Retro Wednesday: Crazy Cars that Made it

Some of those crazy concept cars from my earlier post actually made off of the drawing board and onto the street (and sometimes water!).  Check out these beauties…

The Studebaker Avanti of 1963

Designed by Raymond Loewy, the Studebaker Avanti was low and swoopy, with “Coke bottle” curves in the fenders and a short, up-swept tail. At a time when wide chrome grills and flashy, but useless fins and hood ornaments were the norm, the lines on the Avanti were beautifully clean, crisp, and simple. The car was swank and sophisticated.  It had “space age” written all over it. It was a car for Mercury astronauts, Boeing 707 pilots, and anyone with a true understanding of cool!

The Amphicar - 1961

Amphicars were the only civilian amphibious passenger vehicle to be sold to the masses. Built in Germany between 1961 and 1968, a total of 3878 vehicles were produced. The standard line is that the Amphicar was both a lousy car and a lousy boat, but it certainly had its merits. It was reasonably agile on land, considering, and fairly maneuverable on water, if painfully slow, with a top speed of 7 mph. Its single greatest demerit — and this is a big one — was that it wasn’t particularly watertight. Its flotation was entirely dependent on whether the bilge pump could keep up with the leakage. If not, the Amphicar became the world’s most aerodynamic anchor. Even so, a large number of the nearly 4,000 cars built between 1961 and 1968 are still on the road/water.  Looks like fun to me!

The Tucker "Torpedo" - 1948

This super aerodynamic car featured a third “cyclops” headlight that would turn on at steering angles of greater than 10 degrees to light the car’s path around corners. At the time, 17 states had laws against cars having more than two headlights so Tucker fabricated a cover for the cyclops center light for use in these states.   The car also had some other pretty revolutionary safety features including a protective perimeter frame, a padded dashboard, seat belts (a first in its day), and an instrument panel and controls that were in easy reach of the steering wheel. Fifty-eight frames and bodies were built at the factory, and from these parts, 50 total sedans were finished before the factory was closed due to bad press and issues with the SEC.  There is an entire movie made about the history of the car, directed by Francis Ford Coppola, called Tucker: The Man and His Dream (1988) if you are interested.

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