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Concept Car of the Week: GM-X Stiletto (1964)

Fri, 01 Nov 2013

With dreams of flying cars as the ultimate inspiration, General Motors designers in the ‘60s used every trick possible to make their creations appear as though they were floating – long, straight bodies, wheels pushed in and hidden away, large fins and lights that looked like rockets. As William L. Mitchell took the reins of GM Design, he brought a more high-tech approach, with simpler surfaces, a more restrained use of chrome and a general sense of elegant simplicity.

The results of this new design direction would be unveiled at the 1964 World's Fair in New York, where GM presented three futuristic design studies: the Runabout, a three-wheeler commuter vehicle; the Firebird IV, the spiritual successor to the trio of gas-turbine prototypes from the ‘50s; and the impressive GM-X Stiletto, a vision of a powerful, long cruiser.

Drawn with fresh fastback proportions, the GM-X had a long and thick body with clean surfaces and sharp edges. An iron-shaped matte black graphic was applied on the bonnet, leading to its large, pointy nose cone, which sticks out like a rocket. During the show visitors would see the GM-X mounted on brackets, appearing to hover in the air, underlining its futuristic aspirations.

The front fenders' leading edge flowed seamlessly into the window. The same theme was applied at the rear, with the sharp edges of the rear fenders arching over the rear glass to form the roof's rear edge.

Designed way before the Lancia Stratos, the steeply raked windshield peaked along the centerline and wrapped around all the way to the side, eliminating the need for a conventional A-pillar. It featured no wipers either, as the glass was coated to be water-repellent. The GM-X had no doors at all. It looked amazing but wasn't without its problems. To get in, passengers had to climb through the rear hatch and pass between the aircraft-style bucket seats.

Once seated, the driver was faced by an accumulation of clocks and meters looking as impressive as the cockpit of a Concorde. A total of 31 indicator lights, 29 toggle switches and four control levers were spread between the dash and the roof console, while an aircraft-inspired handle replaced the steering wheel. You could also find automatic climate control, ultrasonic obstacle sensors, rear view cameras, and a three-way speaker for inside/outside communication. The latter doesn't sound very useful but it gives you chance to shout at bad drivers.

The Stiletto was extremely well received and when the show ended, it was moved into long-term storage. Surprisingly, five years later GM resurrected the Stiletto by giving it a new, sleek nose and a fresh silver paint job. The car would then be branded Pontiac and renamed Cirrus. It was put back on show duty until the end of 1970, when it still looked futuristic despite its seven years of age. The car finally returned to storage to retire peacefully until the ‘80s before it was ruthlessly sent to the crusher during a house cleaning.

First seen 1964 New York World's Fair

Your author, Flavien Dachet, is a UK-based, French-born car designer. You may know him as the purveyor of KarzNshit, a photo blog that if isn't already in your bookmarks, certainly should be.

By Flavien Dachet