Home » Ford Made A ’60s Concept Car So Wild It Had A Double Oven And 12 Headlights

Ford Made A ’60s Concept Car So Wild It Had A Double Oven And 12 Headlights

Aurora Concept Ts2
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There was once a time when concept cars sat at the apex of imagination. Anything is possible in a concept car, and ideas that may never make it into production are on full display to blow the minds of the public. In the 1960s, Ford shot for the stars and beyond with one concept. The aptly named 1964 Aurora blasted into the future with proposed features like an analog navigation system, polarizing window glass, electroluminescent trim, and a living room befitting a groovy apartment. The Aurora was so far ahead of its time it was considered for an appearance in an iconic sci-fi movie.

The 1950s and 1960s were an explosive time for American recreation. Active lifestyles were in, as was the concept of hitting the road in a car or RV. The automotive and RV industries responded in kind with vehicles better equipped for long trips with the whole family. It was around this time when the term “motorhome” became popular, too. Ford was observing all of this happen and it wanted a piece of the American family road trip apple pie.

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Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, Ford introduced far-out concepts that hinted at future travel that would never come. The 1959 Country Squire Station Wagon pushbutton camper concept put a boat, a kitchen, a shower, and a tent into the same space operated by the touch of a button. The 1961 Unitron was supposed to be a low-slung RV and mobile office in one. That’s not all, as in 1964, Ford revealed its concept for the ultimate road trip machine.

The Future Of Highway Travel

Think about all of the things that bug you on a long trip. It sucks to drive a car with terrible visibility, a weak ventilation system, and seats that fatigue you. Moonroofs might transmit too much sun to your head and do you really want to hear your kids asking “are we there yet?” over and over again? Ford’s designers came up with solutions to all of these and more a whole 60 years ago. Jason touched on the existence of this car two years ago, but he didn’t go all-in on explaining what made it truly nutty.

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One of the coolest things any of the Detroit Big Three have done recently is what Ford did with its company archives. The Ford Heritage Vault is chock-full of hidden gems of Ford history. It’s how I keep finding these weird Ford recreation ideas and oddball trucks. If you ever have some spare time, I highly recommend losing yourself in these pages.

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The 1964 Aurora concept is one of the concepts in the Heritage Vault to come with loads of documentation and associated photos. In describing the Aurora, Ford says it gave its designers the mission to build a vehicle that would explore new features for the greater enjoyment of long road trips. That Aurora name is not exactly a reference to the Northern Lights, but a nod to the “many unusual devices for the production and control of light” in the vehicle.

In a speech on March 31, 1964, Gene Bordinat, Ford Vice President and Director of Styling, called the Aurora “a rolling laboratory of new ideas in styling and engineering” and noted that designers spent a year and a half on the concept car. While Bordinat said the vehicle was purely a concept, he hinted that some of the features within could show up in future Ford vehicles.

And those features are out of this world.

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The Henry Ford

Ford starts its long list of features off with the headlight arrangement. The typical car of the 1960s had two or four headlights. The Aurora had 12, and that’s not a typo. According to Ford, these headlights were special 1-inch sealed beams. Six of these lights would be used for your low beams while all 12 would shine bright as your high beams. Ford’s idea here is that you would have granular control between the six lows and turning on all 12. You could also adjust these lights in a way to illuminate the side of the road.

This will set the tone for how crazy the rest of this car is.

We’re going to stick with the exterior for now. Ford talks up the Aurora’s hood, which has “catwalks” on it designed for heat extraction, allowing for a smaller radiator and a more streamlined design. Behind the hood is a large wraparound windshield which continues into the roof, where you’ll find another advanced feature. I’ll let Ford explain the polarizing roof:

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The Aurora has a polarizing roof to control sunlight admitted to the interior.
At the touch of a button, the roof can be changed from an opaque overhead screen to one which permits the entry of soft green light. This effect is achieved with two layers
of polarizing material, each consisting of parallel strips three-fourth-inch wide. A
90-degree axis of polarization exists between each strip and its adjoining strip, which
means the alternate strips are on the same axis. When the bottom layer of strips is
directly beneath the top layer so that each layer is in the same axis, the roof becomes
transparent. Moving the bottom layer three-fourth-inch will bring it into 90-degree
orientation with the top layer, blocking out virtually all exterior light.

