The 1950s was a unique decade in countless ways. Post-war prosperity, combined with advancing technology and a burgeoning youth population transformed American culture from a clone of Europe’s into its own distinct brand. Fast cars, rock music, and drive-ins were all the rage across the country.
But people in the 50s also wondered what the world would look like in the coming years: would it be a technological wonderland or a nuclear nightmare? One of the best expressions of this fascination with the future was the 1956 Oldsmobile Golden Rocket, which was distinct even by GM concept car standards.
The Rocket made its appearance at the 1956 GM Motorama. It was a cross between a 1950s fighter jet and a spaceship straight out of science fiction. The Rocket’s rear fenders looked like…well, like rockets. It offered a split rear window like that of the later ’63 Stingray, and tailfins which, for the time, were considered understated. The rocket theme continued in the front, which featured chrome “bumper bullets” and sleek aerodynamic contouring.
Where the Rocket really shined, however, was in its interior layout. The leather upholstery was blue and gold, with a speedometer in the center console and a real innovation for the time: a tilt steering wheel. The controls were designed to look like aircraft cockpit levers, and the windshield swept back for dramatic effect.
The roof was made up of two adjoining panels. They came together in the center but rotated out when someone exited the vehicle. The buckets seats swiveled outwards as well, neatly depositing the occupant in the outside world. From that point, he or she would presumably head to the closest spaceport to catch a flight to the moon.
The Rocket had a 275 ci engine under its hood, but details on the other internals are sadly lacking. The car itself seems to have vanished into smoke after the ’56 Motorama. Perhaps it took a journey into time and will appear on the streets in 2056, where it will blend in seamlessly with the other vehicles of the future. As with all things, time will tell.