1958 Ford Nucleon Concept Car

1958 Ford Nucleon Concept Car

Back in the 1950s, American car manufacturers were constantly striving to do something new and innovative. The idea was simple – if one manufacturer could do something unique and different, they could capture the market. The same is true today of mobile phones. There are so many choices of hardware and platforms, each manufacturer constantly tries to do something to get their product to the top. The 1958 Ford Nucleon Concept Car was certainly a vehicle that got a lot of attention, however, for once, this author is GLAD this vehicle didn’t make it to production.

Ford Nucleon

Unusual Name and Unusual Ideas

This vehicle has been arguably called a car and a truck, as it seems to resemble both. The 1958 Ford Nucleon Concept Car was actually pretty cool looking , and had a sleek appearance. The paint job shown above was also pretty nice looking, so I am liking this car so far. The unique design, however, was not what got people’s attention with this car. In the trunk/bed of the vehicle was a power source from which the name was derived.




It Ran On WHAT???

The small chrome circular disk in the back is not a spare tire. What was it? Wait for it – a nuclear reactor. Yes, an actual, uranium fueled, radioactive, Chernobyl explosion type of nuclear reactor. You know, the same type that Homer Simpson controls on The Simpsons cartoon. The idea was simple – Ford wanted to use the same concepts as a nuclear submarine. Build a steam engine, have a uranium fission powered nuclear reactor, and you can eliminate gasoline from the equation. .The car essentially runs on water….and uranium.

New Ideas From New Technology

Admittedly, nuclear technology was very new at the time, and Ford was thinking way into the future. The hope was that someday gas stations would be replaced with recharging stations, and the vehicle would get 5,000 miles before the reactor would have to be serviced. The hypothesis was that the entire reactor would be swapped out, which would give owners a chance to replace the reactors with either fuel efficient or high performance replacements each time.  The engineering was sound, as it was being used in nuclear submarines. They used heat to convert water to steam, and the engine was steam driven. That is what I call powerful!

Fate Had Its Way

As you would imagine, there were multiple roadblocks, so to speak, in getting this produced. Nuclear waste was a problem, as was the more obvious issue. This was a nuclear reactor……in a car…..on a highway….going 70 miles per hour. There was no way this was going to pass any safety standards anywhere on the planet, and the thought of everyone owning a nuclear reactor was quite scary. As such, it never was made. I do wish they had kept the body design and put a traditional V8 engine in it, as the design was pretty cool looking.




1958 Ford Nucleon Concept Car

The idea for the car did make it into magazines, and turned a lot of heads, however the mockup was as far as the project ever got. I guess the guys at Ford had a hard time getting the enriched uranium they needed to make it work. Or, maybe they decided the idea of a nuclear-fission-powered-steam-engine-wielding 2 door pickup/car hybrid Frankenstein really wasn’t such a good idea after all.. Let me know down in the comments what you think. Would you have owned this car? Should it have been made?

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