9. GM Firebird I (1953)
With its NASA-like design and futuristic name, General Motors’ Firebird I is perhaps the most rocket-like of all ’50s concept cars. Like the previous entry, the prototype was the brainchild of renowned former GM design head and vice president Harley Earl – the incentive this time, though, was to discover the regular driving potential of gas turbines in automobiles and, to an extent, to demonstrate GM’s technological prowess. The Firebird I’s plastic body – inspired by the Douglas Skyray F4D jet fighter – was reinforced by fiberglass, while its mighty 370-hp GT-302 gas turbine engine, overseen by GM research general manager Charles L. McCuen, was dubbed the “Whirlfire Turbo-Power.” Originally known as the XP-21, the Firebird I was created in 1953 and presented at the 1954 General Motors Motorama.