You may think I’ve been hitting Ford quite hard recently, what with the Gyron, Nucleon and Seattle-ite (and that name still makes me laugh). Well, you’re right. I’m all for “free thinking engineers” or “advanced stylists,” but we shouldn’t take seriously everything they produce. Unfortunately Ford did. And what’s worse is that other car manufacturers did as well, so much so that they felt they had to complete. A prime example is Chevrolet.
In 1961, Chevrolet produced the Astro III. Chevy obviously didn’t want something that wafted around like the Seattle-ite. They wanted something that looked like it had a purpose, and that purpose was speed. With its stubby wing/wheel arches, long pointed nose and wraparound windscreen, this thing looked looked like the jets of its day. The whole car was only 3ft high, giving it a wonderfully low center of gravity.
So, the stylists (advanced or otherwise) put a good thick tick in the looks-like-speed box. But what about the engineers?
In keeping with the fighter jet look, the engineers decided on a 300bhp turbine engine. That sounds good, but it was mounted between the rear wheels. So unless there was some serious weight up the front this thing would probably pull wheelies good enough to flip the whole thing over!
But lets just assume you’re good with the pulling wheelies thing. You’re going to say 300bhp, in a three wheeler? Well, yes and no. The engineers were clearly with you on the who wants 300bhp in a three wheeler question, but the stylists didn’t leave them much room for the old tried and tested four wheel layout. Ah, but were talking engineers here. They’re not going to be beaten that easily. They made it a four wheeler by putting two wheels side-by-side at the front. Side-by-side!
At a stroke they retained all the instability of a ludicrously overpowered three wheel design while introducing the complexity of two wheel steering. Perhaps they were hoping the added weight would keep the front down when bubba-lead-foot wanted to use the whole 300bhp in one go. Some hope.
For all the mad aspects of this concept, this is one I’d like to drive. It would have been completely impractical, but it really does conjure up the image of the fighter jets the designers intended.
Would you like to drive it? Have you ever driven a three wheeler? Did you tip it over? And what’s practicality got to do with any good car?