The early Fifties were heady times at Ford Motor Company, when the 1955 Lincoln Futura concept was built.
From Henry Ford II on down the line, those at Ford thought they could overtake GM as the industry leader. By 1952, Ford was not only planning to match GM model for model, it also hoped to surpass the General in total vehicle sales by the end of the decade.
In that climate, Ford executives saw the Futura as an exceptional design that would be a functional, fully operational laboratory on wheels and also get them a lot of good press. The Futura represented the very direction in which Ford executives thought they wanted to go. So on the Futura, unlike most other concept cars, everything but the windshield wipers worked -- and there were no windshield wipers.
In addition to knockout good looks, the Futura had some unusual and innovative features:
- When the car was in motion, the interior was virtually sealed off from the outside. To make sure sounds outside the Futura could be heard in the passenger compartment, there was a microphone in the center of the aerial on the trunk. (In pictures the microphone looks like a black ball.) The speaker inside the passenger compartment was located on a vertical chrome panel between and just behind the seatbacks.
- Instruments were located in a binnacle in the center of the steering wheel. The binnacle remained stationary even when the wheel was turned. In the center of the binnacle was a disc with the odometer; towards the bottom was a 150-mph speedometer and a tachometer. At the top of the binnacle were five chrome-bezeled "idiot" lights for fuel, battery function, and temperature. (There is no known explanation as to why five lights were needed for three functions.) Gear selection was made by pushing one of five buttons located near the driver's side on the center console. As a safety feature, the pushbuttons were of different sizes for each gear, and the parking gear selector button was tied into an interlock system so that the doors and canopy could only be opened when the car was in park.
- The hubcaps, although similar to those on the production 1957 Lincoln, have no valve stem holes in them; the valve stems were on the inside of the modified 15-inch Lincoln wheels and accessible only from under the car. (So much for real-world functionality.) Tires were 8x15 Firestone gum-dipped tubeless deluxe Champions with 3 1/2-inch wide whitewalls. The spare was borne in the trunk.
- The gas filler was behind the rear license plate per standard Ford practice since 1952. The Futura had a full-sized gas tank mounted under the trunk floor rather than the small trunk-mounted fuel cell most concept cars came with.
- The hood of the Futura was hinged at the front, and the hood release was inside the passenger compartment, much like the 1957 Ford.
- A console parted the two bucket seats. Behind the console and in line with the seatbacks was a telephone.
For more cool Futura features, continue reading on the next page.