12 cars ahead of their time
[dropcap style=”style1″]O[/dropcap]nce every so often a car is produced that is just way ahead of its time. Here are 12 of them:
1. Mercedes 600 Groβe
With a $20,000 base price in 1963, the Mercedes 600 “Big” solidifies Mercedes as the finest auto manufacturer in the world. Using a complex ball joint suspension, virtually unheard of at the time, gave the 600 the smoothest ride of any car. More impressive is the 3,200 psi hydraulic system powering literally everything in the car from window switches, sunroof, doors, HVAC, and even the trunk in the name of silent operation. This is the only car in the world built off of a “cost is no object” strategy.
2. GM EV1
Produced in 1997 under a lease only plan in California, the EV1 revolutionized the electric car for everyday use. Whilst battery technology was less than ideal, using lead acid batteries, and a range of 100 miles a day, the EV1 stole the hearts of many owners. Built from 1997 to 1999 GM used the EV1 as a test bed for electric cars. Ironically they pulled the plug in 2003 to many owner’s dismay, killing the electric car they pioneered until the Tesla brought back the EV market. Controversy still surrounds the reasoning to GM’s actions.
3. Acura NSX
Honda’s first mid-engine supercar brought a number of firsts along with it. Not only was it the first Japanese production supercar, it also shamed the top-tier Ferrari 348 in performance. The NSX also proved that supercars can indeed be reliable- sorry Ferrari and Lotus- and practical for everyday use. The NSX was also test driven and fine-tuned by the one and only Ayrton Senna, a driver also ahead of his time. The only other previous supercar that could compare as far as practicality and usability would have been the BMW M1.
4. Chrysler Turbine Car
Truly a case of literally being ahead of its time, the Turbine car was the closest thing to having a jet powered car on the road. Chrysler funded turbine power from the 1950’s until the late 1970’s and the Turbine car in 1963 was born. Fifty cars were leased out for testing over a three year span to consumers willing to sign up. High production costs and lackluster performance killed the turbine project, though it could have very well been the next greatest thing in the history of the automobile. An added benefit, unknowingly at the time, was the ability for the car to run off any flammable substance from kerosene to peanut butter. This car leaves us with one of the biggest “what ifs?”
5. Porsche 959
The 959 was the flagship for Porsche in 1986. It featured the pinnacle of technology developed for any single road car of the time: ABS, all-wheel drive with variable torque split, 6-speed manual transmission, variable shock damping and ride height, zero lift aerodynamics, and Kevlar reinforced fiberglass body panels. The 959 had it all paired with a record breaking top speed of 197mph.
6. Mercedes ML Class
The Mercedes ML class in 1997 for better or for worse pioneered the crossover segment. While disputed whether the ML or the Lexus RX came first, they both cashed in on the ever growing SUV craze of the nineties and offered consumers what they were wanted in an SUV while giving them what they actually needed. Today, crossovers by far compose one of the largest market segments and the recipe remains little changed from the original.
7. Jensen FF
Before Subaru or Audi Quattro, before the AMC Eagle even, the British Jensen FF took an Interceptor and gave it all-wheel-drive performance. Debut in 1966, the Jensen Interceptor FF not only had all wheel drive but also mechanical ABS derived from the aircraft industry.
8. Citroen DS
This car was beyond anything ever created when it debut in 1955 and still retains features missing in cars today. Front wheel drive, front rear engine configuration, fiberglass roof, aerodynamic body with a rear taper, panoramic greenhouse, one spoke steering wheel, multidirectional air vents, roof fixed turn signals, hydro pneumatic suspension giving the smoothest ride possible with variable ride height, swiveling headlamps. The list goes on and on. Driving a DS is like piloting a spacecraft. There is no brake pedal, only a rubber ball that requires the lightest dab. One can also change the spare on a DS without a jack and drive on three wheels.
9. Lamborghini Miura
This was the first mid-engine production road car. By the end of the 60s, Ferrari and Lamborghini were locking heads in a struggle to build the best sports car. Until this point, Lamborghini only had a few well done GT cars but nothing notable. The Miura used its transverse mounted V12 mounted in race car fashion to power the rear wheels. It allowed the car to have a low hood and swooping fenders. By the time of its debut, Ferrari was bringing out their Daytona. One produced a front engine grand tourer, the other turned the world on its head.
10. Lexus LS400
It took five years to develop with over a one billion dollar budget in the 1980’s. By 1990 it revolutionized the luxury sedan market. While Acura was one of the first with their Legend sedan, it was the LS400 that put Japanese luxury on the map. It was the first car to give Mercedes Benz, Jaguar, and BMW real competition. It was fresh, crisp and modern albeit with some generic styling. The LS400 was technologically ahead of the competition and started the basis of current automotive design. Lexus had set out to make a better car at an aggressive price and they succeeded.
11. McLaren F1
Designed by Gordon Murray, the McLaren F1 is the ultimate road going supercar. The F1 is the first production car to use an all carbon fiber monologue, three staggered seating with the driver in the middle, and a top speed of 240 mph. The McLaren F1 was the fastest road going production car for over a decade before the Bugatti Veyron took the title. The F1 was designed as a road car using racing technology first and foremost with the philosophy of raw engineering and power to weight.
12. Aston Martin Lagonda series 2
The Aston Martin Lagona Series 2 is also known as the most vulgar and ambitious car in the world. It features the finest electronics the British could produce in 1976, had more buttons than bolts, a digital dashboard a decade before it had any right to, and futuristic wedge styling. As the years went on the car became even more complicated with more buttons and more displays. It was high ambition for a low volume auto maker.