The Cars That Money Can’t Buy – General Motors Firebird II & III

Sun 15th Dec 2019

Sometimes your wallet won’t stretch to purchasing your dream motor. But don’t worry too much, there are some cars that even the biggest bank balances can’t buy, the dream cars that will forever remain a dream. These are the concept cars that never go into production.

General Motors Firebird II & III
The first generation of the Firebird was nothing more than a rocket on wheels, however the second and third generations of General Motors’ futuristic cars at least had a little more consideration for the driver and his passenger.

Launched in 1956, the second generation might have been considered a ‘family’ car. It certainly had four seats under its eye-catching bubble canopy top, however the rest of the supercar certainly lived up to its name with two huge air intakes at the front and the extravagant vertical tail fin shielding an exhaust system which had to be tweaked to deliver an engine output of 200 horse power.

Generally powered by kerosene, the Firebird II came with plenty of quirky innovations. It was one of the early pioneers of disc brakes on all four wheels and also came with an independent suspension system.  The Firebird II also featured what many may consider an early advanced safety system, with an electrical wire embedded in the roadway which would send signals to help guide future cars and avoid accidents.

Three years later GM unveiled the Firebird III at the 1959 Motorama, a two-seater 225 horse power gas turbine engine which lived up to the brief of taking its style guide from the fighter aircraft of the time. That look was helped by no fewer than seven wings or tail fins, which tested in a wind-tunnel just in case you were questioning if it was style over substance.

Whereas the Firebird II had encountered difficulties with a Titanium body, the fibreglass shell of the third generation was a winner, making it lighter and easier to shape. The double-bubble canopy may have looked ‘space-age’ but was possibly impractical for mid-drive conversations.

With cruise-control, anti-lock brakes and air conditioning, the Firebird III was certainly pointing towards a bright new future. Though the joystick control system positioned between the two seats is yet to catch on 60 years later. 

One element which has recently been developed more recently is the ‘ultra-sonic’ key, which signaled for the doors to open.

The Firebird III will also be remembered as being Harley Earl’s swansong in concept design. The legend of supercars hanging up his drawing board at the end of the Firebird III project.