The Lucas-Jaguar Prometheus and Other Cars Ahead of Their Time
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Classic cars are often defined by their success and celebrated for the characteristics that make them innovative or exciting. But what happens when a car that has all the potential of a classic is just a few too many steps ahead of the curve?
Many cars were either too advanced or expensive to manufacture to gain the traction they deserved and faded from public view as a result. The Lucas-Jaguar Prometheus is one of these cars, and many other obscure inventions also didn’t quite make it. With the help of Motoring Research, we’ve assembled a list of cars that were ahead of their time.
While this vehicle may look unassuming, it included one of the first attempts at driver-assist technology. Developed in 1994 by Jaguar and Lucas Automotive, the Lucas-Jaguar Prometheus was made to be semi-autonomous. Using an advanced computer system and radar sensors, the car could warn drivers of danger and monitor speed.
Though the car didn’t have the technology to fully interfere with the drive, it provided features like collision warning, lane centering, automatic emergency braking, and adaptive cruise control.
At the time, some thought that having such an automated car would make driving dreary and joyless. Though the car didn’t grow in popularity, the technology was still developed into what we have today.
The Audi A2 was a stylish, tiny car that was meant to be the future of supermini cars, but quickly fell out of the spotlight. Its looks and technology made it modern enough that it could fit in on the streets today.
Launched in 1999, the A2 was largely built out of aluminum, making it extremely lightweight. This frame is what made the A2 remarkable, helping it achieve up to 80 mpg on certain models. With low drag to boot, they were highly economical in terms of fuel efficiency.
Although this would’ve been beneficial for the environment, Audi lost too much money on the vehicles to continue manufacturing them.
The Chevy Corvair has a complicated history. With its launch in the 1960s, GM wanted to put a car on the market to combat the influx of imported vehicles and compete with cost-friendly U.S. saloon cars.
Despite its promising start, the Corvair had issues with its build. The swing axle gave it good traction, but the rear suspension and engine gave the car erratic cornering and caused a string of fatal crashes after its release.
GM did not respond quickly or make any prompt modifications to the Corvair to prevent this issue. This sparked a turn in the relationship between customers and manufacturers. The production and sale of goods seemed more important than consumer satisfaction, and this sentiment still permeates American manufacturing today.
The GM Electrovan was one of the first concepts for a fully fuel cell-powered car. It was released in 1966, running on liquid hydrogen and oxygen which were stored in tanks in the van’s carriage. With a range of up to 150 miles, this futuristic van was nearly half a decade ahead of its time.
The Electrovan was a promising development for zero-emissions cars, but it was too clunky to fly. Its weight, lack of aerodynamics, and cost per car made it an unrealistic option for mass production. In other words, right place, wrong time.
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