posted on Sep, 19 2002 @ 08:36 PM
The GM Firebird I
This was probably the most advanced car designed by General Motors in 1954. There were actually three Firebirds built. The Firebird I was the first
car ever designed around a single stick control system which eliminated the conventional steering wheel, brake pedal, and accelerator. You simply
pushed the stick forward to accelerate Moving it to left or right steered it in those directions, and pulling back on the handle applied the brakes.
The control stick was located in the center, so that either the driver or passenger could operate the car. A two-passenger gas turbine-powered car,
the Firebird resembled a modern-day jet plane, with a pointed nose, high dorsal fin at the tail, and plastic bubble canopy like the cockpit of an
aircraft. The car had a 110-volt generator which provided 60-cycle electrical power. With this, you could plug into the car for power to run household
appliances if your home electrical power went out. Other novel features of the Firebird included special drag brakes at the rear which opened like the
jaws of an alligator to help slow the car down, a lighting system that turned on automatically when it got dark, an ultrasonic key which opened the
doors by high frequency sound waves from as much as fifteen feet away; and a timer which you could preset to start the car before you entered it.
General Motors' experimental Firebird III was the first space age inspired car. Beneath its missile-like shape, the tools of the
space-age-transistors, computers, and electronicsówere employed for the first time to give automatic guidance and improved passenger comfort to
automobiles, Firebird III was the first car ever designed around a single stick control system to eliminate the conventional steering wheel, brake
pedal, and accelerator. The first Firebird, a single-seat car, introduced at the GM Motoroma of 1954, was the first gas turbine-powered automobile
built and tested in the United States. Firebird II, a four-passenger car introduced at the Motoroma of 1956, carried forward gas turbine progress and
featured significant advances in passenger comfort. The second Firebird also presented a concept of a car under automatic guidance on an
electronically-controlled highway of tomorrow. Firebird III carried this concept into reality Through electronic "sniffers" located beneath the car,
it could follow low-frequency power in a cable in the highway to automatically guide the car. It had a fiberglass body and was pearlescent silver-gold
in color. The car measured 44.8 inches at the top of the bubbles and 57.3 inches at the tip of the dorsal fin, Firebird III had two enginesóa 225
horsepower Whirlfire gas turbine engine located in the rear and a 10 horsepower aluminum engine located in the nose which drove all the accessories.
Featuring the most advanced passenger compartment design of its day, the car had the first single-dial electronic temperature system. Through
electronics it could maintain a single temperature setting even if the car were driven from the North Pole to the Equator. Large gull-wing doors swung
diagonally up to offer effortless passenger entry. Other features included a lighting system that turned on automatically when daylight turned to
darkness an "ultra-sonic key" which opened the doors by high frequency sound waves, and a timer which could be set to start the accessory drive
engine prior to passenger entry to precondition the temperature.
[Edited on 9/20/2002 by necro99]
[Edited on 9/20/2002 by necro99]