It came from the car mad 50s and 60s, where concept and show cars were designed purely around the notion of transporting people, a task considered so daunting it required a large and complex machine to do it. It was as if the idea of bringing back, lets say, a pint of milk from the shops was completely foreign to concept cars designers of these decades. Ah, wonderful.
Into this madness, Ford threw a car with a concept, and just to keep up with the automotive Jones, they made sure it was a barking mad concept.
The Gyron was a motorbike on car tires where the two occupants sat side-by-side, very un-motobikely protected from the elements. Clearly this was going to require passengers with a superhuman sense of balance. They’d have to be shuffling left and right like kids on too much benadryl, a kind of frantic two person mexican wave.
The guys at Ford had already foreseen this problem and fitted the car with (wait for it) gyroscopes (and don’t go telling me you didn’t see that one comming). The gyro kept the car balanced while it was moving, and when the car came to a stop bike stands kept it upright (again, you guessed that one, right?). In some of their promo material the Gyron was supported by two small rear wheels.
Since this was the sixties and doors were so passe, the Gyron was equipped this a canopy. In this case a canopy so large the entire interior would be soaking wet by the time you got it closed in a downpour.
Between the seats was a dial to control speed and direction. Now I know some people who are pretty good at Gran Turismo 23 with only a couple of controller buttons, but the idea of breezing along in a gyro balanced, oversized motorbike with just a couple of dials to control “speed and direction” is a bit too much for me. I think I’d need something more substantial to hold on to.
So, why did Ford bother? What were they hoping to achieve. Hum, good question, I’m glad you asked (or at least I’m glad I assumed you would ask).
Well, believe it or not, the idea of gyro stabilized vehicles had been around a while before Ford jumped on the two-wheeled bandwagon. A guy called Louis Brennan patented the idea of a gyro stabilized monorail in 1903. He even built prototypes, working his way up to the 22 ton machine below.
Can you imagine that! 22 tons balanced on one wheel. Being balanced on one wheel it could lean into the corners, taking them faster and at higher g-forces. Brennan was clearly way ahead of his time, he built something that worked and moved, and whooped Ford by a good 50 years.
Why, oh why, didn’t Ford turn their plastic concept into a moving vehicle? No matter how mad it might be, it would have been the very thing they were looking to create in their cars, excitement. Sadly they gave up on the idea and led the company into their very (excuse me) pedestrian designs we see today.
In fact, the people who made the most money out of Ford’s idea were toy manufacturers.
So, do you mourn the lack of two wheel cars on the roads today? Would we be hurtling round corners and crushing g-forces if only Ford had persevered? Or would the ditches be full of these things, like beached whales?