Today, we enjoy electrochromic glass everywhere from office buildings to bathrooms, but it’s still pretty novel in cars. It still doesn’t end there. The Aurora had additional exterior features including electroluminescent trim, six turn indicators, an aluminum heat-reflecting roof panel, electric flush-mounted door handles, a roll bar, and a clamshell entry door for passengers sitting in the rear compartment. For was quite proud of the electroluminescent trim because it ditched the incandescent lights of the day for tech a bit closer to today’s LED strips.

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Oh yeah, this car was compartmentalized. The driver got their own “command post” space. Behind them was a lounge for adults and behind those adults was a “romper room” for the kids. The kid compartment was designed with a partition, too, so if you got annoyed with the noise you could just seal your kids off from the rest of the car.

With that in mind, let’s head inside. The driver commanded the vehicle with a yoke attached to variable-ratio steering. Ford says the yoke turned from lock to lock with just one-half of a turn. This car had very early versions of the tech we take for granted today. The driver got to enjoy cruise control, but also an expressway lane notification system and navigation. Well, sort of.

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Ford’s early lane monitoring system was merely a panel that informed the driver of a safe speed to travel at in a lane. It also warned of changing lane conditions. Sadly, Ford doesn’t say how this device accomplished its task other than the fact that there was a light involved. Likewise, the navigation system wasn’t really tied to anything. You would set the map at your starting point at the beginning of a trip, and then the map would move and “follow” the car as you drove. You didn’t get directions, but the map was supposed to show your exact position.

Behind the command post is a lounge featuring curved sofa and a swivel armchair. This was supposed to be a luxury lounge for adults and the features speak for it. Here, you got a thermo-electric “oven-refrigerator.” This dual-bay device could house two ovens, two refrigerators, or one of each.

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There was an additional cabinet in the cabin for storing ice, beverages, and drinkware. Other bits of kit included a TV, three AM/FM radios, an audio recorder, and cabinets for storage. Each compartment got its own radio and sound from the TV could be piped into the children’s compartment. The radios also functioned as intercoms.

Speaking of that compartment, kids climbed in through the carpeted clamshell door to sit in rear-facing seats. The compartment featured storage for toys and books plus its own HVAC control, but things also got pretty weird. I already mentioned how there was a glass partition to separate the adults from the kids, but designers also envisioned an electronic tranquilizer device being installed to shut kids up in case of an “emergency.” Said emergency isn’t described.

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The Future Is Today, Sort Of

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The rest of the features include a lot of little stuff like louvered visors, soft interior mood-style lighting, and jalousie windows. In all, Ford says it pumped this concept up with 23 unique features that you didn’t find anywhere else.

Reportedly, minds were blown when the car was shown at the 1964 New York World’s Fair. The car was so far ahead of its time that as the Henry Ford writes, it caught the attention of the producers of the iconic film 2001: A Space Odyssey. The Aurora concept was considered to make an appearance in the flick, but the producers eventually decided against it.

1964 Ford Aurora

Ford was quick to recognize that not all of the features would have a chance of showing up in a production car. I mean, I imagine a double oven could get pretty interesting in a crash. The three-compartment concept was also pretty clunky as not only was the only way into the rear compartment was the clamshell door, but the rear compartment meant the “trunk” was between the middle and the rear compartment.

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All of this was wrapped up in a vehicle with a 227-inch length and a 131-inch wheelbase. To give you an idea of how long this thing is, a Jeep Grand Wagoneer, which is the same exact length as a Ford Excursion, is 226.7 inches long. This thing is just barely longer than the biggest SUVs crawling our roads!

Ford followed the Aurora up in 1969 with the Aurora II. This one was based on the LTD Country Squire and looked more realistic. Most of the crazy features were gone, but the lounge concept remained and rear-hinged doors were added. It’s cool, but nothing like the original Aurora.

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Ford saw some of these ideas potentially hitting cars in the future. We do have cars with yokes today and onboard navigation has been a thing for decades now. Adaptive headlights serve a similar function as those 12 sealed beams and LEDs handle today’s decorative lighting with ease. Some cars have even come with their own little refrigerators. Sure, you’re not going to find a car with plushy sofas and kid tranquilizers, but many of the 23 features have been realized today.

In a way, the future really is today. Now, if only today’s concept cars could go back to being as far out as they were several decades ago.

