That’s the 18th fairway at Pebble Beach, to be precise . . .
We just returned to our palatial home offices after spending the weekend hangin’ with the bluebloods at the Concours d’Elegance in Pebble Beach, and we gotta tell ya, it’s a one-of-a-kind car show and not to be missed by any true auto aficionado. One of the themes of this year’s show was the 100th anniversary of General Motors, and the arcades were filled with GM woodies galore, 16-cylinder Cadillacs, and a couple dozen "Motorama" concept rigs, many of which were on display for the first time in decades.
Motorama was a traveling exhibition of GM concept rigs and “dream cars” that made the rounds at various auto shows throughout the 1950s, nearly all of them the brainchild of legendary GM design guru Harley Earl. Some of them are wild and wacky, while others were truly visionary for their time. Either way, they provide a glimpse into the minds of GM’s product planners back in the days when the General was truly the Big Dog among carmakers. Just for fun today, here are a few we spied at Pebble Beach:
1954 Firebird 1: The first of several Firebird design studies, this rig ran a twin-section 270hp gas turbine engine---the first car in America to do so. And yes, this was a genuine running prototype.
1953 Pontiac Parisienne: This pimpin’ two-door showcased an open landau-style roof along with pink leather seats (!) that moved automatically backward 12 inches when the doors opened for improved ingress and egress.
1954 Pontiac Bonneville Special: With flip-up doors and cast racing wheels, this thing was designed with competition in mind. Power came from a straight-8 engine with four sidedraft carbs and a Hydramatic tranny.
1956 Firebird II Titanium: Yes, the body is made entirely of titanium, the only rig ever to be built of said material. The turbine-engined ‘Bird was the first car ever to run four-wheel disc brakes, and suspension is independent at both ends.
1956 Buick Centurion: This thing was a stunner, powered by a 325 hp, 322ci Buick V-8 with four sidedraft carbs and variable Dynaflow transmission. Among the things on this rig that were waaay ahead of their time was a backup camera built into the rear tail section; this was used in lieu of rear-view mirrors.
1959 Chevy Corvette Stingray Racer: Another knockout. This creation from Bill Mitchell, who succeeded Harley Earl, was designed as a “race-able” ‘Vette, and eventually made it to production (more or less) as the 1963 Stingray.
1959 Cadillac Cyclone: Harley Earl’s last major work, this Caddy ran a 325hp, 390ci V-8 with a Hydramatic trans and two-speed diff, which permitted six forward gears. It was also the first car to run Saginaw rotary-valve power steering.
1958 Firebird III: Seven fins . . . yes, it seems absurd, but this rig had a lot of futuristic features that are commonplace today: Keyless entry, cruise control, electronic guidance (i.e., nav system) and warning lights instead of gauges.