Fu­ture of cars back in ’50s

Auto gi­ant turns dreams into re­al­ity with string of fan­tas­tic ve­hi­cles, DAVID BURRELL writes

Geelong Advertiser - Motoring - - CARSGUIDE -

IN the 1950s, Gen­eral Mo­tors and Ford com­peted to cre­ate some of the most out­landish cars to dis­play at Amer­i­can and Euro­pean mo­tor shows.

If space-age “Jet­son” styling was the mea­sure of suc­cess, then Ford won the race, go­ing away.

It un­veiled its first dream car, the X-100, in 1953. Painted black with a white roof, the X-100 show­cased fu­ture styling themes such as a wrap­around wind­screen and enor­mous cir­cu­lar tail lights. This rear end de­sign was trans­ferred to the 1961Thun­der­bird al­most in­tact.

Next was the Lin­coln XL 500 of 1954. Ford said it was a “glimpse of what is ahead in au­to­mo­tive styling and me­chan­i­cal fea­tures”. The fourseater boasted a fi­bre­glass body painted scar­let. The ma­jor fea­ture was its all glass roof, vari­a­tions of which would be a hall­mark of sub­se­quent Ford dream cars.

The steer­ing wheel hub con­tained the au­to­matic trans­mis­sion gear selec­tors, an idea later used on the Ed­sel.

Then came the wildly styled FX At­mos. Its ap­pear­ance at the 1954 Chicago Auto show left on­look­ers won­der­ing if it was as se­ri­ous dream car or a car­toon come to life. It stood a mere 1.2m high.

The rad­i­cal cock­pit had a cen­tre-mounted driver’s seat and two-pas­sen­ger rear seats. Steer­ing was by el­bow-level hand grips. The dash­board fea­tured a radar screen pro­vid­ing road in­for­ma­tion.

The front fend­ers had long thin chrome spears point­ing ahead. The roof was a big dome of glass. The rear end had soar­ing tail­fins and rocket ex­haust tail-lights.

At the 1955 Chicago Auto show Ford took the cov­ers off what would be­come its most fa­mous dream car, the Lin­coln Fu­tura.

Op­er­a­ble, it was driven to many auto shows in the US and Europe as part of Ford’s pub­lic­ity cam­paign. It gained film fame in 1959 when it was used in It Started with a Kiss.

The Fu­tura’s en­dur­ing legacy is in its cast­ing in the 1966 TV se­ries Bat­man.

The leg­end of how Los An­ge­les car cus­tomiser Ge­orge Bar­ris came to own the car has been told of­ten.

Buy­ing it for $1, Bar­ris parked be­hind his work­shop. When a call came to pro­vide a car for Bat­man, he changed some panels, painted it black and the rest we all know.

He sold it at auc­tion last year for $4.8 mil­lion.

The wild stylings of the rad­i­cal Ford FX At­mos (above and right).

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