FEB 26th 2015

Conceptual Art: 1964 GM‑X Stiletto


In the early fifties, the American car industry – and GM in particular – was obsessed with combining jet-age imagery with cars. Under the guidance of Harley Earl and Bill Mitchell it went on to produce countless concept cars which mimicked jet aircraft and/or rockets. The infamous ‘Firebird’ concept cars of the fifties even had wings and tailplanes!

Fortunately for GM, it wound the whole aircraft thing down a few notches and came up with a series of road cars which were a huge success: European manufacturers in the sixties were still showing evidence of influence from fifties American styling.

By 1964 even GM had calmed the design (and the amount of chrome work) down a bit, but this effort illustrates that the jet-age was very much in mind when it came to concept cars.


First displayed at the 1964-1965 World’s Fair, the Stiletto featured a very stylish ‘fastback’ roofline, clean surfaces and sharp edges on a long body. The pointed nose cone showed that the whole jet/rocket thing wasn’t quite done-with, but some of the styling made an impression. See the way the winscreen wraps itself around the car and sweeps up to meet the roofline? Think Lancia Stratos

The inside of the car though was all about aviation. No fewer than 31 indicator lights and 29 toggle switches spread across the roof and dashboard consoles. And as for the steering ‘wheel’ … 


There were though some innovative ideas. The concept made use of automatic climate control, ultrasonic obstacle sensors, rear view cameras and a three-way speaker for inside and outside communication (?). The latter, we presume, was for the driver to voice his or her displeasure at other motorists.

One innovation the car didn’t feature though was… doors. That striking, one-piece windscreen meant that they were out of the question, and as a result you had to climb in through the rear hatch. Despite this, the concept was very well received by all accounts. So much so that five years later GM dragged it out of storage, re-designed the nose, called it a Pontiac Cirrus and put it back on show duty for another year!

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