Atlanta's High Museum of Art is opening an exhibition of some of the rarest and boldest concept cars ever built. At a time when cars are getting plainer and plainer, and teens and twenty-somethings can barely be bothered to get a driver's license, it's a reminder why generations of Americans handed over 52 weeks of salary for a dream on four wheels.
Take the Lancia (Bertone) Stratos HF Zero. This metallic wedge is pure 1980s futurism, but it was actually built in 1970--that’s the year after this season’s Mad Men takes place, for those keeping count. The Zero was designed by Marcello Gandini. If you think the Zero looks a bit like a Lamborghini, that’s not so crazy. He also designed the Lamborghini Miura and Countach, the latter of which shares the Zero's aggressive, spear-like posture. But Gandini was no one-trick pony. He also design the remarkably groomed original BMW 5 series, the cooler-in-retrospect Citroën BX, and a tiny, cubby bear of a car, the Innocenti Mini. Additionally, he invented those absurd and eye-catching scissor doors we associate with supercars to this day.
Only one Zero was made. The same is true for another car in the exhibit, the General Motors Firebird I XP-21. This thing is literally a jet on wheels. Its turbine engine spewed jet exhaust at 1,250 °F. It was so sketchy that the driver was never supposed to push the throttle beyond 100mph. And you know what GM did with the Firebird I XP-21's co-creator Harley J. Earl after it came out? They didn’t fire him. As the first top-level executive designer in American history, they basically gave him carte blanche, allowing him to introduce the world to both tailfins and the Corvette, too; later, he retired. (It’s worth noting, Earl is credited with creating the original concept car as a way to build hype around design, the Buick Y-Job.)
These are incredible cars. And they’re on display at the museum May 21 to September 7, 2014.
[Hat tip: Core77]
[Images: Courtesy of Atlanta's High Museum of Art]