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(Images: Ford, The Henry Ford)

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John M
John M
5 days ago

I am in love. That kid room and tailgate would be perfect for our obnoxious Corgis.

MAX FRESH OFF
MAX FRESH OFF
6 days ago

“…and sometimes the kids are in the back seat. They’re hollering. They’re making you nuts. There’s gotta be something you can do about that.”
“Maybe a built-in video game would keep them entertained?”
“You’re fired. What is my brother paying you for?”
“What about a separate soundproof bubble dome for the kids with optional restraints and muzzles?”
“Bull’s-eye!”

Musicman27
Musicman27
6 days ago

“kid tranquilizers”, I am so glad I did not grow up in the 60’s…

Shane Gove
Shane Gove
6 days ago

“If you think you hate it now, just wait you drive it”

Cheap Bastard
Cheap Bastard
6 days ago

We had the “Romper” room on our Pinto shooting brakes; just throw the kids in the cargo area with a few books a couple of toys and no seat belts.

Pintos even came standard with their own “tranquilizer”. All dad needed was a hot afternoon, no A/C, no drinking water, blaring AM talk radio, lots of cigar/cigarette/pipe smoke wafting to the back, the drone of the differential and plenty of unburnt fully leaded hydrocarbons slipping past the primitive pre cat emissions to knock the rambunctious rug rats out. Sure when they woke up later they’d have hella headaches but that’s a small price for them to pay for some quiet.

Mechjaz
Mechjaz
6 days ago

There is a ton of stuff that is way off color and not PC in this, but in can’t not think of the Tex Avery House/Car/etc of Tomorrow cartoons when I read about stuff like this. It was silly, it was satirical, but it still had this whiff of credulity and optimism that I find endearing. Most of all I love the artwork, and the clean futuristic lines and aesthetics brought to so many of the creations.

https://youtu.be/7QiA5FBRHzo?si=_tB4hOcEV-PSbXEq

Root Beer
Root Beer
6 days ago
Reply to  Mechjaz

That’s generally how I feel about these, and why I like mid-century concept cars. Can’t stand the ones we’ve been seeing for the last couple of decades, they’re all sorta samey and look like a pain in the ass to live with. At lease these look kinda plausible?

TDI in PNW
TDI in PNW
6 days ago

That full length side lighting on the Aurora concept looks amazing! I would daily either one of these wagons right now.

Shooting Brake
Shooting Brake
6 days ago

Do you have kids? Do you hate children? Well Ford has the family car for you!

UnseenCat
UnseenCat
6 days ago

The switchable oven/refrigerator system sounds a lot like a Peltier-effect heater/cooling system. They run warm or cool depending on DC voltage polarity, so in a car, a simple switch could easily change operation from warming to cooling. They just need air to flow over a charged semiconductor plate, so a tiny 12v fan will do. Easy to set up in a car.

They’ll stay cool enough to keep beverages cool and go warm enough to keep already-warm food warm for the trip. So you’d have cold soda and beer in one unit, and Mom’s casserole staying warm in the other. Nowadays, you can buy cooler/warmer boxes like this to take on trips; I’ve got one that I’ve had since the late 90s that still works after countless camping trips.

Another fun fact — Ford went on to use electroluminescent “opera lights” or “coach lights” on some Lincolns and Mercurys in the 70s and 80s.

Black Peter
Black Peter
6 days ago
Reply to  UnseenCat

You’re the first person outside my industry to know about a Peltier.

Dead Elvis, Inc.
Dead Elvis, Inc.
6 days ago
Reply to  Black Peter

If you’re going to cross paths with someone like that, finding them here (or at oppo) seems like a solid bet.

Last edited 6 days ago by Dead Elvis, Inc.
Urban Runabout
Urban Runabout
6 days ago

The original Aurora was cool

But the 1969 Aurora II was not as cool as Matt Helm/Dean Martin’s 1965 Mercury Park Lane wagon in “The Silencers”

http://tikiloungetalk.com/2010/04/26/matt-helm-in-the-silencers-1966-mod-movie-monday-at-tiki-lounge-talk/

Lost on the Nürburgring
Lost on the Nürburgring
6 days ago

Kids: “Are we there yet…?”

Dad: Hits knockout gas button.

