Future of cars back in ’50s
Auto giant turns dreams into reality with string of fantastic vehicles, DAVID BURRELL writes
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).