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1956 GMC Firebird II Concept Coupe

    The Firebird I, Firebird II, and Firebird III Concepts were designed by Harley Earl, powered by gas turbine engines, and inspired by jet aircraft. The legendary Firebird concept cars were a bold prediction of technologies to come.

    The Firebird II, which was a highlight of General Motors' 1956 Motorama, is the family firebird. A four-seater with a titanium body, the Firebird II features a 200-horsepower Whirlfire GT-304 gas turbine engine, all-power accessories, and a fully integrated air conditioning system, similar to current systems found in cars today. The Firebird II was GM's attempt to make a luxury turbine-powered vehicle with acceptable performance and fuel economy. It had a more practical shape with a canopy roof and a radical vertical tailfin. Innovations included a lightweight titanium body, four-wheel disc brakes, and a fully independent suspension system. With a wheelbase of 120 inches and an overall length of 234 inches, the Firebird II was about the same size as a Buick.

    A four-seat, family car and the second of two Firebird IIs, its exterior bodywork was made of titanium. The only known automobile to have been constructed from this material. The 200 bhp gas turbine was fed through a regenerative system which allowed the entire engine to operate nearly 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit cooler, and also power the Firebird's accessories. The Firebird II marked the first use of four-wheel disc brakes, and it was also equipped with fully independent suspension, its sophisticated guidance system, intended to be used with 'the highway of the future,' utilized an electric wire, embedded into a roadway, to send signals to guide future cars and avoid accidents. It is presented in its recently refurbished finish as it was first seen by Motorama attendees more than 50 years ago.

    The Firebird I gas turbine engine developed 200 horsepower. With the exhaust feeding through a regenerative system, the car ran much cooler than Firebird I. An early example of a 'flex-fuel' vehicle, the Firebird I was most commonly powered by kerosene. The Firebird II appeared in a G.M. sponsored film entitled 'Designed for Dreaming.'

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