I have always loved classic cars, and owned a few along with way, some of which have only become classics in the years since I drove them new!
The “Goddess” Citroens, so called because of their DS model name (Diesse translates as goddess in French) surprised everyone in 1955 when they hit the road, a design that could have been an illustration for a science fiction cartoon. When they stopped making them 20 years later they still looked futuristic, and to see the rare (in Australia) survivors gliding down the road is to appreciate the design of these hydraulically suspended space capsules.
Some designs are classics instantly. The early Porsche is one, just an upturned bathtub really, but the rear engine and its light weight led it to become iconic in a way very few cars do.
Rear engine layouts were a common feature in cars designed in Europe. Fiat, Renault, Volkswagen, Skoda and Tatra have all been successful at various times with rear engine designs.
In the USA things were different. Chevrolet sold the Corvair in the ‘60s, until Ralph Nader wrote the book,”Unsafe at Any Speed”, which was to galvanise consumer advocates to demand safer vehicles.
The Corvair was a victim; it did have a six cylinder engine hanging out behind the rear axle, which could make it spear off into the scenery. It was in fact improved, but they are a rare sight today in the US, killed off by bad press.
The least known rear engined American car was the Tucker 48 (pictured). Known as the Tucker Torpedo when its maker took 10 prototypes of the fabulous beast around the US to introduce it to the dealers, it was a hit with the public. He raised $25 million dollars in shares in his company, and had orders for 1 million cars, but he only ever made 51 of them, 47 of which still exist.
The movie starring Jeff Bridges tells the tale. Politics and envy made sure that Tucker could not get steel. He was hounded by shadowy Government agencies, and other car manufacturers made sure that in 1948 the American public were not able to buy a car that could seat 6 and match the performance of many of today’s cars.
Yours in design.