Link - by Avi Abrams

Do not allow anybody to steal your excitement about the future!

It seems that in the early 1950s and well into the 1970s many (if not the majority) of designers and engineers still felt the unbounded optimism about developing technology and man's ability to conquer the unknown - and this exuberance was gloriously reflected in many wild designs from leading futurism concept artists of that period.

We feel compelled to continue with our retro-future series, and today we present the next installment in "Futuristic Transportation" - read the first part here. Wait for images to load, then scroll to enjoy:


Feast your eyes on this wild sketch for an automobile, a product of Ford design studio in 1954:

(image via)

Firebird III concept by GM, 1958:

(image via)

Another "Advanced Styling" rendering from Ford:

(image via)

Goodyear's "Amtronic" concept vehicle:

(image via)

Left: W. C. Jerome's pretty strange prototype - on the right is very futuristic concept by Alex Tremulis:

(images via)

General Motors traveling Futurama was a sort of technological circus that was meant to excite people about motoring possibilities of the future:

(images via, bottom: Arnoldo Mondadori Editore, Bill Cotter, via)

Lots of cars needed a lot of multi-lane highways: the image below is from the World Fair 1939 in New York, called Citta' Del 1960:

(images via)

Even cooler: "Endless Belt Trains for the Future Cities", 1932 -

(image via)

You gotta love this automobile, with production scheduled for 1942!.. if not for the war... It has the classic aerodynamic shape that we wrote about in this series: Part and Part 2:

(cover of the "Popular Science" magazine, June 1940 - fragment, see the whole cover here)

Syd Mead is probably the best industrial designer to emerge during the early 1970s boom of futurism. His vehicles still look exciting after decades, and there is something in his "luminous space" and vibrant colors that speaks dearly to our heart and eye:

(art by Syd Mead from his book "Sentinel")

Syd Mead's student work from 1958 looked pretty groovy already:

As a side note, 1958 was pretty wild year for outrageous car concepts: here is the atrocious LAND BOAT -

UPDATE: this is actually an exaggerated concept - spoof of the excesses of the 1950s car design (from a book "The Last Dream-o-Rama").

As for some future scenarios... in case of apocalyptic shortage of gas, for example, try the solution from occupied Holland, 1941:

(image via)

More recent solution: 2008 British Steam Car, capable of reaching 170 mph (more info):

(image via)

Modular truck with extending cabin:

(image via)


A fragment of futuristic train (possibly Russian in origin... similar to some Luigi Colani's designs):

(image credit: Marcin Jakubowski)

Soviet monorail trains - and American cars? - on the cover of Communist scientific magazine from the 1960s:

Russian designers did indeed dream about American cars at the time, here is proof (below left). In the meantime they were coming up with prototypes for screw-drive off-road vehicle (below right):


Don't miss the Screw Ship, 1939 - better than a submarine! (more info)

(images via)

Even weirder are the Turbo-Wheel Liners...

Interesting concepts of cruise ships (and mega-yachts):

(images via)


Some of the VTOL (vertical lift-off and landing planes) concepts were quite radical looking (see our article covering most of them here). One concept we missed is this Adam Vought's plane, designed in 1965 - Vought V-460/V-485:

(images via 1, 2)

Not many people remember Bill Horton's "Wingless Plane" - see video - basically a lifting body concept, quite radical for 1952:

(images via Popular Science magazine)

Even stranger is the unknown prototype plane (below left), or rather just a flying turbine:

(images via)

The VTOL plane on above right is the infamous SNECMA - Coleoptere from France (more info).

Concepts of some heavy bombers from the 1970s:

(images via)

Supersonic planes "New York Brunch - Paris Lunch" from Vanadium Corp. of America, 1958 -

(image via)

Don't miss "Strange Lifting Force for A Huge Airplane" idea from old Modern Mechanix, click here. A gyro-plane on a humongous scale. And the imposing Atomic Plane from the same source.


Why move only the furniture? You can transport the whole house inside this truck (and the moving crew can travel in double-decker comfort, too):

Sectional Buses, 1948 - more info:

Unnamed hybrid vehicle. Wait... it actually has a name: "The Rad" - and, it's a concept for Batman Returns!

(image via)

Desert bus replaces camels - provided there is a thriving tourism industry (more info):

(image credit: Modern Mechanix)

(left: the wood cutter of the future, via - right: rubber-footed mountain busses, via, bottom: Curtis-Wright's Bee, via)

Very strange method of lunar transportation, suggested by Mattel Inc. Toymakers:

Other vintage toys still retain some charm:

(bottom image: "Operations in Antarctica", by Arnoldo Mondadori Editore, Bill Cotter, via)

The Mars Liner concept, by Christoph Anczykowski:

(image credit: Christoph Anczykowski)

The Ultimate Transport, of course, is your private asteroid - hollowed out and outfitted with stellar drives (the idea proposed in John W. Campbell's Analog way back in the 1950s):

(illustration by Roy D. Scaffo, Scaffo Studio, via)

If you can't snatch an asteroid, the Empire State Building will have to do:

(concept art for the Thunderbirds TV series)



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Anonymous Gregoryno6 said...

Cars of the future actually looked futuristic, once upon a time. Designers today just want their car to look like the other guy's car.
If only the other guy's car was a Citroen GT!

