PHILION ROAD CARRIAGE:
One of the oldest American automobiles, patented in 1892 by showman Achille Philion. It had a 2-cylinder, 1 horsepower, steam-powered engine; had a movable steering wheel (it could go on the front or back of the car); and could reach 8 mph. The chauffeur sat in the back to maintain the steam boiler. Only one was built: It was a big hit at the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair. Want to see it? It appeared in the 1942 Orson Welles film, The Magnificent Ambersons, and now resides at the National Automobile Museum in Reno, Nevada.
This East German car looked like the typical boxy Euro-sedan from the 1950s, but the “P” in AWZ P70 stood for “plastic”— that’s what the body was made of (there was a steel embargo imposed on Soviet Bloc countries). Today it’s not unusual for cars to be made of plastic, but the P70 was one of the world’s first. (Another early plastic car: the 1953 Chevy Corvette.)
Escargot is French for “snail,” and that’s what this Nissan car/van looked like, with a tiny hood and a large, bubbleshaped body. (Nissan claimed S-Cargo stood for “small cargo.”)
Available only in Japan, about 12,000 sold between 1989 and 1992.
The brainchild of R. Buckminster Fuller, Dymaxion stood for “dynamic, maximum, and tension.” This 3-wheeled, bulletshaped car was 20 feet long, had a Ford V-8 engine driving the two front wheels, and was steered via the single rear wheel, which allowed it to turn on a dime. It had room for 11 passengers and could travel at a top speed of about 120 mph, getting an unheardof 25 to 30 mpg. And it had a periscope…instead of a rear window. A test run of the prototype at the 1933 Chicago World’s Fair resulted in a rollover, killing the driver. The crash was blamed on the steering, but many say another vehicle caused it. In any case, financial backers pulled out, and only three cars were built in 1933 and 1934. Just one exists today.