In the automobile industry it’s common practice to come up with concept vehicles to test new designs. All kinds of concept cars have been developed and one that stands out is the Ford Nucleon. Developed during the nuclear age, Ford wanted to tap into the power of nuclear energy, leading to the creation of a one of a kind car. We’re looking into the history of the vehicle to see how it was designed.
In the 1950s, nuclear technology was a new concept with a lot of potential. Nuclear-fission technology was tipped to become the primary energy source in America and Ford planned to be at the forefront of the discussion. The company saw a future where petrol stations would be replaced with full service recharging stations. Cars with a reactor would need to be swapped out every 5000 miles.
Ford started working on their concept in 1957, with a small scale nuclear reactor being used for motion. The reactor came from a submarine, which acted as the inspiration for how the Nucleon was designed. The body had a sleek, aeronautic appearance, as seen from the fins on the back of the car. The overall theme was art deco, making the Nucleon look like something from the future. The interior involved a cabin that could seat an entire family.
Uranium would have powered the Nucleon, with the reactor superheating steam. This would rotate a pair of turbines to power the car, activating a process known as the indirect cycle. The biggest turbine was responsible for powering the wheels and a smaller unit took care of the electrical systems.
Place in pop culture
It’s important to remember that the dangers of nuclear waste weren’t well documented in the 1950s. As people became aware of the hazards of nuclear energy, Ford realised that their concept wasn’t viable. The Nucleon never got beyond a few technical drawings and scale models.
Today, a mock-up version of the car can be viewed in the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan. The Nucleon has also found a place in pop culture, inspiring the nuclear cars in the Fallout game series. For example, in-game billboards advertise the fictional Chryslus Corvega Atomic V8.