Straight out of the nuclear age comes the sensational FX Atmos, Ford’s 1954 Chicago Auto Show dream car. Here’s a closer look.
George H. Walker, the Ford Motor Company’s flamboyant styling chief throughout the 1950s, liked to give his designers room to stretch out from time to time. The freewheeling management style produced a number of dream cars with little production potential, but miles of imagination. These far-out, attention-getting show cars generated considerable publicity in the popular media and helped the automaker to overcome its dated and dowdy image, a carryover from the Henry Ford I years.
One of the wilder creations to escape from Ford’s Dearborn styling studio in this period was the FX Atmos, introduced at the Chicago Auto Show on March 15, 1954. The letters FX stood for Future Experimental, and the styling was pure Atomic Age: spaceship-like tail fins, a plexiglass bubble canopy for the passengers, glowing red tail lamps that simulated rocket exhausts, and instead of headlamps, there were a pair of stylized radar antennae residing in the front fenders.
Constructed entirely in fiberglass, the Atmos rode on a compact 105-inch wheelbase, but the total length was a ponderous 221 inches, thanks to generous front and rear overhangs. Paint was a pearlescent white, accented with ribbons of metallic red, silver, and bright metal. There was no steering wheel. Instead, the driver operated a pair of control sticks from the centrally located pilot’s seat while viewing a radar screen in the instrument panel.
With no powertrain or provisions for one, the FX Atmos was strictly a studio glider, a pushmobile. Some press stories written in period suggest a theoretical atomic power source of some kind, while the Ford press materials presented with the car are completely silent on the matter. “It is not proposed as a future production vehicle,” said Lewis Crusoe, Vice President of the Ford division. “For that reason, no engineering considerations have been involved in its development.” Very well then.
While it had no engine or drivetrain, the FX Atmos did manage to get around pretty well. The nuclear-age dream machine appeared in ad campaigns (see below) and in a number of workbench magazines, including Mechanix Illustrated in May of 1954. The July 1954 issue of Car Life magazine featured the Atmos as its cover story, which included the wonderful blurb, “Atomic Car Coming?” Nope, no atomic car yet. The FX Atmos is a fascinating glimpse at a future that never came to be.