During the classic muscle cars In the era, competition leading the industry with radical new features forced automakers to take risks. At that time, modernizations were introduced that we now take for granted. Things like disc brakes, the first automatic transmission, aerodynamics and a modern electric car became a reality.
A poignant example is the Chrysler Turbine Car. Chrysler invested ten years in what became no more than a fleet of prototypes. The car was turbine-powered and could run on any fuel. Over-the-top publicity stunts like the burning of tequila in Mexico and the burning of Chanel No. 5 perfume in Paris proved it.
The engine boldly used the power of the turbine. Multiple turbines were used, but no pistons or valves. There was no radiator, no distributor, no carburetor, no valves and only one spark plug. Chrysler’s innovative engine was hand-built at Highland Park. There were several reasons why the Chrysler Turbine car didn’t catch on. Chrysler canceled the program and crushed the entire fleet of 50 units. The book, “Chrysler’s Turbine Car: The rise and fall of Detroit’s coolest creation‘ documents the story.
Here we look at 10 classic cars who were ahead of their time. These cars introduced all sorts of advancements that we expect to be standard today.
10 1959 Cadillac El Dorado Biarritz
In 1959, the Cadillac Eldorado was a great example of modern luxury. It was the most expensive American car. Elvis Presley owned one, he had a penchant for caddies. Frank Sinatra and his Rat Pack buddies also drove the Cadillac Eldorado Biarritz. The wraparound windshield still looks space-age chic. Ditto for those strongly formed caudal fins.
Available as a convertible or hardtop, it featured a 345 hp V8 engine. The voluptuous 1959 Cadillac Eldorado came with all the trimmings. Power steering, power brakes, automatic transmission, power seats, power windows, and a dial-scanning radio. Cadillac introduced newfangled upgrades like these from the start. The original 1912 Cadillac introduced the auto-launch, which was a welcome invention and eventually replaced the crank. And the 1915 Cadillac was the first successful production car with a V8 engine.
9 1955 Chrysler C-300
The 1954 Chrysler C-300 was the first true classic muscle car, set in the era of Detroit competition for more powerful engines. It was the fastest and most powerful production car on the market at the time, with a top speed of 130 mph. It had a 331-cu. in. V8 with an early hem with a zero to 60 mph in 10 seconds.
The C-300 produced 300 hp. Needless to say, this car dominated NASCAR. In 1955, the indomitable beast scored 22 victories. A real classic.
8th 1980 AMC Eagle
The revolutionary 1980 AMC Eagle anticipated the all-wheel drive (AWD) Subaru. The four-door station wagon or sedan was the first crossover utility vehicle to be made, although SUV terminology did not yet exist.
A kind of mashup between the AMC Gremlin, the Pacer and the Rebel, the Eagle was the first American car with AWD. It also featured an elevated chassis with rust-resistant galvanized steel. It was the perfect vehicle for harsh climates.
7 1962 Oldsmobile Jetfire
The Oldsmobile Jetfire was a futuristic spaceship compared to other cars at the time. Of all the classic cars of the time, none had a turbocharger, but this one did. It was the first production car ever to use a turbocharger.
To activate the fuel-injected turbocharger, the driver simply pressed the accelerator pedal to the floor and the car shot off like a jet.
It was like science fiction. The turbo was ignited by injecting a special fuel called Turbo Rocket Fuel, which was stored in the special Turbo Rocket Fuel tank. If it sounds like it might be unsafe, it was. Oldsmobile allowed owners to keep their Jetfire, but not the turbo system. The manufacturer exchanged the problematic injection system for a four-cylinder carburetor and conventional intake and exhaust systems at no extra charge.
6 1948 Tucker
The maker of the Tucker sedan was way ahead of its time. Its engine, a Franklin from a helicopter, was air-cooled and rear-mounted. The rubber suspension made the ride smoother. It provided stability by lowering the center of gravity. And it featured a center headlight that swiveled with the steering.
The 1948 car was manufactured by Preston Tucker. His most extraordinary thinking in the 1948 Tucker was his attention to safety. In the event of a collision, the windshield was ejected, the dashboard was padded, and there was a “safety crash chamber” under the dashboard. The Tucker sedan didn’t make it into the ’50s, but its padded dashboard became standard in Detroit.
5 1974 Sebring Vanguard Citicar
This little marvel was seen on the streets in the 70’s in the middle of the oil crisis. The Citicar, made by Sebring-Vanguard, is no longer in business. But their innovative car, powered by an 8hp electric motor, was groundbreaking. Its range was about 50 miles and it could go 40 miles per hour. It was the only pure electric car, but a few years later it was gone.
Still, by 1977, the Sebring car brand was number 6 among US automakers. The Sebring Citi car was manufactured in Sebring, Florida and named after that city. Given that it was styled on a golf cart, its Sunshine State background makes sense.
4 1951 Hudson Hornet
If you have seen cars (2006), the Pixar film that Disney got right, you know the fabulous Hudson Hornet as Doc Hudson, voiced by Paul Newman. In 1951, this car was truly a NASCAR legend, nicknamed the “Fabulous Hudson Hornet.” Innovations like a balanced crankshaft and a dashboard-mounted oil pressure gauge were one thing. This classic muscle car was made with the largest displacement production engine, a 5.0 liter straight-six developing 160 hp. Dual brakes were more of a necessity than an advance, but they were state-of-the-art.
Detroit-based Hudson Motor Company made production cars for racing and marketing. It lasted until 1954 with a merger with AMC. Steve McQueen had a 1953 Hornet and liked it enough to rebuild it as shared below Hagertywhich influenced the Lightning McQueen character’s name.
Hornet Team racers in the 1950’s included the likes of Herb Thomas, the first NASCAR Multi-Cup Champion, Marshall “King of the Beach” Teague and Frank “Rebel” Mundy. Hornet Team drivers have won a total of 79 races and three championships in just three years.
3 1953 corvette
The Corvette’s 1953 introduction to post-war America was modest but grand. The price of the two-seat convertible roadster, which welcomed soldiers returning from war and a boosted economy, was affordable value. It was one of the fastest cars of its time, like a vintage muscle car on par with Porsche, Jaguar and other European roadsters.
The 1953 Corvette was revolutionary in body design. Constructed from a new material of the day, fiberglass, it was lightweight and complemented an aerodynamic construction. It was one of the earliest cars with an all-glass body. Credit goes to GM designer Harley Earl, who selected the lightweight, rustproof, and inexpensive material for the 1953 Corvette.
2 1941 Packard Super Eight 180
State-of-the-art comfort is Packard’s inventive contribution to automotive progress. Driving was made easier with an Electromatic Drive, an early automatic transmission.
This beautiful looking car was the first to introduce power windows. Air conditioning was also on board to keep you cool. The automatic windows used a button-operated hydroelectric elevator design. It even had a central partition window for privacy. Packard identified the Super Eight as a “sedan” because it could be used in both directions.
1 1934 Chrysler Airflow
The Chrysler Airflow’s revolutionary contribution to automotive progress was not just aerodynamic, as the name suggests. In this way, the aerodynamics were developed to balance the weight distribution. The 1934 Chrysler Airflow was the first car to streamline body design in this way.
The Airflow was a pioneer, it had a 50:50 weight distribution. A lightweight unibody frame with an aerodynamic shape contributed to this technical achievement.