BOSTON (TheStreet) -- You harbor dreams of designing a dream car, but you don't want to move to Michigan to work for General Motors or Ford (F), to Germany for Volkswagen or Porsche, or to Japan for Honda (HMC) or Toyota (TM).
Take heart. The automotive community offers several competitions for inventors and designers looking to nurture their inner Karl Benz.
Local Motors: Nobody epitomizes crowd-sourced auto design more than Local Motors, a start-up that garners ideas from the public through a series of competitions. The company makes its chassis and data designs open to the public, so engineers can ensure a good fit when designing new features. Competition prizes range from $200 to $10,000, plus glory: "The most exciting part of winning is seeing a design come to life," says Ariel Ferreira, spokeswoman for the Chandler, Ariz., company.
The next competition, launching in July, will challenge engineers to design a bull bar, aka grill guard, for the company's first car: the Rally Fighter, scheduled to go into production in August. The estimated price of $50,000 includes the opportunity for car-buff buyers to come into the factory and help build the car themselves. In terms of manufacturing, Local Motors wants to do for cars what farmers' markets do for produce, with plans to build a series of micro-factories all over the country.Citroen creative awards: PSA Peugeot division Citroen is challenging artists to create compelling graphic designs for the roof and dashboard of the Citroen DS3 model. Jury members include the innovation director at Louis Vuitton and the editor of French GQ. (The prize money is in euros: 5,000 for first place, 2,000 for second and 1,000 for third.) The winning entry will be displayed on a real DS3 in the company's flagship Paris showroom, with company officials evaluating the model for actual production in 2011. The deadline to enter is July 4. Winners will be announced in October. Michelin design challenge: In this contest, hosted by tire giant Michelin, designers compete for a chance to display their work at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit. In the current challenge, participants are tasked with designing vehicles that citizens of their own neighborhoods (rural and urban alike) will enjoy driving in the year 2021. The deadline for entry is June 11. (Hurry!) Finalists, announced in August, will be asked to develop concept models for the final competition at NAIAS next January. The H-Prize: Established by the U.S. Congress in 2007, the H-Prize is a program that offers a $1 million cash prize for an idea that best advances the commercial application of hydrogen energy technology for use in automotive fuel cells. The winner -- if the judging panel deems an idea worthy of commercialization -- will be announced in February 2011. Progressive Insurance Automotive X Prize: The X Prize Foundation is a nonprofit organization dedicated to bettering the world through corporate-sponsored technology contests. Google (GOOG) sponsors a $30 million Lunar X Prize (a competition to send robots to the moon and back), Archon (ARHN) sponsors a $10 million genomics prize, and Progressive Insurance (PGR) sponsors the $10 million Automotive X Prize -- a quest for a fuel-efficient vehicle that can top the equivalent of 100 miles per gallon. The initial stages of the contest are already under way, with plans to award the $10 million after a final competition at the Michigan International Speedway in September. Audi Tony Stark Innovation Challenge: Capitalizing on the exposure that its R8 models have gained in the Iron Man films, Audi launched this competition, named after the movie hero's mechanically gifted alter ego. Participants are invited to submit videos on the broad subject of "better living through technology." The winner will receive $15,000 to develop the idea, along with a four-day trip for two to California, which includes the chance to tool around in an ICON A5 aircraft.
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