E3 Spark Plugs Eyes the (Flying) Car of the Future

1954 Ford FX Atmos, a concept car designed for nuclear power and hands-free driving.

On New Year’s Day, posted an article that got E3 Spark Plugs thinking about the car of the future, with a little retro-tastic inspiration. The article took a look at the iconic TV cartoon The Jetsons, set in a Space Age utopia in the year 2062 – a century ahead at the time of the show’s first airing in 1962. At question was just how many of the show’s then-futuristic features have become everyday reality.

First, there’s RUDI, George’s Referential Universal Digital Indexer, which looks an awful lot like today’s PC. Remember George seeing and speaking with Jane or his boss, Mr. Spacely of Spacely Space Sprockets, via a monitor? Skype made that a reality. George read the day’s news from a screen in his home – much like our laptop screens. Even the Jetsons’ robot vacuum cleaner came to pass in iRobot’s Roomba vacuum cleaner.

But the one Jetsons’ item we still covet is that groovy ride – the flying family car. It appears Hanna-Barbera took inspiration for the design from the Ford FX-Atmos, which caused quite a stir with its debut at the 1954 Chicago Auto Show. The FX stood for “Future Experimental” and Ford officials touted it as a representation of “one of the many avenues which styling could take into the future.” Like George, the would-be driver of an FX Atmos would sit in the front center of the car and steer it with hand grips. A dash-mounted “radarscape” would help navigate by providing highway and aerial information and a clear dome roof could be lowered on a sunny, breezy day. Two needle-like protrusions from the front fender pods were jokingly referred to as “pedestrian spears” but actually were radio antennae designed to allow for collision-free auto piloting. Alas, since there was no motor, there also were no car spark plugs. Designers and engineers envisioned a car that could harness the power of the atom instead.

Fast-forward to 2012 and we may be a bit closer to a Jetsons-inspired automotive reality than many realize. Later this year, Terrafugia expects to make the first customer delivery of its Transition Roadable Aircraft, a revolutionary integration of the personal car and light-weight aircraft. The Transition can drive on any surface road, then deploy its stowed-away wings and take flight from the nearest airport – no hangar needed. It’s got all the essential automotive crash safety features and there’s even a cargo area for your golf clubs.

While it’s a bit bulky and lacks the groovy vintage vibe of the FX Atmos or the Jetson’s ride, we’ll take one – just as soon as we come up with the $194,000 asking price.

What’s your pick – Would you rather park a Transition or an FX Atmos in your driveway? Leave us a comment on the E3 Spark Plugs Facebook fan page.



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