The first of General Motor’s four Firebird concepts, the 1953 Firebird XP-21 is probably the most impractical concept car ever devised. Built purely as a research and development exercise, GM’s Firebird XP-21 featured a radical wind tunnel tested fibreglass body heavily inspired by the Atomic Age. Combined with a gas turbine engine, the Firebird XP-21 was essentially, a road going rocket.
To match the concepts fighter jet façade, the XP-21 became the first gas turbine powered car tested in the US. The mid-mounted turbine engine produced 370hp, enough to push the Firebird to a theoretical top speed of 200mph. Penned by Harley Earl, the designer of the Oldsmobile Golden Rocket, the XP-21’s dramatic features were far more than skin deep, employing outboard drum brakes to aid cooling and airplane like flaps mounted on the wings acting as airbrakes.
Unlike many of the American concepts of the time, the Firebird XP-21 managed to survive, today residing alongside the Firebird II and III (the fourth concept was crushed during the 1980’s) at the Henry Ford Museum.
General Motors Firebird XP-21 Image Credit: gmheritagecenter.com/