If the Dream Cars exhibit at the Atlanta Museum had to be condensed into one machine that can turn grown men and women alike into giddy kids again, it is surely the Firebire I XP-21 by General Motors.
The machine’s 1953 roll-out illustrates how fast technology was progressing from thec lose of WWII and into the early 1950s. Where the TASCO is blunt and tall in its profile, the XP-21 looks like it is from another galaxy altogether.
Imagine its impact on 1953 Motorama attendees if it can still stop your brain sixty years later!
What is it? Why is it? How is it? … ANd many more questions all flow through your brain – acclimated as we were/are to tall and boxy car shapes.
With a pin-point nose like the latest concept jet-fighter aircraft, but XP-21’s front wheels are the most incongrous part of the design at first viewing. It is like they are landing gears that have yet to be retracted.
Powered by a conventional gasoline piston engine, the XP-21 showed design ideas for a post-piston world. A world where the rear-mounted jet turbine or rocket would do the forward progress much better than ever before.
Certainly much faster than any car before!
The streamliner approach really adds beauty in back, where the shrink-wrapped panels and tail fin show your brain how fast the XP-21 indeed would be. To need wings!? On a car!?
Oh yes. The future was bright in this time period, as now, of insurmountable technological frontiers falling like dominoes.
Only one new invention away from a real-life rocket car on the way to work!
Alas, the shape is a bit too plane-like for most real-world purposes. As such, it often wanted to take off at high speeds.
But even today, with better downforce and shrouded front wheels, this is the standard shape for all land-speed-record cars.
Practically-speaking, the Firebird XP-21’s outrageous panel shapes in fiberglass helped give the General Motors team the experience to build the 1953 Corvette – a car whose curves were impossible to mass-produce until this point.
Inspired and inspiring, that is a certainty with the Firebird XP-21 at the Dream Cars Atlanta gallery.
DREAM CARS runs through September 7th at Atlanta’s High Museum of Art.
The DREAM CARS companion hard-cover book offers outstanding descriptions, insights and photography of the collection.
It is available now world-wide via the High Museum shop link below.
Tom Burkart is the founder and managing editor of Car-Revs-Daily.com, an innovative and rapidly-expanding automotive news magazine.
He holds a Journalism JBA degree from the University of Wisconsin – Madison. Tom currently resides in Charleston, South Carolina with his two amazing dogs, Drake and Tank.
Mr. Burkart is available for all questions and concerns by email Tom(at)car-revs-daily.com.