9 Modern New Car Features Predicted By Old School Concept Cars

Updated May 21, 2018

The ’50s and ’60s were the age of concept cars. Besides wild designs, designers predicted advanced features for the future, and they got some of these right.

Looking back, it appears that GM was more serious about advancing the state-of-the-art in automotive styling, while Ford focused more on outlandish designs and predictions of future technologies.

In fact the original Batmobile (TV Show) was a recycled Lincoln Futura concept car of 10 years earlier, purchased and upgraded by George Barris.

batmobiletimeline - ex. do futura


Hands-free Telephone – 1969 Buick Century Cruiser

The 1969 Buick Century Cruiser was conceived as an autonomous car, but not like those in development today. The Buick engineers at the time hadn’t considered computing power would allow for autonomous travel on all street, and not just controlled access highways with an embedded wire for the car to follow. Regardless, what the engineers did predict correct was a hands-free speaker phone in the car. The first mention of which installed in a car that can be found.

Concept car 1969_Buick_Century_Cruiser_concept car


Proximity Warning System – 1958 Ford La Galaxy

While not functional on the Ford La Galaxy, the technology did exist for this system to have been operational – it just would have been very expensive and very heavy. Today, a proximity warning system – alerting the driver that he or she is getting too close to another car or vice versa is commonplace and available on many models of cars.



Heated Seats – 1951 Buick LeSabre

The 1951 Buick LeSabre is much better know for the contributions the design made to the styling of cars for the next decade than for any gadgets or gizmos, but one very practical advancement was included. Harley Earl drove the open LeSabre on the street for two years, so it’s not surprising that heated seats were invented for this particular car.



Aerodynamic Styling – 1957 Chrysler Diablo

Chrysler pioneered the use of aerodynamics in the short-lived Airflow sedans of the 1930s and bravely brought back the concept with the 1957 Chrysler Diablo. While the Airflow’s styling was determined by the wind tunnel and the result was a car few buyers found attractive, this time Chrysler shaped a car using the wind to develop a design both aerodynamic and pleasing to the eye.



In-car Navigation – 1958 Ford La Galaxy

What the 1958 Ford La Galaxy lacked in styling, in made up for in gadgets. The Ford engineers mocked-up a non-functioning radar guidance system, which would work like our modern GPS, except that it wouldn’t for any number of reasons. It would take 20 years before the first GPS satellite was launched, and now, of course, access to location data and more is indispensable.



Push Button Start – 1955 Ford Mystere

From our perspective today, push button start seems to have started with premium cars and slowing worked its way down to less expensive models, so that the feature is available on a great number of car models today. Not so, the first mention of a push button start was in the description for Ford’s 1955 concept car, the Mystere.



Rear View Camera – 1956 Buick Centurion

Among the advancements in the 1956 Buick Centurion was that the engineers installed a video screen in the dashboard and a wide-angle rear-facing camera in the back, creating the first such system in automotive history.



Rear Seat Passenger Video Display – 1955 Ford Mystere

Perhaps one of the least attractive concept cars ever created (particularly when compared to Harley Earl’s GM designs) the 1955 Ford Mystere offered at least one glimpse int the future: a video screen for rear seat passenger entertainment. While and type of transportable media or games were still a few decades away, the kids could watch their favorite TV shows in glorious black & white. Check out the “rabbit ears” antenna at the back of the car.



Advanced Braking System – 1956 GM Firebird II

Though there’s no mention of the source, the aircraft-inspired GM 1956 Firebird II was described as fitted with four-wheel disc brakes and an anti-lock braking system. Where some of the previous concepts were simply non-operational mock-ups, Harley Earl insisted that his “Dream Cars” be totally operational. Its possible that GM engineers adapted existing Dunlop disk brakes with Dunlop’s Maxaret mechanical ABS system designed for aircraft, and created the first advanced braking system for automobiles.





Chris Riley
About Chris Riley

I have been wrecking cars for as long as I've been driving them but I keep coming back for more. Two wheels or four, I'm all in. gives me a chance to give something back to the automobile community.

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