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In the 1950s and early 60s, the dawn of nuclear power was supposed to lead to a limitless consumer culture, a world of flying cars and autonomous kitchens all powered by clean energy.
The development of nuclear-powered submarines and ships during the 1940s and 50s led car designers to begin conceptualizing atomic vehicles. World War II was tough on Europe, and even long after the bombers were grounded, there was a push in Europe to do more with less. A brochure from the era highlights the "Genestatom," a 40-kW nuclear generator that used a thermal-electric effect to drive a motor with radioactive waste.
Despite looking like a futuristic muscle pickup with a superhero name, the Ford Nucleon never made it to a full-size concept. Their vision was to have a completely removable powerhouse inside the vehicle that drivers simply switched out once the nuclear fuel had been spent.
The Astral made its debut in 1957 at the South Bend Art Center, then was shown again at the Geneva Motor Show.
One of the most interesting things about this concept (besides its atomic power) was that it was a kind of modular car.
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In Europe, it offered the then-limping continent a cheap, inexhaustible supply of power after years of rationing and infrastructure damage brought on by two World Wars. Fueled by a consistent reaction, these cars would theoretically produce no harmful byproducts and rarely need to refuel.
Our love affair with nuclear energy has waned considerably since the catastrophes at Chernobyl, Three Mile Island and, most recently, Fukushima. The Arbel Symétric came from a post-war research and development company interested in creative vehicles that saved on fuel. A model of the Nucleon was built by Ford designers in 1958 during the height of the atomic car craze.

The passenger compartment was pushed to the front of the car in order to provide maximum shielding from the nuclear pile in the back. Though it was never meant to fly, the plastic bubble top and hidden wheels make the Simca Fulgur feel like a space-age ride. The showcar contained a lot of pipe-dream technology that has become commonplace today, including interactive computer navigation, mapping and auto information systems, and it featured an interchangeable fuel cell and bodywork. The front of the car was meant to break away from the passenger compartment, transforming a large car into an economic capsule for running around town.
Accounts are penalized for Community Guidelines violations and serious or repeated violations can lead to account termination. Combining these vehicles with the new interstate system presented amazing potential for American mobility. For starters, the powerplant would be too small to attain a reaction unless the car contained weapons-grade atomic materials.
Among the space-age features on the Symétric were swiveling captains seats and glow-in-the-dark phosphorescent bumpers.
The Nucleon would have been powered by a small reactor in the rear, similar in design to how nuclear submarines work, employing what is basically a smaller version of a full-size nuclear reactor. Even so, the amount of lead and shielding needed to keep the DNA of the driver in good order would have made the car impossibility huge. It was yet another French design that was only meant as an exercise in design and never seriously considered for production. The entire car was balanced on one wheel using gyroscope technology and it was said to hover over water.
One technology that didn't make it from concept to reality was its power source: a compact nuclear propulsion device.
Automakers and individual design houses have been fiddling with the idea of a modular car for decades – it remains a fascination to this day.

Arbel never had the chance to develop their glowing car, the French government wasn't wild about the idea and the company quickly disappeared in 1959 under a mountain of debt. Ford designers hoped someday the invention of some sort of lightweight shielding would allow the Nucleon to be fully realized, but such a material has yet to be realized.
Officially unveiled at the 1959 Geneva Auto Show, this concept was meant to predict the cars of 2000. To protect the driver and their passengers from radiation, the Astral would have been equipped with some kind of protective energy curtain, like a forcefield, that would make collisions impossible and certainly make the Astral's ionic nuclear engine seem a bit more reasonable. The car also featured six wheels for enhanced traction and fingertip steering, neither of which seem to be catching on today, either. Additionally, many of the designers assumed a lightweight shielding material or even forcefields would eventually be invented (they still haven't) to protect passengers from harmful radiation.
The Nucleon lives on however, as inspiration for the nuclear-powered cars in the Fallout video games. Studebaker-Packard didn't last long enough to see the wild future in which this car could be produced, as Packard itself disappeared a few years after the Astral was released, followed close behind by Studebaker. Analyses of the atomic car concept at the time determined that a 50-ton lead barrier would be necessary to prevent exposure. The Fulgur also use only two wheels and was balanced by another hot 50's technology - gyroscopes. The concept car was shuttled from auto shows to dealership events before finally finding a home along with its more practical brothers at the Petersen Auto Museum in Los Angeles, CA.

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