Showing posts with label Classic Concept Cars. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Classic Concept Cars. Show all posts

GM Firebird XP-21

GM Firebird XP-21 1960s American classic concept car

GM's mythical Motorama show spawned many an unusual exhibit. An orgy of automotive exoticism, visitors expected the radical and bizarre. Though whether any of them were prepared for what was served up to them in '54 is debatable. GM's Firebird XP-21 took prototypical outlandishness to a stratospheric level. First off, was it a car or a plane? It appeared to have elements of both. Since it did not fly, presumably that made it a car. But, it did not look like a car - at least, not in any conventional sense. The answer, of course, was that it was a concept car - one which pushed the believability limits, both visually and technically.

The Firebird's space-age looks were drawn by Harley Earl. He was GM's legendary head of design, at the time. From its projectile-style nose - to rear-mounted fin - the Firebird came with dynamism built-in. Its gas-turbine-engine made 370bhp. Sadly, its top speed stat was never established. Perhaps that was for the best. It was a 'dream car', after all. Could it have kept pace with the Douglas Skyray - the aircraft on which it was modelled? Probably not ... though its aviation-style cockpit suggested otherwise! Mauri Rose was the Firebird's fearless test-driver. He gave the XP-21 the thumbs up - impressed, as he was, by its straight-line stability.

GM's Firebird was America's first gas-turbine 'car'. Over time, a few other marques followed suit. The XP-21's 'Whirlfire Turbo-Power' turbine revved to 13,300rpm. The 'gasifier' that turned it spun at nearly twice that speed. Heat from the exhaust reached 677°C. When the time came, drum brakes and wing-flaps slowed the plot down. The XP-21 was the first of a trio of Firebirds. '55 saw the Firebird II - a 4-seater affair. In '58 came the Firebird III - this time a 2-seater. By that stage, the car was in road mode - a test-bed for cutting edge components. If there was any doubt about GM's commitment to the future, the Firebird XP-21 blew it well and truly into the weeds!

Oldsmobile Golden Rocket

Oldsmobile Golden Rocket 1950s American classic concept car

In the mid-Fifties, Oldsmobile's brand-image looked decidedly dowdy. The Golden Rocket was intended to change that. As a 'dream car' concept, it was never destined for the open road. Its purpose was to fire up Oldsmobile's creative energies again. A missile on wheels, the Golden Rocket's mission was to blaze a trail for Oldsmobile roadsters to come. To that end, it featured in the '56 Motorama. It toured the US as part of GM's state of the art automotive show. Fast-forward a year and a half - to '58 - and the Golden Rocket could be seen tripping the light fantastic in France. The car was a must-see exhibit at the Paris Motor Show, that year.

When it came to its shape, the Golden Rocket's stylists went ballistic - literally! Space-age design was all the rage at the time. Oldsmobile went to town with it. In profile, it was more like a projectile than a car. With its chromium nose - and 'bullets' back-end - the Golden Rocket was a startling statement of intent. A set of 'shark fins' only added to the suspense!

Inside, too, the Golden Rocket stood out. When a door was opened, it triggered an automatic response. The roof-panel pivoted up. Simultaneously, the seats rose 3″ - and swivelled invitingly. The steering-wheel's position was adjustable. The Golden Rocket, then, was more than a mere showcase - it was a technical test-bed. This was a heady time to be an automotive designer. The future seemed up for grabs - with anything possible. Saying that - with its venerable V8 engine - the Golden Rocket was not entirely divorced from the past. But - on the whole - the idea was to innovate. In that regard, it was like a breath of fresh air in Detroit. Garbed in shimmering plastic, the Oldsmobile Golden Rocket promised a brave new motoring world!

Chrysler Turboflite

Chrysler Turboflite 1960s American classic concept car

The Turboflite had radical written all over it. Chrysler's goal was to put a gas-turbine-powered car in the showrooms of America. Certainly, the system had been seen before - in land speed record cars! Chrysler wanted to make it widely available. Albeit, detuned a tad! The R&D work was already done. In '54, Chrysler installed a gas-turbine engine in a Plymouth. The car was driven from NY to LA - by Head of Research George Huebner. 50 or so variations on the Plymouth theme had been built. Not to mention, numerous new motors. In '61, the test schedule was complete. Chrysler unveiled its latest gas-turbine creation. It was dubbed the Turboflite.

Maury Baldwin designed the new dream car. He did not pull any stylistic punches. Most notably - and that was saying something - it was fitted with an aerofoil. Not just any old aerofoil, though. This one pivoted - to help with braking. At the front, open wheels and a pointy nose smacked of street-rods. Baldwin had not held back on the chrome. The Turboflite's interior was similarly striking. Space-age seats looked suitably enticing. Electro-luminescent lighting added a relaxed ambience. Even climbing into the cabin was fun. Opening the doors automatically raised the cockpit canopy, for ease of access.

The Turboflite's gas-turbine motor was code-named CR2A. Chrysler claimed it weighed half as much as their standard V8. After all, it was made up of just 60 - rather than 300 - moving parts. Chrysler knew it worked. A Dodge truck put it through its paces, prior to the Turboflite's launch. Ghia were recruited to coachbuild the car. The Italian masters were given the most exacting of briefs. Chrysler were serious about this one - so, every last detail mattered. In due course, Ghia built bodies for the Chrysler Turbine - the production version of the Turboflite prototype. But while it was ultimately, then, a means to an end, the Chrysler Turboflite's exuberance made it more than a mere staging-post!

Ford Mustang 1

Ford Mustang 1 1960s American classic concept car

Lee Iacocca is an automotive legend! As soon as he set eyes on the Ford Mustang 1 prototype, he knew it could become an American icon. That was at Watkins Glen racetrack - in October '62. Dan Gurney and Stirling Moss were driving the Mustang 1 that day. It wowed the crowd as a whole - not just Iacocca! The young Ford product planner saw potential written all over it. His only concern was that it may be too extreme for the mainstream motorist. He resolved to tone down the car's shape a tad. But - that he had seen the future of Ford - he was in no doubt.

The Mustang 1 Iacocca witnessed at Watkins Glen, then, was never going to be the one which rolled onto the roads of America. The roadster's bodywork - by Troutman and Barnes - was a low, flat slab of aluminium. Good aerodynamics were a given. Cutting edge retractable headlights smoothed the flow of the car's nose. A stylish rollover bar was perfectly in tune with its hair-raising heritage. Two huge air intakes were a clear pointer to the race-bred beast within!

The Mustang 1's motor was German in origin. The V4 was sourced from the Ford Taunus 12M. It was moved back in the chassis - the better to power the rear wheels. 109bhp was on tap - giving a top speed of 115mph. So, while it may not have been in the same league as the P-51 fighter plane - after which it was named - the Mustang 1 still shifted at a fair old clip. A 4-speed gearbox kept things civilised. Capacity was 1,498cc - or 91ci, in old money. Suspension was by wishbone and coil spring. Front disc brakes were a more than welcome feature. Steering-wheel and pedals were fully-adjustable. It would be hard to overstate the impact the Mustang 1 made. Iacocca was Italian-American. In styling terms, the lines of his car saluted the land of his forebears. Two 'dream cars' were duly constructed. In time, Ford Mustang muscle cars did full justice to the Mustang 1 concept. They would, of course, become some of the most coveted machines in the history of motoring. Lee Iacocca made his mark all right!