Richard Dredge
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Richard Dredge

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Richard Dredge
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Richard Dredge

Ford FX-Atmos

In the 1950s, car designers were obsessed with space travel. After all, this was the jet age

Looking like something from a Jetson cartoon, the FX-Atmos was definitely not a car for the real world. It was never intended to show what a Ford of the future might look like, but it was supposed to help to shake off the company all-pervading reputation for conservatism.

Throughout the 1950s, Ford's head of design was George H Walker, and from time to time he let his team off the leash to show what they were really capable of. It's fair to say that they excelled themselves with the FX-Atmos, which was created for the 1954 Chicago Auto Show, where it went down a storm.

With the obligatory glass canopy and twin fins at the rear, this concept was much like so many others of the 1950s. But check out those spikes at the front; pedestrian kebab was a real possibility if you were at the wheel of this mad-cap concept.

Continuing the spacecraft theme, there were rocket-shaped exhaust outlets and even the rear lights were rocket-inspired. The steering wheel was replaced by handlebars and 40 years before the Mclaren F1 featured one, there was a central driving position with the two passengers either side but slightly behind.

But perhaps the most far-sighted idea that lurked within was the Roadarscope system (daft names aren't a late 20th century invention), which was basically an autopilot that allowed the driver to take a break and have a kip as they were transported at great speed across huge distances.

The FX stood for Future Experimental, those spears on the front were aerials to help control the car to stop it running into vehicles in front, and the ‘Atmos’ was taken from atmosphere, which Ford said “came from free and unlimited creative thinking”. With a glass canopy, seating for three and a pair of aircraft-style fins, this was truly a jet-age design.

The FX-Atmos was never a runner, although there was talk of it having some kind of atomic power source, although such rumours didn't emanate from Ford which was tight-lipped about any possible motive power.

Made almost entirely of glassfibre, the FX-Atmos featured a relatively compact 105-inch wheelbase. But by the time the designers had done their stuff the concept's length had ballooned to a huge 221 inches (more than 18 feet), thanks to those massive front and rear overhangs.

 

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