Here are our 10 favorite American concept cars from the 1950s:
10. 1955 Lincoln Futura
Ford unveiled the long, low but sharply finned Futura in 1955. The car featured a twin-bubble cockpit cover. After showing the car, Ford sold the Futura to Hollywood producers, who had it convert it into the original Batmobile for the 1960s Batman television series.
9. 1952 Chrysler K-310
This was the first collaboration between Chrysler design chief Virgil Exner and the Ghia coachbuilder in Italy. The concept also introduced the “Forward Look” that would characterize Chrysler’s production cars in the coming years.
8. 1954 Dodge Firearrows
There were four Firearrows – two roadsters, a coupe and a convertible — and all of them are gorgeous!
7. 1956 GM Firebird II
General Motors built a series of three futuristic gas turbine Firebirds. The ’56 was intended to be the most practical as it could accommodate a family of four and was designed to drive itself on an automated highway.
6. 1957 Dodge Dart
If you’re familiar with the B.A.T. concepts done by Bertone in Italy, then picture one of them stretched way out into a very large and very American-sized car, albeit one with a gorgeous two-tone paint job and aerodynamics fine-tuned in the wind tunnel.
5. 1958 Ford Nucleon
Although it never got bigger than a small scale model, the Nucleon was a very interesting concept. What appeared to be a large spare tire cover on the back of the car was actually a small nuclear reactor that would provide the power to propel the vehicle.
4. 1956 Chrysler Norseman
It wasn’t so much the car but its fate that makes this one endearing and enduring. The Norseman was among the cargo that went down with the Andrea Dora sank.
3. 1951 General Motors Le Sabre
Not only did this become GM design chief Harley Earl’s daily driver, but this jet fighter-inspired convertible (complete with altimeter, jet-like air intakes and tail fins) featured a water sensor in the center console so if it sputtered while the top was down, the top automatically lifted into place to keep the cockpit dry.
2. The “other” Corvettes
General Motors introduced the Corvette as a concept car at Motorama in 1953. But the original ‘Vette was just one of only four concepts based on the same platform. The others were the hardtop Corvette, the Nomad station wagon, and perhaps my favorite, the Corvair, a fast coupe.
1. 1960 Plymouth XNR
This concept was Plymouth’s answer to the Corvette, and it was beautiful, with an asymmetrical design that featured a dorsal fin that extended from just behind the driver’s head to the rear edge of the car. (Yeah, I know, I’m cheating a bit by including a 1960 concept, but it’s just awesome and since the earliest car on this list is from 1951, I’m declaring it early decade.)