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BoS 1:87 1953 GM Firebird 1, Metallic White

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BoS 1:87 1953 GM Firebird 1, Metallic White

BoS 1:87 1953 GM Firebird 1, Metallic White

The General Motors Firebird comprises a quartet of prototype cars that General Motors (GM) engineered for the 1953, 1956, and 1959 Motorama auto shows. The cars' designers, headed by Harley Earl, took Earl's inspiration from the innovations in fighter aircraft design at the time. General Motors never intended the cars for production, but rather to showcase the extremes in technology and design that the company was able to achieve. The cars recently joined the display at the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan, and still make regular car show appearances. The tradition of offering prototype vehicles continued with the Pontiac Banshee series.

From 1967 to 2002, the Pontiac division of GM marketed its Firebird line of pony cars, that had no direct relation to these series of Firebird concept cars.

By 1953, the research team had developed the Firebird XP-21. This was later referred to as the Firebird I, which was essentially a jet airplane on wheels. It was the first gas turbine-powered car tested in the United States. The design is entirely impractical, with a bubble-topped canopy over a single-seat cockpit, a bullet-shaped fuselage made entirely of fiberglass, short wings, and a vertical tail fin. It has a 370 hp (280 kW) Whirlfire Turbo Power gas turbine engine, which has two speeds, and expels jet exhaust at some 1,250 °F (677 °C). The weight of the car is 2,500 lb (1,134 kg), with a 100-inch wheelbase.

At first, Conklin was the only person qualified to drive the car, and he tested it up to 100 mph (160 km/h), but upon shifting into second gear the tires lost traction under the extreme engine torque and he immediately slowed down for fear of crashing. Racecar driver Mauri Rose later test drove the car at the Indianapolis Speedway. GM never actually intended to test the power or speed potential of the gas turbine, but merely the practical feasibility of its use. The braking system differs from standard drum systems, in that the drums are on the outside of the wheels to facilitate fast cooling—and the wings actually have aircraft-style flaps for slowing from high speed.

A miniature version of the Firebird I crowns the Harley J. Earl Trophy, given to the winner of the Daytona 500.

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