The Simca Fulgur (fulgur is Latin for “flash”) is possibly the silliest concept car of the 1950s. But that wasn’t surprising—the project was a fantasy car of the year 2000, created with suggestions from young readers of a French children’s magazine.
Had it ever worked as the children intended, it would have been electrically driven, taking its power from a live rail buried in the road surface. When the Fulgur’s speed reached 90mph (145kph), its two front wheels would retract into the body so that it would, somehow, plane along on its rear two wheels, steered by rudders. Fortunately, however, an on-board gyroscope would make sure the car tracked upright and stably. A fiendish combination of radar and a computer, or “electronic brain” as Simca preferred to call it, would look after navigation. And it had the obligatory 1950s dream car feature: a huge tailfin (in this case V-shaped).
Although there were doubts about how all this untried technology would actually function, the Fulgur went down a storm at the 1959 Geneva Motor Show, and was still a crowd-puller when it appeared at the Chicago Auto Show in 1961. The most significant thing about the Fulgur was the man who designed the static mock-up, 27-year-old architect Robert Opron. Although he was made redundant from Simca’s styling department in 1961 (spending two years designing fridges and stoves), he returned to the car industry and was responsible for the acclaimed looks of the Citroen SM and the Renault Fuego.
“It was a fun job. It was the sort of job you gave to the office youngster—but when they [Simca] saw that it made quite an impact with the public, they started to make use of it.”
Robert Opron, the Fulgur’s Designer, in Classic & Sports Car Magazine
Specification: model of the car Simca Fulgur
YEAR REVEALED: 1959
PLACE OF ORIGIN: Paris, France
HISTORICAL STATUS: prototype
ENGINE: none fitted, but intended for an electric engine
MAXIMUM POWER: unknown
LAYOUT: rear-mounted engine driving the rear wheels
BODYWORK: canopy-entry, two-seater coupé
TOP SPEED: unknown
NUMBER BUILT: one