When many of us were kids, titanium seemed like the stuff of sci-fi spaceships, superhero armor, and Cold War submarines. Today? The material is everywhere: It's in everything from missiles and aircraft to laptops and golf clubs. But cars? Not exactly. As TopGear.com's Stephen Dobie points out, however, a new supercar shows how that's changing in a big way.
Last year, we caught a glimpse of the Icona Vulcano: A slate grey, 3,500-pound supercar made of carbon fibre and titanium panels that its maker cliams could hit 220mph. Then, it was only a concept, originally teased at the 2013 Shanghai Motor Show. Now, this Italian monster is real, and ready for a debut on 1 September during the Salon Privé Concours d'Elegance at Blenheim Palace.
The Vulcano is being billed as the world's first titanium car. Its sweeping incorpration of such a hard material is impressive, but it's not going to be sitting in garages across the world anytime soon: The car — this car; there is only one — costs £2.1m.
Before it was used to make the body of vehicular playthings, titanium's history has stretched back to 1791, when it was first discovered in Cornwall. It's found in meteorites and in the sun, and is the ninth most abundant element in Earth's crust. And while it hasn't really been used to make automobiles, it has been used as an alloy with other elements in many kinds of vehicles for decades, including Soviet submarines in the 1950s and modern-day Boeing commercial airplanes.
So it might seem logical to think that titanium would work its way into cars, too. In some ways, it already has: Over 15 years ago, companies like Honda were using titanium connecting rods in niche sports cars. The Icona Vulcano is certainly the most aggressive emobidment of titanium's slow flirtation with the automobile, however.
"The naked titanium body is a sculpture, revealing its 10,000 hours of hand-crafted work in the most pure form", the Vulcano site reads. "The Vulcano’s strongly sculpted body side and voluptuous shapes evacuate the hot air from the engine and reduce air turbulence generated by the wheels."
Using titanium certainly makes the car look cool and maybe go a bit faster, but largely, it's the cherry on top of an already extravagant supercar. We'll wait and see if more cars in the future get made out of the same metal as bulletproof comic book villains — or if an even tougher metal one day manages to steal the auto show floor.
If you would like to comment on this or anything else you have seen on BBC Autos, head over to our Facebook page or message us on Twitter.
And if you liked this story, sign up for the weekly bbc.com features newsletter, called “If You Only Read 6 Things This Week”. A handpicked selection of stories from BBC Autos, Future, Earth, Culture, Capital and Travel, delivered to your inbox every Friday.