GM Firebird 1 Concept

From GM press: Fascinated with the sleek profile of jet aircraft, Harley Earl and his team developed a series of 3 concept cars inspired by jet aircraft and powered by gas turbine engines.

The 1954 Firebird I held only one person and was distinguished by its needle nose, delta wings, and vertical tail fin.

The 1956 Firebird II featured an improved gas turbine (with an exhaust temperature of 225 degrees Fahrenheit vs. Firebird I’s scorching 1,250 degrees) and held 4 people. It was also the first car to feature disc brakes and fully independent four-wheel suspension.

The last of the series, the 1958 Firebird III, was the most streamlined of all, with a wide tapered nose and separate bubble canopies for driver and passenger. It also featured a single-stick control handle, like jet fighters — a feature that was resurrected with the 2002 AUTOnomy concept car.

While few of the series’ other design features were carried over into other cars, the Firebirds’ gas turbine power plant laid the groundwork for other advances in propulsion technology. And, of course, the Firebird name was carried on with another Firebird for the 1964 World’s fair and with the popular Pontiac Firebird production car.

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