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Aurora (1957 automobile)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Cover of magazine featuring Aurora safety car
Cover of magazine featuring Aurora safety car
See also the Oldsmobile Aurora from the 1990s.

The Aurora was an American automobile manufactured by Father Alfred A. Juliano, a Catholic priest, from 1957 to 1958. This safety car was to be available with a Chrysler, Cadillac, or Lincoln engine, built on a Buick chassis. However, the Aurora Motor Company of Branford, Connecticut, partially funded by Juliano's congregation, went bankrupt after producing just one $30,000 prototype.

Conceived, invented and built by Juliano, the Aurora was an 18 foot long plastic bodied car that was two years on the drawing board and required three years to build. The body was said to be dent, rust and corrosion proof, specifically designed for long distance highway travel. The vehicle has a tinted, transparent "astrodome" roof with adjustable interior metal shades. The spare tire, located under the hood, was mounted on a platform which would extend to lower the tire to the ground without handling. Dash controlled hydraulic jacks mounted in the frame assisted in tire changing. It is often cited in lists of the ugliest cars ever, frequently as the single ugliest car. This assessment is largely due to two factors, in addition to the general overwrought "swoopiness" of the car typical of the time: the gaping front end and the bulbous windshield, both dictated by safety considerations. The scoop-like front end which served as a large, foam filled bumper was designed to scoop up not only air, but also pedestrians without injury, while the bulging windshield was designed to eliminate impact with occupants' heads, in the era prior to air bags.

The car had many other car safety-related features, novel at the time, and now routine. These features included seatbelts, a roll cage, side-impact bars, a collapsible steering column, and a padded instrument panel. The most innovative safety feature, which has not been incorporated into other cars, was the ability to swivel the seats to face rearwards should a collision seem imminent. At a retail price of $12000.00, it would have been priced just under the most costly car in the U.S., the $13000.00 Cadillac Eldorado Brougham.

The prototype, which had a fiberglass body over a largely wooden structure, was not adequately tested before the scheduled public unveiling in 1957, and broke down 15 times on the way to the press conference, requiring towing to 7 different garages. After the company failed, it passed through several hands before finally being abandoned behind a Branford auto body shop in 1967. Its existence was discovered by British car enthusiast Andy Saunders, from Poole, Dorset, who purchased it sight unseen for $1,500 and had it shipped to Britain for another $2,000. The fiberglass and wood structure of the car proved to have deteriorated terribly from exposure, as well as the interior and plastic windshield. Restoration was further complicated by the lack of adequate documentation or even photographs of the car, as well as the lack of replacement parts for a prototype vehicle. However, restoration was completed in early 2005, and the ugliest car in the world was once again on display to an astounded public, in the Beaulieu Motor Museum for the next year at least.

The Aurora is arguably the first Experimental Safety Vehicle ever made, even before the coinage of the ESV acronym.

External links

  • Restoration of Aurora in 2005
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