Follow by Email

Saturday, December 19, 2015

The Firebird IV Was GM’s Idea of an Autonomous Future: Weird Car of the Week


Copyright © 2015 Bold Ride LLC.

Throughout the 1950s and ‘60s, automotive futurism was at its height. The beginning of the space race had designers and engineers looking towards the sky for inspiration.
 The GM Firebird concept was one of the many concept cars of the time to take the design cues from our astronomical aspirations. But it wasn’t until 1964 that the space agenda and forward-thinking finally converged into one weird and wonderful concept: the GM Firebird IV.


Autonomous Dreaming
Today’s hot-button autonomy discussion rages on, but in 1964, GM was fully invested in developing a car for “automated highways,” as it called them. The Firebird IV concept was that car.
The Firebird IV debuted at the 1964 New York World’s Fair, and though claimed by GM to be powered using a turbine (it never actually ran or drove). The idea was a system of electronic highways that would allow the vehicle to run autonomously, using a system of radars to monitor progression.

It was the final project in the Firebird series, and the most progressive of the four. It also featured a dramatic new design, and an interior loaded up with luxuries like a television, a game table, and even a fridge.


Dream On

By 1969, GM was so emotionally invested in the Firebird platform, that it handed over the idea to Buick as not to see it go the way of the dodo. From there, Buick designers and engineers went above and beyond with the Century Cruiser.

It was a slightly more luxurious, more appealing (with its teal paint job) version of the Firebird. It featured new swivel contour seats so that riders could easily reach the fridge and television while on their daily commute. It did have a steering wheel, but it was deemed “unnecessary” as the car would have predetermined routes guided by those electric highway centers mentioned earlier.


Crushed Dreams

In 1980, GM’s autonomous dreams were quite literally crushed. Only one was ever built, and it was eventually sent to the crusher, never to be spoken of again inside the walls of GM. We can bet GM still wishes it had that concept on hand today.