This 1950s custom car featured many technologies that still turn heads to this day.
The most incredible reveal at this year's Geneva Motor Show wasn't a new car, and it's certainly not something you'll be able to buy soon. Klairmont Kollections and Goodyear unveiled the Golden Sahara II, a breathtaking custom car from the 1950s and 1960s with groundbreaking, early autonomous technologies onboard.
The Golden Sahara II was the brainchild of visionary Jim Street and legendary car customiser George Barris. The Jet Age's influence of this car is clear, from the aircraft-inspired grille and tailfins to the fighter canopy glass. Inside, a control stick, reminiscent of an airplane, handled acceleration, braking, and steering duties.
Braking was also handled by a primitive electronic system that would detect obstacles in the car's path and apply the brakes automatically. The car could be driven by remote control, and the doors could open automatically, used to great effect in the Hollywood classic "Cinderfella," where the Golden Sahara II starred alongside Jerry Lewis. Keep in mind that this was a custom car built in the 1950s without the help of any major auto manufacturers.
It's hard to properly contextualise just how far ahead of its time the Golden Sahara II was. In those days, fitting a giant V8 in a Ford Model T roadster was still considered cutting-edge in car customising circles (incidentally, Jim Street also owned Kookie's Car, the car that arguably started the "T-bucket" craze).
The most dynamic visual element of that car is one that still draws the same attention now as it did sixty years ago. In the 1950s, Goodyear developed Neothane, a see-through, synthetic rubber. Tyres were made from Neothane by pouring the material, in its liquid form, into a mould. This is very different from the traditional form of tyre construction that uses plies of solid rubber to build a tyre in layers.
Neothane's most interesting feature was that it was translucent. Neothane tyres were lit from the inside, creating a dramatic glowing effect. Saying that it increased nighttime visibility would be an understatement. Goodyear produced a set of Neothane tyres for the Golden Sahara II, and the custom car toured the country as a technology demonstrator.
After disappearing from public view for over half of a century, the Golden Sahara II was purchased from Jim Street's estate at auction by Larry Klairmont and restored to its former glory, with a fresh set of Goodyear Neothane tyres. Now it's back in the spotlight again, still turning heads the world over, some six decades after its debut.