SLM
SLM
6 days ago

It’s called “Electronic tranquilizer”

Drive By Commenter
Drive By Commenter
6 days ago
Reply to  SLM

Tablet with unlimited data plan, check. Keep the kids high on dopamine so they don’t know what’s going on outside the screen.

Kids today don’t know what it’s like to be bored and are the poorer for it.

Black Peter
Black Peter
6 days ago
Reply to  SLM

What does that mean? Electrical shock? Some ultrasonic that put you to sleep?

SLM
SLM
6 days ago
Reply to  Black Peter

It makes me think of a taser-like contraption, but maybe I just don’t like kids…

Mike F.
Mike F.
7 days ago

An “additional cabinet in the cabin for storing ice, beverages, and drinkware”? Wow – a car with a bar. Makes a night spent at a rest stop a rather pleasant idea.

Anyway, I may be driving from Norcal to Tennessee in the near future. Please have one of these 3-D printed, equipped with a very large and powerful engine as well as the rest of the necessities, and ready to go in approximately 6 weeks. This will take the sting out of the long drive and the cheap motels!

Man With A Reliable Jeep
Man With A Reliable Jeep
7 days ago

I miss American cars from the 60s, both concepts and production. There was so much innovation and optimism. We were shown cars that were a special place to be, luxury that was more sophisticated than tacked-on tablets, vestigial 3rd rows, LED lights, and electronic nannies. There was a sense of something aspirational, instead of cynical products exuding covert disdain for the customer, with a dash of self deprecation and loathing.

Pit-Smoked Clutch
Pit-Smoked Clutch
7 days ago

What exactly were the meetings like during which it was decided that a great way to generate positive spin was to make a special box to lock your kids in, to be seen and not heard, where you could knock them unconscious at will?

I guess sr leadership at this point would likely have been WW1 vets, and everyone in the room had been through the depression and WW2.

Man With A Reliable Jeep
Man With A Reliable Jeep
7 days ago

We coddle kids too much these days.

Cerberus
Cerberus
7 days ago

Everyone in the room likely had kids, so the conversation just developed naturally.

Urban Runabout
Urban Runabout
6 days ago

“You should see what they did to my ex-wife’s Colony Park – Ruined!”

“The dogs?”

“No – The kids”

“Bitch deserves it.”

“Now she wants me to buy her a new car!”

“Damn!”

“That’s why I never let the brats anywhere near the Continental”

“You should have pulled out”

“Like Korea”

“Another round of Martinis?”

“Don’t mind if I do”

Last edited 6 days ago by Urban Runabout
JunkInTheFrunk
JunkInTheFrunk
6 days ago
Reply to  Urban Runabout

I read this in the voices of Roger Sterling and Don Draper.

Urban Runabout
Urban Runabout
6 days ago
Reply to  JunkInTheFrunk

As one does.
*clink*

Cheap Bastard
Cheap Bastard
6 days ago

I once found a stack of old newspapers from that era in Ohio. The classifieds were eye opening. Many went something like this:

Wanted, secretary. 20-26 years old. 36-24-36. redhead preferred.

It was a different time I guess.

Drew
Drew
7 days ago

Of course they didn’t describe the emergency. We all know that the emergency is the driver being on the verge of a nervous breakdown and needing a break from the kids. It’s the only emergency that requires the children to be unconscious, and it is valid.

And where are we on that tech? It’s gotta be available in that new Santa Fe or something, right?

StillNotATony
StillNotATony
6 days ago
Reply to  Drew

It is available. It’s called an iPad.

Urban Runabout
Urban Runabout
6 days ago
Reply to  StillNotATony

And Benadryl.

Andrew Daisuke
Andrew Daisuke
7 days ago

Swivel front passenger seats are awesome.

Lizardman in a human suit
Lizardman in a human suit
7 days ago

“Are we there yet?”

“SHUT UP OR YOU ARE GONNA GET THE TRANC AGAIN!”

Cartoon Pirate in the back:”ARE WE THAR YET? HIT ME WITH THAT SWEET TRANC!”

Last edited 7 days ago by Lizardman in a human suit
Jack Beckman
Jack Beckman
7 days ago

It does sound like a product from Venture Industries.

Drive By Commenter
Drive By Commenter
6 days ago

Some teens purposely misbehave badly enough to get mental health arrested and tranquilized. The tranquilizer apparently is that addictive to some people.

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