In their Story of the Week feature, the Motor Cities National Historic Area shares the story of the “different by design” 1938 Phantom Corsair:
The Phantom Corsair was one of the most unique automotive designs ever when it was introduced to the public in 1938. he model was designed by Rust Heinz, who once had a dream of what an American supercar should look like. Heinz was from the well-known family that made its fortune selling condiments like ketchup and mustard across the country.
The Phantom Corsair was intended for a limited manufacturing run and would have sold for $15,000 on the consumer market. However, that price was a problem for the Phantom Corsair since it was designed and engineered when most Americans were still struggling with the Great Depression.
The Phantom Corsair was a prototype 2-door model sedan. A clay scale model featured an aerodynamic shape that was sleek and futuristic. The model offered room for six passengers … Heinz’s parents disapproved in the beginning of his developing the Phantom Corsair. His aunt ultimately agreed to fund the project. Unfortunately, Heinz was killed in an auto accident in July 1939, and the Phantom Corsair project came to an end.
…For many years since, automotive writers and historians have said that “Although sometimes dismissed as a failure because it never entered production, the Corsair is regarded as ahead of its time because of its futuristic features and styling cues such as faired-in fender and a low profile.”
The Phantom Corsair prototype offered an electric push-button door operation, along with green tinted triple-layer safety glass windows, hydraulic impact bumpers, and fog lights for nighttime driving. The instrument panel offered a flush design with a dozen instruments that included a compass and altimeter. The interior offered an aviation design theme with a warning light that signaled when the door was ajar. Other features included a multi-wave radio with twin speakers plus a great air conditioning and heating system. The prototype model used a Cord V8 Lycoming engine with a front wheel drive transmission.
For a chance to really geek out on some wild automotive designs, have a look at Alden’s Concept Vehicles & Prototypes gallery on Flickr.