The 1956 Firebird II: A Car Ahead Of Our Time

Perhaps one of the the most unusual looking vehicles ever to come out of Detroit was the Firebird I.  Introduced in 1954, it was basically a jet plane on wheels.  While never intended for production, the concept proved so popular that a second model was released in 1956.  The updated version had a gas turbine engine as its power plant, just like the original.  But it also featured several modifications intended to make it a more practical vehicle.

From One Seat to Four
The Firebird II could seat four adults comfortably.  It had air conditioning, power seats, and even built-in snack trays, which passengers could use to enjoy a meal.  Whereas the Firebird I was intended for solo pilots, its successor was clearly created to appeal to more practical tastes.

A Kinder, Gentler Jet Engine
Like its predecessor, the Firebird II was powered by a gas turbine engine.  In the first version this created a number of problems, including dangerously hot exhaust gasses that might have melted any vehicle that pulled up too close behind it.  This time around the builders dropped the power output almost in half, from 370 to 200 HP output.  They also added a regenerative system that lowered the engine temperature by 1000ºF.  This, along with a system that vented the fumes at a 90º angle, relieved any worries that the Firebird would set anything behind it ablaze.

The 1956 Firebird II jet engine

More of a Shark Than a Jet Plane
The exterior saw an extensive redesign as well.  While the original looked amazingly similar to a fighter jet, the 1956 version came closer to resembling a shark, with a wide, flat body and fishlike rear fins.  Harley Earl, who was the brains behind the vehicle, had the exterior made from brushed titanium.  Twin air intakes in the front drew in air for the turbine.  The vehicle was the first ever built with four-wheel disc brakes, and a specially designed compartment could hold up to eight pieces of luggage.

An Early Vision of Accident-Free Driving
The biggest single cause of traffic accidents is driver error.  That’s why many recent innovations, such as rear view cameras, are aimed at reducing the potential for human misjudgment.  Auto builders in the 1950s were aware of this problem as well.  A solution proposed at the time will sound familiar to anyone who ever owned a slotted toy race car track.  The idea was for a highway that operated by remote control.  It would allow the person behind the wheel to sit back, relax, and enjoy a snack, while human or machine controllers guided the vehicle, keeping it from colliding with others.

The Firebird II was built with an internal guidance system designed to link up wirelessly with this anticipated traffic system, via electronic cones that were in the front section of the vehicle.  Once automated control took over, the driver and passengers could kick back and relax while the central network (eerily similar in concept to the Internet) took over.  The fact that this was done using 1950s technology makes it all the more incredible.

The 1956 Firebird II_side angle

A Vision That Never Came True – Yet
The idea of a remote control road system never became more than a nifty concept, and the Firebird II, along with its predecessor and its later 1958 version, is now used as a draw at car shows.  But the principles that underlie its design remain at the cutting edge of transportation technology. And, with computerized driving devices becoming more common, a future version of this groundbreaking vehicle may yet be seen cruising down a fully automated highway while its passengers watch TV. Time will tell.

PHOTOS: See more of the 1956 GM Firebird II Concept

--

Did you know that you can get stories like this on the Yahoo mail app?
Download it here.

Yahoo Cricket

Latest News

  • 'Peterson Hill' set relocated

    Mumbai, May 25 (IANS) The set of comedy TV series "Peterson Hill" has reportedly been shifted from Film City, Goregaon to Panvel here. According to a source, the new set has been made with the same concept of the platform of Peterson Hill -- a hill station in Shimla -- and it will showcase train and tracks. Confirming the same, the source said in a statement: "Yes, the set has been moved to Panvel. …

  • Salman attends Arpita's wedding reception, gets taste of Himachali culture

    Mandi (Himachal Pradesh), May 25 (IANS) Bollywood superstar Salman Khan on Monday had a taste of Himachali culture when he savoured local delicacies during his foster sister's reception ceremony in this town. The reel-life hero also left the crowd swaying after he danced to the tunes of Himachali songs. Clad in full-sleeve round neck T-shirt and blue jeans, Salman wore sunglasses as he was accompanied by brother Sohail at Himachal Pradesh's Mandi town, located on the Chandigarh-Manali …

  • Eros International announces two new Tamil projects

    Chennai, May 25 (IANS) Eros International, a leading global company in the Indian film entertainment industry, has announced the launch of two new Tamil films to be co-produced with RV Films, namely "Perai Thedia Natkal" and "Enkitta Mothathe", which will release by the end of the year. With plans to expand in the southern markets, apart from our marquee releases, we want to back projects with fresh concepts and scripts that help recognize promising talent in the industry," Sagar Sadhwani, …

  • 'Piku' crosses Rs. 100 crore mark worldwide

    Mumbai, May 25 (IANS) Filmmaker Shoojit Sircar's slice-of-life family entertainer "Piku", a beautiful tale of a father and a daughter's relationship, has collected Rs.100 crore worldwide. …

  • Shield hair from monsoon humidity

    This increased moisture in the hair makes the hair sticky, rough and frizzy depending upon the type of hair," Geeta Oberoi, managing director and founder member of Mumbai-based Skin & You Clinic, told IANS. "There is also some amount of hair loss happening due to all these factors," she said. "Light conditioners for oily hair and slightly stronger ones for the frizzy kind of hair," she said. …

  • Battle ropes become popular go-to fitness tools in U.S. gyms

    By Dorene Intenicola NEW YORK (Reuters) - Battle ropes, the thick and heavy ropes that look as if they could tether a ship to shore, have become go-to fitness tools in gyms for people seeking a tough workout that is also engaging and fun. Whipping, slamming, dragging and drumming the long, anchored ropes have long been used in training for sports like football, but fitness experts said they have now gone mainstream in gyms as an efficient workout routine. “It’s a little like running with the …

  • Myntra gets premium brands to India

    New Delhi, May 25 (IANS) In an endeavour to catch up with global trends, virtual application Myntra has added ten international brands like Replay, Cole Haan and SELA to its platform. Consumers can now shop from over 5,000 styles from brands such as Replay, Cole Haan, Scotch & Soda, SELA and Parfois, among others, available on Myntra's 'Premium' section, taking the number of international brands on the platform to 30. The new partnership brings stylish shoes and fashionable and trendy bags …

  • 'Tanu Weds Manu Returns' spins box office magic, makers 'relieved'

    New Delhi, May 25 (IANS) "Tanu Weds Manu Returns" director Anand L. Rai, who was under pressure over viewers' expectations from the film, is a relieved man. The sequel of the 2011 film "Tanu Weds Manu" marks the return of Kangana as Tanu, and a twin avatar -- Datto. The story of "Tanu Weds Manu Returns" starts from where the prequel ended. …

Loading...