Thursday, June 23, 2011

Back to the Retro-future - The Sky's the Limit

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The Retro-future

Retro Futuristic City 10 in Retro Futurism At Its Best: Designs and Tutorials
Photo re-blogged from Smashing Magazine
     The retro future is a wonderful place where real life didn't take us. The 20th century had a fantastic vision of the 21st - one that was difficult to replicate. It was a world where technology would solve every conceivable problem that might arise. No energy crises, no global warming, no wars and everyone, everywhere would enjoy an effortless life of automation. Rarely did this picture project beyond the the far-off year 2000. It's obvious visionaries of the time felt it was beyond their ken to look farther than that target date. ...And they were quite right. 
 Space Settlement 10 in Retro Futurism At Its Best: Designs and Tutorials
Photo re-blogged from Smashing Magazine
     Of course, here we are in 2011 and there is still no colony on the moon like in the British TV series, Space 1999 or the beginnings of fusion warp drive. The space station is a small mobile home orbiting the Earth, not a ringed super-structure with homes, laboratories, farmland and flowing rivers inside.
Photo re-blogged from C.W. Gill
     For a young lad in 1957 looking at our present - his future - would be rather disappointing. At first glance, it wouldn't look very much different from the world he lived in. Sure, cars would look somewhat futuristic but they would still have wheels. People would continue to fly in airplanes, not spaceships and clothing wouldn't be form fitting (thank gawd!) or made of silver lamé.  
Photo re-blogged from ProwTools
However, the "future" which is our present is a lot more comfortable and user-friendly than the one imagined a half century ago. Instead of flying cars, we have inexpensive home computers far more powerful than any imagined in 1960, the Internet, cell phones, flat screen TVs and Ipods. In all, it doesn't seem like a bad trade. And fortunately for us, homes are not all chromey and "Jet Age" austere where function follows form rather than the other way around. For a more detailed information on Retro-futureism, surf over to retro-futurism - the tomorrow of yesterday. - Nealbo

Beautiful Styling + Extreme Engineering = 

the Creme de la Creme 

of Automotive Design

Photos and text re-blogged from Dark Roasted Blend
Here is a series of Exceptional Concept Vehicles highlighting the absolute best in concept car design from the past 100 years of automotive history. 

It is not our aim to present a complete list, or even a comprehensive coverage of particular brands and car shows (there is enough material of this nature available on the web). What we want to do instead, is to celebrate the daring and esthetic value of the most fascinating and unusual concept automobiles - give you shapes and curves to brighten up your day, and to make you say "Wow, what a cool concept!" a couple of times.

(image credit: Mechanix Illustrated, 1951)     

For every model we will include a piece of interesting fact or trivia... and perhaps some highly subjective remarks from the author. Remember, beauty is the eye of the beholder, and what some may count as pretty, others will consider an abomination, and vice versa. The good news is that there were enough concept cars produced in the last hundred years - of every conceivable kind and shape - to satisfy every taste.

Astra Gnome: "Time and Space Car", 1956.   And so, let us begin with a selection of American concept cars - the American Dream cubed, quadrupled and multiplied to infinity by the daring designers of yesterday and today.

From way back in 1917 - 

behold the Golden Submarine.

(image Hemmings Blog
This extreme custom "stick rod" was built by Harry A. Miller for racing driver Barney Oldfield. The car looked almost jet-powered when the exhaust smoke came out. 

1948 Tucker Torpedo Concept 

Check out the "Cyclops Eye" on this early design rendering from 1946.

(image from "Science Illustrated", 1946 - via)
...which later evolved into the legendary Tucker "48" production model, and also spawned weird Carioca, 1955 design.

(images via) 

1937/1954 Mobilgas Special

Listen Up People!

(image via)  Fun fact: Originally 1936 Buick/Chrysler 'Topper Car' (built for "The Topper" movie to be driven by Cary grant himself), then converted into Mobiloil /Gilmore Special.
Designed by Bohman & Schwartz (also known as Bohman & Son) who also came up with extremely beautiful aerodynamic designs - see more here, for example this modified 1938 Phantom Cosair (owner Herb Shriner):

(image via)  

The 1950s - 

1955 Ghia Streamline X-Coupe - 

Welcome to the Rocket Age!

