The Time A Catholic Priest Dared To Challange Convention…And Was Destroyed

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Father Alfred Juliano at the wheel of his Aurora Car

Father Alfred Juliano at the wheel of his Aurora Car, Developed with the object of maximizing safety for both occupants and pedestrians.

Despite having no mechanical knowledge, Father Juliano set out to put his heart and soul into that car. I think the whole story is so sad. He died a broken man, because he lost his dream.
– Andy Saunders, Present Owner and Restorer of the Aurora, New York Times, 2007

Father Juliano’s Aurora car certainly is an unusual looking vehicle – the story that goes with it is unusual as well. The photo and the narrative below can be found in Giles Chapman’s fascinating 2009 book, The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Extraordinary Automobiles, published by DK Publishing.

Aurora was unveiled [in 1957 and] was fully functioning (rather than a static exhibit). More importantly, the Aurora took careful account of pedestrian safety. This remarkable-looking car was the four-year project of a Catholic priest, Father Alfred Juliano of the Order of the Holy Ghost, with financial help from his congregation. His safety-first outlook led him to include seatbelts, side-impact bars, a collapsible telescoping steering column, and a curved, deeply-padded dashboard free of sharp projections. The seats could be swiveled around in the face of an impending, unavoidable accident. The Aurora’s tinted ‘Astrodome’ roof had three thick, built-in roll-over protection bars. Reporters roasted the car’s unveiling at Manhattan’s Hotel New Yorker, but entirely missed the point because the bizarre plastic contours, with wheels, radiator grille, and lights tucked deep away, were meant to stop a pedestrian from sustaining injury in just about any accidental contact. At a tentative US $12,000, it was almost as costly as the top Cadillac of the era; Father Juliano didn’t receive a single order despite offering a choice of power units. He was later forced to leave his church after allegations of misappropriating parishioner’s cash and personal bankruptcy.

A tragic spin on the proverb: The road to hell is paved with good intentions…?

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