Buick Cen­tu­rion a ‘dream’ blast from the past

Geelong Advertiser - Motoring - - CARSGUIDE - DAVID BUR­RELL

IN the 1950s Gen­eral Mo­tors de­vel­oped a se­ries of “dream” cars of the fu­ture and dis­played them to the Amer­i­can pub­lic in ex­trav­a­gant exhibitions called Mo­tora­mas.

Mil­lions went to see th­ese cars. And it was all free.

Many of the cars that were shown fin­ished their brief lives as scrap, but one that sur­vived is the sen­sa­tional Buick Cen­tu­rion XP-301 from 1956.

That XP is for “XPer­i­men­tal”, and 301 is its build num­ber.

Be­ing a car of the mid-1950s, there was plenty of chrome but not too much to dis­tract from the svelte shape.

The a e r o d y n a mi c b o d y matched its stun­ning i nteri or, which was up­hol- s t e r e d i n a i r c r a f t - i nspir e d El e kt r on Red.

The glass roof arched over four in­di­vid­ual bucket seats with in­di­vid­ual headre sts and re­tractable seat belts.

The s t e e r i n g wheel was mounted airc raft- st yle on a wide, chromed arm that can­tilevered out of the cen­tre of the dash­board, thus re­mov­ing the safety haz­ard of the steer­ing col­umn.

Per­haps its most vi­sion­ary f ea­ture was a rear- mounted cam­era with a wide-an­gle lens and a 4 x 6- i nch view sc reen em­bed­ded in the dash­board.

The cam­era, paired with the car’s trans­par­ent bub­ble top and panoramic wrap­around wind­shield, meant that no rear view mir­ror was nec­es­sary.

A chrome-plated strip that be­gan above the front wheel, curved down just be­fore the rear wheel, and then curved back to t he t ail- l i ght — t he “Sweep­s­pear” — would be­come a Buick trade­mark. Twin air scoops di­rected out­side air to pas­sen­gers. The ta­pered tail re­sem­bled the ex­haust out­let of a jet air­craft.

The flat rear fins were later used in even more ex­trav­a­gant from on the “bat-winged” 1959 Chevro­let and again on the 1971 Buick Riviera coupe.

Chuck Jor­dan, who de­signed the Cen­tu­rion, went on to be­come global head of GM de­sign in the 1980s and 1990s.

The Cen­tu­rion i s one of a se­lected num­ber of dream cars c ur r e ntl y on di s pl ay a t t he Mu­seum of High Art in At­lanta, Ge­or­gia.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.