(images credit: Andrew Coates, viaFun Fact: This aerodynamic marvel (designed by Italian engineer Giovanni Savonuzzi) was nicknamed "Gilda", after Rita Hayworth's "noir" role in the classic 1946 movie.

1956 Buick Centurion III: Flight-Ready!

(image via)  Fun fact: This great example of futuristic 1950s styling also included a television camera mounted in the trunk. The images were displayed on the instrument panel, so there was no need of the rear-view mirror. Sounds familiar? It also features one of the most futuristic, and perhaps confusing, dashboards ever designed. But it certainly was sparkly with all this chrome and funky shapes.

(image via

1954 Pontiac Bonneville Special.

Fun Fact: Designed by famous designer Harley J. Earl, it had a full canopy with gull-wing panels - and the incredible, totally over-the-top rocket-engine styling in the back. One of the cars was painted in metallic bronze: looking slick and striking, like a steampunk'd fish submarine.

The 1960s 

1961 Chrysler Turboflite 

(images viaCheck out the automatic canopy. It lifts every time the door is opened.

(images viaFun fact: the first appearance of the large rear spoiler, later a feature on many models of the 1960s muscle car era. And of course, the fact that this car was powered by a gas turbine (part of the Chrysler Turbine Engines project). Here is a later Ghia-designed incarnation... 

1963 Chrysler Turbine Car

(photos by Motor Trend, 1979 - via)  

1964 Ford Aurora: 

Car Seat Extravaganza.

(images via 12Fun factSuch incredible variety of front- and rear- seat arrangements was called "a compartmentalized interior: designed for family travel in utmost comfort and convenience." This family pre-SUV "dream on wheels" was complete with polarized sunscreen glass roof and some "Aerosmith", eh, sorry "Aerohead" cooling system. Indeed, an epitome of cool for 1960s family travel.

Here is a bunch of other extreme 

1960s concepts from Ford.

Pictured above, top to bottom: 1960 Ford Predicta, 1960 Ford Levacar, 1961 Ford Gyron, 1962 Ford Seattle, and 1962 Ford Selene. All ready to be shipped to some outer space colony, or a futuristic City Dome - to be driven by the bladerunners and paranoid androids in various Philip K. Dick environments.

Speaking of Blade Runner (1982), here is how legendary designer Syd Mead pictured a futuristic urban car in the 1960s.

(image via)  Another rocket-like automobile is 1969 Buick Century - a true Jetson's family ride, if there ever was one:

(images via)  Aahh... can't get enough of these space age shapes! Here is another one: the 1967 Corvair Astro.

Chevrolet Monza series had very smooth lines, almost feline-like. 1962-1963 Corvair Monza GT concept car.

(images viaThis wonderful buggy-like automobile never made it into a working concept, only existing as a scale model.

Dean Jeffries' Mantaray from 1963.
(image viaCloser to our times: 2005 - Chrysler ME Four-Twelve Exotic Car Concept.

(image viaFun factThe Chrysler ME Four Twelve is considered the most advanced concept car to have come out of Chrysler (and this is in the midst of huge financial difficulties!). It looks great, even though it took less than one year for design and development. Powered by a huge V-12 engine (and yet one of the lightest, as it's made out of aluminum) producing 850 horsepower. Top speed is estimated 399 km/h, which is in the league with the Bugatti Veyron. Chassis is carbon-fiber and aluminum honeycomb: lots of sweet, sweet power and a certain "lightness of being".

BONUS Weird oddity here: a custom body designed by American Sunroof Corporation... complete with front-end propellers and a huge hood ornament:

(image via)  Do not allow anybody to steal your excitement about the future!

Feast your eyes on the wild 1958 Firebird III concept by GM.

(image viaAnother "Advanced Styling" rendering from Ford.
(image viaGoodyear'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 The Man from Mars

Spoooky Reading 

Buy it here 
Here comes the future!

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, viaLots 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 viaEven 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...

(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")  As a side note, here is the atrocious LAND BOATthis 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)
A 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 an 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 12)  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 Beevia)

The Mars Liner concept 

 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.

(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 The Man from Mars    
Photos and text re-blogged from Dark Roasted Blend

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