Every year automakers build concept cars: radically designed automobiles meant mostly to look cool at car shows. Most of them are ridiculous and impractical, and make you wonder why they even bothered.
But every once in a while, they whip out something that's so cool it's a crime they never bothered to build it. These are the dream cars that automakers ultimately decided were just too awesome for us.
8GM Firebird III
Why is it Awesome?
Jets were still new to the world in the 1950s, and GM's Firebird III was intended to address the big question on everyone's mind: How can we strap a jet engine into a family sedan?
Thus, the Firebird III housed a Whirlfire turbine engine. If you're not sure how exactly a turbine engine works, just focus on the word "Whirlfire," and you'll get a sense of it. And if it's got what is essentially a jet engine inside it, it might as well look like a jet, right?Damn right.
Along with the obligatory tail fins, nose fins and sharply contoured hood, the car included two separate, clear plastic, bubble canopies. Nothing seems quite as cool as rocketing down the highway of tomorrow with your head peeking out of a plastic bubble, eyes sharply honed on the bogeys/cars around you.
The best part of the Firebird III, though, is that there is no steering wheel. Because really, what kind of jet has a steering wheel? Instead, all control of the car is down to a single, disc-shaped joystick. Push the stick side to side to steer, forward to accelerate, back to brake and twist to change gears, just like a real-live airplane!
We'd definitely ask for the extra feature where pushing down on the joystick fires twin .50 caliber machine guns.
"Why can't I buy one?!?"
Despite the turbine engine's inherent coolness and bevy of advantages over a piston driven engine, including the fact that it can run on almost anything that's combustible (including tequila!), it has always been an impractical option for powering a car.
But... but look at it.
Gasoline powered turbine engines produce nitrous oxide in large amounts, a major greenhouse gas that eventually forms acid rain, making ozone killing carbon emissions seem tame. Also, a turbine engine sounds more like a loud, high pitched vacuum cleaner than the iconic, rumbling purr of an American V8.
Oh, and there was a small additional problem where failing to follow the correct start-up procedure while in a drunken haze could wreck the engine in seconds and render it useless. Oops.