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Past Perfect

Paying $26.95 for a copy of Hampton Wayt’s book Driving Through Futures Past (Kythe Publishing Co.) may seem insane when you consider it is slightly smaller than a sheet of paper, and has only 20 pages of the written word and 39 more with pictures.

Paying $26.95 for a copy of Hampton Wayt’s book Driving Through Futures Past (Kythe Publishing Co.) may seem insane when you consider it is slightly smaller than a sheet of paper, and has only 20 pages of the written word and 39 more with pictures. However, this book—produced as a catalog of the similarly named 2005 exhibit at the Petersen Automotive Museum—will have you thumbing through its pages for the sheer enjoyment of seeing how designers viewed the automotive landscape of the future.

Many of the names—Harley Earl, Syd Mead, Virgil Exner, Homer LaGassey, Ned Nickles—are legends of the post-war period, and their designs were often fanciful, outrageous, or mesmerizing. In their imaginations atomic-powered cars flew—or swam—and highways were automated. Radial piston engines were integrated into the prow of large, black fastback sedans as aircraft raced around menacing pylons jutting up from the earth. Buicks were race cars, or had dual pontoon fenders reminiscent of the Lockheed P-38 Lightning. Commuter cars were either cramped and occupied by unhappy drivers, or exceedingly sleek and filled with equally sleek women on shopping trips. Plus, fins were the order of the day, and—in 1972—giant “Leisure-Mobiles” with modular power units hauled the family and a sizable speedboat in a package reminiscent of GM’s “Parade of Progress” truck fleet. This book is enough to make one wonder if the kids in the Sixties were doing drugs because they had seen their parents’ vision of their future, and wonder what has become of the innocent exploration embodied by the illustrations contained within this book’s pages.—CAS