Wickham's tool of choice for doing all of this design work comes from leading 3D software maker AliasWavefront. Among other things, AliasWavefront's software is also used to create the special effects for movies like Lord of the Rings and Star Wars.

Once the XST's initial design work was completed on the workstation, Isuzu brought Italdesign California (IDC) into the picture. IDC is a subsidiary of Italy's well known Italdesign Guigiaro Studio, famous for creating stunning concept and production cars since the late 1960s.

All of the digital data for the XST was e-mailed to IDC and a production Axiom SUV given to their studio. Their small army of crafters would be tasked with turning virtual design in physical reality.

Italdesign California rendered Wickham's 3D designs into sheetmetal and fiberglass to create the Axiom XST concept for Detroit.

Immediately IDC took the Axiom and carefully removed its rear end from the C-pillars back. Next, using Wickham's first set of 3D specs, a bed was milled in foam and grafted onto the truncated Axiom to judge its looks and fit. It would take three more design and milling sessions before Wickham gave his thumbs up on the final bed and rear of the XST.

IDC built special purpose tooling to produce the XST's bed and rear sections in fiberglass. This fiberglass was molded over steel reinforcement and then mated to the Axiom. The C-pillar was custom built entirely out of sheetmetal.

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