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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Jet Age Design For The Free-spirited Individual – The 1960 Plymouth XNR

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1960 Plymouth XNR Concept (Photo: RM Auctions)

The 1960 Plymouth XNR Concept Car

The 1960 Plymouth XNR is an unusual and storied little sports roadster. Reflecting creative designer Virgil Exner’s affection for Indy style – XNR being a play on Exner’s name –  it’s asymmetrical makeup has always divided observers. Plymouth proudly promoted the XNR’s driver-centric stance describing it as, ‘Functional, beautiful, unprecedented: the entire design is concentrated around the driver.’  Unlike other concept vehicles of the time which were developed with fiberglass, the Plymouth NXR was built entirely of steel by Ghia craftsmen in Turin. Virgil Exner had his ‘dream car’ design built to last, and to drive.

Plymouth XR Front-Side View

Plymouth XNR – A Driver’s Car: A large, offset hood scoop led to an extended sculptured rise, which faired into the cowl and embraced a low, driver’s side curved windscreen, then flowed smoothly into a single offset tailfin.

Plymouth XNR Driver's Side

Plymouth XNR Driver’s Side: View Of Low Curved Windscreen, (The Glovebox To The Right Could Be Removed And Used As A Camera Bag.)

Plymouth XNR Top SHot

Plymouth XNR – A Driver’s Car: On the passenger side, a folding, Brooklands-style, flat windshield was accented by a snug-fitting, steel tonneau cover.

Plymouth XNR Seating

Plymouth XNR – A Driver’s Car: with a black leather interior, twin bucket seats, deep door cavities with zipper pockets, and a stowage area for luggage. Its passenger seat was positioned four-inches lower than the driver’s, and there was a padded headrest for the driver.

Exner was also a true believer in the tailfin – not just for the jet-age aesthetic, but also because he believed in the stability enhancing qualities that the fin provided. He even involved himself with wind-test studies in Michigan. The XNR sports a tall side tailfin.

Plymouth XNR - Side Tailfin:

Plymouth XNR – Rear Tailfin: Exner believed its prominent fin, besides being a visual treat, helped high-speed stability.

The XNR’s front and rear views were given great style and design attention as well.

Plymouth XNR Front View

Plymouth XNR Front View: A bold, extended nose, framed with a thin chrome surround, outlined a solid aluminum grille with holes drilled for cooling, and incorporated a set of then-popular quad headlights. A slender reveal on each side was fronted by a small running light in an aircraft-inspired nacelle.

Plymouth XNR Top Front View

Plymouth XNR – Top Front View: Sidefins reflect the inspiration from jet aircraft.

Plymouth XNR Rear View

Plymouth XNR Rear View: In back, a vertical strip emerged from the tall fin, flowed under the lower deck, and tee-ed into another thin blade, forming a bold cross that served as a bumper.

Plymouth XNR Top Rear View

Plymouth XNR Top Rear View: The XNR’s radical rear dramatically emphasized its asymmetrical theme.

Even the instrument panel had its unique characteristics.

Plymouth XNR Instrumentation

Plymouth XNR Instrumentation: Full instrumentation included an 8,000 rpm tachometer, which incorporated a vacuum gauge. Mr. Exner had an affinity for photography and incorporated his personal hobby into the instruments. The dials have individual, inverted lenses that mimic camera optics.

On Saturday, 18 August 2012, the Plymouth XNR concept car was put on auction in Monterrey, California. Early expectations were that this unique and storied (read below) treasure would sell for over one-million dollars. It seems that the XNR still holds its controversial status – the winning bid was $935,000. That’s certainly not a paltry sum by any length of the imagination, but it is an indication that even to wealthy collectors Exner’s ‘Dream Car’ is still undervalued for its singularity.

While this post focused on the exterior aspects of the XNR design, there is much more to note about this rare one off concept vehicle.  For instance, the power plant of this street ready vehicle used the same design as that used in the 1960 Daytona NASCAR compact class race program – RM Auctions points out that, ‘(t)his slant six went on to dominate the top seven places, subsequently canceling the class due to lack of competition!’ Also of great note is the 50 year history of how the XNR went from Michigan to Europe, winding it’s way to the Middle East and into the hands of the Shah of Iran, ending up in Lebanon for the duration of that country’s civil war (1975–1991), and finally back to North America to win the coveted Gran Turismo Trophy at the 2011 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance.

If you’re at all interested in those details and much more you can visit the RM Auctions page by clicking here.

— All photos by Shooterz.biz, via RM Auctions
— Photo caption information source: RM Auctions

Lincoln’s Very Cool 90 Year Retrospective – And A ‘Hello Again’ To A Resurrected Classic

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We took a look at our past, and then went somewhere completely new. Here’s a history of our reinvention, 90 years in the making. 

– from 

While Lincoln has always been a symbol of the luxury automobile, they did come up with a real head-turner sporty number in 1955. It became known as the Lincoln Indianapolis – or more formally, the Lincoln Indianapolis Boano Coupe.

'The Lincoln Indianapolis design study incorporates the look of fighter jets of the era.' Photo: Michael Furman/RM Auctions

‘The Lincoln Indianapolis design study incorporates the look of fighter jets of the era.’ Photo: Michael Furman/RM Auctions

The dashboard flipped open to reveal the controls  Photo: Michael Furman via USA Today

‘The dashboard flipped open to reveal the controls’ Photo: Michael Furman/RM Auctions

1955 Lincoln Indianpolis Open Dashboard Closeup. Photo: Michael Furman/RM Auctions

1955 Lincoln Indianpolis Open Dashboard Closeup. Photo: Michael Furman/RM Auctions

The Indianapolis boasted a 200-horsepower V8 engine and four-speed automatic transmission. Carrozzeria Boano, an Italian coachbuilder, developed this looker from a Lincoln chassis. After a two year restoration process, owner Thomas Kerr returned the Indianapolis to the show circuit from a 50 year hiatus – winning top design honors in several including the Most Outstanding Lincoln Award at Greenwich in 2003. This now resurrected star was made available at the RM, Art Of The Automobile, auction in November of last year. The high bid: $1,550,000. You can see the listing, as well as read more about the Indianapolis, here.

The 1955 Lincoln Indianapolis Study by Carrozzeria Boano Torino has remained an exclusive one-off concept vehicle since its debut in Turin nearly sixty years ago. It wowed the people back then, and it continues to wow to this day. New owners Paul & Judy Andrews entered the Indianapolis into the 2013 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance – it took top honors in the Lincoln category winning the Lincoln Trophy.

Perhaps the Lincoln Motor Company might want to consider what it is that shines so brightly with this piece of automotive artistry. After fifty-nine years, the Indianapolis still astonishes like something ‘completely new.’

Visit Hello Again to see more about Lincoln’s 90 years and a look at their latest – the 2014 LINCOLN MKZ Hybrid.