January 18, 2008

Future Vision Blurry

The Lincoln Futura - 1955
The fifties futurists at Ford Motors failed to foresee the SUV or the luxury pick-up truck when they designed the Lincoln Futura concept car. I still can't see how elegantly dressed ladies like those in the picture were able to get in and out of the aircraft-like cockpit. The designers must have figured that practicality would go out of fashion in the future; the Futura couldn't carry a few bags of groceries or any kids, unless they went in the trunk.

The future as seen from 1955 wasn't plagued by eco-nuts or OPEC. Powered by a huge V-8 gasoline engine, the Futura wasn't economical. But, unlike most concept cars, the Futura had a long and productive life. In the late 50's, the car was used as the plot-piece for a Debbie Reynolds and Glenn Ford movie, It Started with a Kiss. It had to be repainted, as the original pearlescent finish (made with real pearls) didn't film well. Parts of the movie were made in Spain, where the old feeder happened to be living.

I was a car buff in those days, and I recall being singularly unimpressed with the Futura. Heck, I lived on the Avenida Generalissimo Franco then; world-class road racing events frequently ran right under my balcony. I was much too sophisticated to be impressed by a fat Yankee highway cruiser that looked like it was made of two Plymouth Fury hindquarters stuck together. Glenn Ford was no Juan Fangio, either. My favorite road car then was the Spanish Pegaso Z-102, a number of which were parked in my neighborhood. You can see many good Pegaso examples here. (The coupes were hideous.)

Futura with Debbie Reynolds and Glenn Ford
The Futura was then purchased by George Barris, the King of the Kustomizers, and left out on his back lot because it was untitled. In 1966, George was asked to make a Batmobile for the Batman TV series, and he used the Futura for his model. Clearly, the futurists at Ford had foreseen the parallel reality future of Gotham City, instead of today's ugly world of CAFE standards and officious eco-meddlers. At least we don't have to put up with the Joker.

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