To pay homage to these imaginative icons of ideas, we decided to showcase a few of the more memorable and maybe even lesser-known renditions of the dream car. We chose to expose five lost or forgotten dream cars that once thrust dreams of what could be into the future.
The 1951 Le Sabre
Chevrolet design can’t be remembered without Harley Earl. The design of the Le Sabre was his attempt to incorporate the look of modern jet fighter into automotive greatness. At the time, jets were quickly replacing prop-driven aircraft, and symbolized the latest in design and engineering. Harley Earl hoped to carry this concept into automobile design.
The Le Sabre also featured numerous advanced features like heated seats, electric headlights that were concealed behind the center oval “jet intake”, a water (rain) sensor that could activate the power top, and electric jacks to help with changing tires.
When 1964 rolled around, the jet age had passed, but the GM Stiletto made it clear that the philosophy was still on the mind of a few designers at GM. In a GM press release dated April 8, 1964, the Stiletto was touted to be a two passenger, high performance coupe with special appeal to car enthusiasts.
When seated underneath the lifting roof that allowed entry, the occupants faced 31 indicator lights, 29 toggle switches, and 16 gauges, all spread across the roof and dashboard console.
Five years later, GM pulled the car from storage, redesigned the nose and called it a Pontiac Cirrus. It was put back on show duty for another year. Afterward, the car again went into long-term storage until being sent it to the crusher in the early ‘80s.
1939 –’40 Futurliner
GM was definitely getting creative, as they spelled future without the last ‘e’, so they could trademark the name. The sole purpose of the Futurliner was to transport GM’s ‘Parade of Progress, a travelling exhibition that toured North America.
The aerodynamic form is said to rely on the early locomotive aesthetic of the time. The designers were also inspired by the Boeing Flying Fortress, which is evident by the early use of a glass dome for the cabin. That was later changed because it made the truck’s interior extremely hot.
The Futurliners were given an upgrade in 1953, that included revisions to the cab, the addition of air conditioning, and an engine change from diesel to fuel power.
While the whereabouts of all twelve Furturliners is unknown, it is known that one was wrecked in 1956, one sold in 2006 for $4,000,000 and then again in 2015 for the same amount. Another was restored and is in the NATMUS museum in Auburn, Indiana. One was even restored and in use as a motorhome. In 2008, a Futurliner was delivered to its new home in Sweden with a 10-year restoration plan. In 2013, it was reported that Peter Pan Bus Lines in Massachusetts had two. One was painted, and the other was in storage. We reached out to the company through their website, and according to a representative, “both are in our Springfield, Massachusetts, Maintenance Center. One is fully restored (and beautiful!), however, the second was used for parts to restore the first.”
1955 Chevy Biscayne
If you wanted to be wowed at the 1955 General Motors Motorama, the Biscayne delivered. Like the Le Sabre, it was designed and built under the direction of Harley Earl. The car was conceived as an “exploration in elegance,” and the sleek design was not the only eye-catching feature of the Biscayne – it was a true hardtop sport sedan. It shared 115-inch wheel base of the all-new 1955 Chevrolet, but rode substantially lower, and 10 inches shorter overall than the standard car. The body was made of reinforced fiberglass, and its deeply sculptured body lines were a striking departure from the norm.
The Biscayne also showcased Chevrolet’s new 265 cubic-inch Turbo-Fire V8, and the Biscayne’s engine showcased the new engine with chrome accents, a four-barrel carburetor, and internal mods that helped boost output to 215 horsepower.
It was in 1967 when Chevrolet introduced a concept car that got its inspiration from the Corvair. Many feel the Astro I still remains one of the most innovative concept cars ever to come from General Motors. The Astro I was designed under the direction of GM Vice President of Design, William L. Mitchell, with the actual work being led by Larry Shinoda.
Once inside, the driver was greeted by a variety of aircraft-inspired design elements. Take for instance the “head-to-toe” bucket seats, the control pod to the left of the driver, and of course, the twin handgrips that replaced the conventional steering wheel.
Power came from a highly modified Corvair engine, and a complete four-wheel independent suspension system. Magnesium eight-bolt wheels featured removable outer rims available in a variety of widths. They were wrapped with prototype Goodyear redline tires.
The car is still owned by GM, has been restored, and is part of the GM Heritage Collection.
Turbo Titan III
The aptly-named hauler of goods was announced in July of 1965. The Turbo-Titan III, was an operational prototype that combined advanced truck styling and a gas turbine engine. An existing production truck chassis was used as the foundation, and pulled a specially produced 40-foot stainless trailer. The entire rig had a 50-foot overall length and an operating gross combination weight of 76,800 pounds.
Sadly, it is reported that the Titan III was destroyed in the late ’60s.
Article courtesy of Street Muscle Magazine, written by Randy Bolig.