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The anti-nuclear lobby has for long used the “Nuclear power, no thanks” slogan, but in the late 50s, nuclear power looked like the fuel of the future. So Ford wasted no time getting in on the act. Unfortunately, nuclear power is a complex and expensive field, and Ford wasn’t about to throw its millions into such a project.So Ford turned to their favorite concept car economy stunt, the $10 mock up. And the emphasis there should be on “mock.”

The Ford Nucleon was put on display in 1958. Quite what concepts it was trying to display is anyones guess.

The reactor was put at the rear of the car. Ford was obviously trying to show how much it cared about its customers by having a gap between the reactor and the passenger compartment, although I’m not sure what difference a couple of feet would make if the reactor split open.

There was some talk about being able to interchange the reactors units, though quite why you’d need to change it is beyond me seeing as U-238 has a 4 billion year half life. I’ve had a few Fords and I can quite categorically say that most of them felt as if they wouldn’t last to the end of the week, let alone a few billion years.

The irony is that while the power source would last a long time, it would have needed to be filled with water at regular intervals because it used a steam generator to power an electric motor.

Steam generators, electric motors, water, lead lining … you can see why they needed a nuclear power plant to move all that mass. Your common-all-garden petrol engine just wouldn’t have cut it.

Despite the low budget approach to this concept, Ford managed to splash out the usual mass market advertising, including a new car salesman with a spiffy suit and botox-like grin. I can just imagine him saying “its perfectly safe, Sir,” with that face. He was probably selling vacuum cleaners the week before, assuring worried housewives that it would pick up Strontium-90. Ah, the fifties.

There you go, the world’ first, but not the last, nuclear powered car (mock up). Underwhelming, isn’t it? Mind you, I’m talking about it 50 years later, so I suppose it was ten bucks well spent on Ford’s part!

Do you long for nuclear powered cars? Would a billion years between fill-ups fit your life style (and it so what sort of life form are you?)

And the big question, would you buy a car from that man? Or have you already met him in a showroom somewhere?


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