The Cyclone looked more like a jet aircraft than a car, its two fenders resembling rockets. The two flat door Segments could be slid back. The revolutionary design was matched by the radar-sensing crash avoidance system and the Plexiglas bubble-top that automatically closed when its sensor detected rain.
The Cyclone Concept was designed to test styling and engineering ideas. The 2-passenger concept had a clear plastic cover that fit snugly against the panoramic windshield for a true 360 degree vision. When not in use, the power operated canopy folds backward beneath the surface of the trunk. At the touch of a button, Cyclone’s doors move outward 3 inches from the car, and slide back smoothly on ball bearings for easy entrance. Among its advanced features is a radar sensing device, located in the twin nose cones, which scans the road ahead, and electronically alerts the driver wîth an audible signal and a warning light if an object is in its path. The dash instruments are clustered like an aircraft dashboard, between the two passengers. An intercommunication system allows the passengers to converse wîth persons outside the automobile without raising the canopy.
Built on a 104′ chassis, the Cyclone is 197′ long and stands only 44′ tall; the body is made of steel (not fiberglass, like some experimental models); power is provided by the standard 325 HP engine fitted wîth a low-profile carburetor, a cross-flow aluminum radiator and two fans. The entire exhaust system, including the muffler, are located in the engine compartment wîth exhaust outlets just ahead of the front wheels. The initial white pearlescent paint was replaced later wîth silver; at the same time, the GM Air Transport logo disappeared from the tall fins, to be replaced by an oblong, vertical Cyclone name badge placed at the extremity of each rear fender. The seats are silver leather.
In the late 1940s GM adopted a very bold sales strategy: the exclusive GM-only Motorama, which was the best way to grab the attention of the press and public. A total of eight were held between 1949 and 1961 and one of the most exciting was the 1953 edition, which was the introduction of the Corvette and several other fiberglass bodied ‘dream cars.’
The Cadillac Cyclone was an indication of the United States obsession with jet design and aerodynamics. During the early 1950’s GM introduced their Firebird concepts which featured dramatic and bold designs powered by gas turbine engines.
Powering the Cyclone was a modified version of a V8 engine capable of producing 325 horsepower. The headlights could be completely hidden above the grill. Located in the nose cones were radars which aided in crash avoidance. The exhaust system was located directly behind the nose cone and in front of the front wheels. Located in the rear were large tail lights which gave the impression of jet exhausts. Small wings finished off the Cyclone and would eventually make it into production.
Getting in and out of the car was relatively easy, thanks in part to sliding doors. The practicality continued with small panels being located in each door, allowing for easy access to pay tolls.
By Daniel Vaughan | May 2006
The bold Cyclone roadster was Harley Earl’s last dream car. Its rocket tube-shaped body, aircraft cockpit canopy, sliding doors and ‘mile-high’ fins reflected the country’s then-contemporary fascination with rocketry and future space travel. Its engine was a 325-bhp, 390 cubic-inch V8, a Hydra-Matic transmission and a two-speed differential, which permitted six forward speeds. All the accessories were located in front of the engine and were divided by belts. The Cadillac Cyclone was the first to use Saginaw rotary valve power steering, as well as power brakes that employed a pressure servo and a reserve tank. Revised with the shorter fins shown here shortly after Mr. Earl’s retirement. The bubble canopy stows under the rear decklid.
Among its advanced features is a radar sensing device, located inside each one of the twin nose cones, or Dagmars. It is a Radar-based-crash-avoidance system, It was a forerunner to today’s common radar/visual systems for active cruise control and low-speed crash avoidance. It scans the road ahead, and electronically alerts the driver with an audible signal and a warning light if an object is in its path. The dash instruments are clustered like an aircraft dashboard, between the two passengers.
An intercommunication system allows the passengers to converse with persons outside the automobile without raising the canopy. All of this on half a century old Cadillac!
Rooted in the past and still taking us to school.