Blogger GMpilot said...

Oh, where to begin...?

The more I see of those old Modern Mechanix covers, the more I'm convinced that the manufacturers of paint—namely, red, yellow, and black—were going to be very rich in the future!
There were so many memories brought back in this piece. I took the Futurama ride at the NY World's Fair in '64, and to this day I wonder how they made it all look not just real and plausible, but inevitable.
It's one of the pieces of the future I feel I've been cheated out of.

The Amtronic concept vehicle also existed as a model kit (1969). I kept mine for years! As far as I know it has not been reissued. *sigh* I know a lot more about plastic modeling now—I could really do it justice. I remember the main cabin as having four lounge-style seats, facing each other...and mounted in the roof, a TV screen!

The screw-drive vehicle was seriously considered by the Army as off-road transportation, also around 1964. Chrysler built it, and I recall seeing it in one of their advertisements on TV.

As for the Empire State Building becoming a spaceship; don't be fooled! All that heavy metal was being used to move the building in one piece (which, tragically, failed). That comes from an episode of the old British SF series Thunderbirds.

And yes, the Land Boat is an abomination. I'm happy to have missed that.
Many thanks for a backward look.

Blogger Daviplane said...

Looks like the unnamed vehicle is actually the Batmobile in emergency Batmissile mode, from "Batman Returns".
Just my 0.02$ !

Also the moving Empire State Building is indeed a Thunderbirds comic panel. The related TV serie episode should be "Terror in NYC". Supermarionation FTW...

Blogger David Alexander McDonald said...

The "Rad" is the Batmissile from BATMAN RETURNS -- that's the concept art for it. Basically the batmobile with the sides blown off and the wheels pulled inline, like a rollerblade.

Blogger Unknown said...

Shucks, guess I'm the third person to catch the Rad as the Batmissile. Oh well, still a fantastic post nonetheless.

Anonymous John Lee said...

Great stuff!
The 1958 LAND BOAT is a fairly recent Bruce McCall spoof of American 50s 60s concept cars from his book "The Last Dream-O-Rama." He's the guy who created those great Bulgemobile ads in the old National Lampoon and does a lot of covers and articles for the New Yorker

Anonymous Anonymous said...

The left hand one of those "heavy bombers from the 1970s" is more of a late-50s, early 60s bomber. It's an artists impression of the proposed, but never-built Convair NX-2 nuclear-powered bomber.

Blogger Rally said...

@ GMpilot -- the Amtronic has been reissued at least twice (by the original maker: AMT, hence AMTronic) since the original release -- once in the late Eighties and again in 2000 for their Millennium Collection. Can be had on Ebay relatively cheaply. I have a couple of each release.

As far as the hollow asteroid, it was originally conceived by author Larry Niven. Take a small nickel-iron asteroid. Drill a hole down the center, fill it with big bags of water. Aim a parabolic mirror at it and set it to rotating. The outer shell of the asteroid will melt, and once the heat hits the water, they flash into steam -- poof! Instant iron bubble.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

A couple of corrections:

First, the Firebird III is a GM design, not Ford. And from 1958 (first shown in 1959), not 1955.

Second, as John Lee says, the Land Yacht is not a 1958 design; it's from a 2001 book entitled "The Last Dream-o-Rama" that's a humorous "retrospective" of 1950s futurism, exaggerated into silliness.

Blogger Avi Abrams said...

Awesome comments - thank you all! Post updated.

Blogger Kristophr said...

Those "heavy bombers" were a pair of nuclear powered aircraft candidates, cooked up before ICBM tech was perfected.

One of the prototype engines is on public display in Idaho.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

The unknown tubular plane is a Collins Radio prototype by Alexander Lippisch that was housed in the Collins hanger at the Cedar Rapids, Iowa airport sometime after WW II when the German engineers were relocated to the U.S. I'm not sure on the dates, but the information is available in a number of books on experimental aircraft.

Blogger Unknown said...

Wonderful collection, as ever. Love the site! :)

The first cutaway picture of the "Interesting concepts of cruise ships..." pair is from an issue of the Thunderbirds comic serials. I have an early 90s collected edition which features this image as a double page spread and the story in which (iirc) the ship is targeted by South American revolutionaries!

Blogger Eric said...

I used to have that Mattel moon walker toy! I believe it was for the Major Matt Mason toy line. You flipped that lever in the back and it crawled along.

Anonymous Ken said...

I had the Mattel moowalker, too. Even as a kid I could see how impractical it was. When the legs turned it would thrash from side-to-side, throwing the astronaut off instantly.

Blogger Eric said...

Yes, Ken, it would have been like a bucking bronco machine. My neck aches thinking about it.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

i like all the techniques and the models...

Anonymous kate Middleton said...

awesome pics nice work

Anonymous Anonymous said...

The "unknown prototype" next to the Coleoptere is the Lippisch Aerodyne, intended as a military drone. The concept was finally proven in 1972 with a flying model the Dornier E-1.

Blogger Unknown said...

1922 - Aerodynamic car with four wheels mounted inside the aerodynamic shape, from the inventor Aurel Persu (Romanian inventor). The car still exist at a museum from Bucharest, it has 0.22 aerodynamic drag coefficient (is still beat more modern cars).


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