Seeing is believing, and McQuay Norris, a St. Louis, Missouri-based maker of automobile parts like chassis parts and piston rings, knew that the best way to prove the superiority of its products was by integrating them into a real vehicle that people could see, touch and experience. In 1933, it ordered the construction of six such automobiles to serve simultaneously as displays and test units, using the chassis of different brands but with a new body by Hill Auto Body Metal Company of Cincinnati, Ohio.
They called these vehicles “aluminum eggs” because of their unique but, at the time, quite popular and decidedly futuristic shape. This is one such example: a 1934 vehicle, based on the same model-year Ford, and the only one that has survived to this day.
The McQuay Norris Streamliner was nothing revolutionary, either in terms of design or engineering. As far as design goes, other streamlined vehicles had done a much better job at offering improved aerodynamics and passenger capacity, like the Stout Scarab or the Dymaxion before it. The custom bodywork on the Streamliner is not without merit, though. Consisting of a wooden framework with metal skin (steel and aluminum), it’s a good example of what we call today retro-futuristic styling and improved aerodynamics.
In terms of engineering, as Lane himself says in his most recent interview, it was still a Ford, so it drove like a Ford. Lane even says that you could close your eyes, and you wouldn’t be able to tell the difference, except for the fact that there is much less wind buffeting noise inside the Streamliner because of reduced air friction.
Powered by a Ford 221 flathead V8 engine mated to a 3-speed manual transmission, the Streamliner developed 85 hp and could hit top speeds of 80 mph (129 kph). You wouldn’t want to go any faster in it either way since the rod-operated brakes make stopping distances much longer and braking itself a much more challenging operation.
Two vents on each side, operated manually, offer cross-ventilation inside, and there’s seating for two. Because McQuay Norris asked for a custom wooden dashboard to include the variety of gauges they had to monitor the performance of their parts, the passenger seat is located a bit farther in the back than the driver’s seat. Even with both seats placed almost in the center of the vehicle, there is still room for some luggage behind them.
According to the Lane Motor Museum, this unit included a blowby meter that was used to measure how well the piston rings and valves were sealing and a viscometer to monitor oil viscosity. Both were lost over the years.