Top 10: Car Technology Fails

Since MOTOR started way back in 1954 we’ve seen the humble car evolve into a masterpiece of technology and engineering. But don’t think there weren’t a few sneezes along the way.


There’s been a few, but we best remember the MX-5 butchered into the 2004 Gibbs Aquada you see here. For just $240K (ish) it came as a three-seater, like a McLaren F1, and could do 50km/h on water. It was the first MX-5 able to tow a wakeboarder. Pray be it the last.


It’s the most abundant thing in the universe but to store hydrogen in a practical density for, say, a car, requires either compression to 810 bar (11,748psi) or chilling it to a liquid at minus 253 degrees. Even then, the best fuel consumption BMW could manage was 29.4L/100km. Yikes.


Chrysler spent 30 years toiling on a jet-engine car and has spent the last 50 trying to forget it. The 1963 Turbine Car’s small, under-bonnet jet engine made 97kW/576Nm and could burn through anything flammable. Which unluckily included pedestrians walking past its exhausts.


They frighten new car buyers with their steep asking prices, worrying resale values and general image issues. Not to mention, they’re only as green as their power source. In guilt-ridden, coal-dirty Australia, that’s not very green at all.


The 1958 Ford Nucleon concept was like a ute with a nuclear reactor in the tray. Ford imagined its core could last 10,000km and be swapped at a servo like a Gas ’n’ Go cylinder. Spent fuel rods? They didn’t imagine that bit. Or accidents.


The 1981 Datsun 810 Maxima came inbuilt with a female American voice that would announce six maddening messages like “fuel level is low” and “left door open”. Soon owners learned the only feature they cared for was the off switch.


Good on Mazda for putting fingers in its ears and pushing on in the face of all logic. The rotary, bless it, won Le Mans and powered some of Japan’s greatest performance cars. But we’re unlikely to hear an angry wasp fire up again given the emissions serpent has strangled it, it seems.


We’re still waiting for a car with a functioning flusher but about the same time MOTOR was launched, long-distance driver and unwitting futurist Louie Mattar managed to drive his 1947 Cadillac 10,000km non-stop thanks to, in part, its innovative onboard throne.


All that time and money wasted on the S-Class’s Magic Body Control. Merc could’ve just made it hover on a curtain of air. Looking like a slipper and with all the manouvreability of a hockey puck, the 1959 Curtiss-Wright Air-Car proved it could be done. Sort of.


Seems like a good idea right? Cars that lean offer all the sensations of riding a motorcycle without the fear, grave danger and peril generally associated with two-wheeled transport. However, the whole idea is extremely complicated, ridiculously expensive and a bit weird.  

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