What Happened to the Old Dream Cars?

Do you know those old cars with huge vertical wings and conical taillights at the back? Stupid aren’t they, looking like combinations between stingrays and flying saucers. I like muscle cars just as much as the next guy, but when I see an elderly gentleman with a Chevy Bel Air, he’s usually wearing a hula shirt and has a big mustache. I just want to go up to him and tell him that his car is ridiculous, and that modern EVs are the future.
But then I realize how unimaginative and boring we’ve become, and that the future is not something I particularly look forward to. You see, back in the time before color TV, people didn’t want a car that ran on electricity like a washing machine, they wanted a flying saucer with wings and a champagne cooler in the back. They wanted humanoid robots and cities under the ocean or on the moon. But when somebody tries his hand at making a flying car these days, he’s usually considered crazy, not a playboy dreamer.

Did you notice how every car is designed not from imagination, but from the one that came before it? What happened - when did we become so realistic, so grounded and so boring about what we imagine driving in the future?

Seriously, our idea for the car of the future right now is an aerodynamic box with four small wheels that does 100 MPGe. It’s like the industry is deliberately asking itself to be boring, never thinking way outside the box, never creating a stir.

At the end of World War II, we had jets, and after that we got helicopters and nuclear submarines. In in that time people dreamed of reinventing personal transportation in a big way. But we never got George Jetson’s suitcase-packed flying car! And we forgot all about James Bond’s spy machine, the Lotus submarine!

Nobody believes aliens exist any more, NASA space programs are being canceled and America is increasingly finding that it doesn’t need advanced fighter jets. How boring are we in the 21st century? If grandpa managed to travel through time from the 50s, he’d ask me why cars don’t levitate, why we’re stuck in traffic jams when the skies are empty and why the heck do all cars look the same.

I will concede that cars are built by robots, they can almost drive themselves and have become very efficient. But would James Bond find any more use out of a new 3-Series than he did in his machinegun-packing DB5. No, and they can’t take us places we couldn’t go before, and most importantly they don’t feed the soul in the same way as they did.

The Wright Brothers took off in their airplane in 1903, almost 11 decades ago. By the 30 and 40s, people were dreaming up machines called the Airphibian, the Arrowbile and ConvAirCar. In the late 50’s and early 60’s, we had the Avrocar that took off vertically. And in the 21st century, we’re firmly stuck in reality, building restrictive, safe, boring boxes with wheels.

I spend my days reporting about tuning programs, recalls, turbocharging and car politics. I’ve been indoctrinated that Porches and BMW have evolved into the best versions of themselves. So even to me, the idea of flying cars and motorcycles that go under water sounds crazy!

But think about this for a second: don’t you feel a bit disappointed in the world we live in knowing the best we can do in the next decade is a longer lasting EV battery and bonnets that lift up when you hit a pedestrian? It’s time to trade some of that practicality and safety we gained for some ambition. So what do you say carmakers: could you please fly us to the moon and let us play among the stars!
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About the author: Mihnea Radu
Mihnea Radu profile photo

Mihnea's favorite cars have already been built, the so-called modern classics from the '80s and '90s. He also loves local car culture from all over the world, so don't be surprised to see him getting excited about weird Japanese imports, low-rider VWs out of Germany, replicas from Russia or LS swaps down in Florida.
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