Unusual Vehicles is a segment that looks into the history of an unorthodox motor. All kinds of people have invented cars and one of the most unique designers has to be Father Alfred Juliano, a Catholic priest. Juliano was responsible for developing the Aurora, arguably the world’s first Experimental Safety Vehicle. The Aurora gained a reputation for being an ‘ugly car,’ but was it deserved?
Before becoming a priest, Juliano had studied art and been a lifelong fan of car design. According to his family he’d won a scholarship from General Motors to study with Harley Earl, but the news arrived after he’d been ordained. He remained interested in cars, believing there was a lot that could be done to make vehicles safer.
Juliano’s congregation decided to fund the Aurora Motor Company so he could build his ideal motor. The 1957 Aurora was created with a fibreglass body that was said to be dent, corrosion and rust proof. Safety features were emphasised through seatbelts, a roll cage, padded side-impact bars and a collapsible steering column. A spare tyre stored beneath the front end acted as a shock absorber. Perhaps the most innovative feature was the ability to swivel the seats backwards in case of a collision.
Juliano was an ambitious designer, but building the Aurora bankrupted him. He’d been accused of embezzling donations and left the Order of the Holy Ghost in disgrace. Juliano needed to hand over the Aurora prototype to a repair shop, with it passing on to various people.
During the time, the Aurora was considered ugly because of the ‘swoopiness’ of the design and bulging windscreen. Eventually, the Aurora came into the hands of a British enthusiast called Andy Saunders. Restoration took a long time because of the lack of documentation and the absence of Juliano, who’d died of a brain haemorrhage in 1999.
By 2005, the restoration was completed and the Aurora wowed the audience at the Goodwood Festival of Speed. A modern audience found the car to be unique and ahead of its time. Today, it can be viewed at the Beaulieu Motor Museum in Hampshire.