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Alps – Firebird 1

On my last travel through Italy i met some new interesting people and collectors again. The trip brought me back to Milano this time and I found a small lot with 15+ spacetoys. One toy took my attention:  this concept car, Firebird 1 made by Alps in Japan….

We all know the common concept car Firebird III, but No. 1…. nopes never saw this car so I started to look on the internet, auction houses and catalogs….I was right about this one: “rare sjiet ”   I was not able to find one single picture or information about Alps – Firebird 1… Neither I was able to find any picture of the car..

What remains is an ultra rare concept car with the focus on RARE !!
The story about the Firebird 1 is fascinating and i did some quick research to the background of Firebird 1:

The General Motors Firebird is a trio of prototype cars designed by Harley Earl, and engineered by General Motors for the 1953, 1956 and 1959 Motorama auto shows.They were very much inspired by innovations in fighter aircraft design at the time. None of the designs were intended for production, but instead were toshowcase the extremes in technology and design that General Motors was able to achieve. The cars were recently placed on display at the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan, and still make regular car show appearances.

The name “Firebird” was also used by the Pontiac division of General Motors for the line of pony cars, which has no direct relation to the concept cars.

By 1953, the research team had produced the Firebird XP-21,later referred to as the Firebird I, which was essentially a jet airplane on wheels. It was the first gas turbine powered car tested in the United States.

The design is entirely impractical, with a bubble topped canopy over a single seat cockpit, a bullet shaped fuselage made entirely of fiberglass, short wings, and a vertical tail fin.[2] It has a 370 hp (280 kW) Whirlfire Turbo Power gas turbine engine, which has two speeds, and expels jet exhaust at some 1,250 °F (677 °C). The entire weight of the car is 2,500 lb (1,134 kg) and had a 100 inch wheelbase.

At first, Conklin was the only person qualified to drive it, and he tested it up to 100 mph (160 km/h), but upon shifting into second gear the tires lost traction under the extreme engine torque and he immediately slowed down for fear of crashing. The car was later test driven at the Indianapolis Speedway by race car driver Mauri Rose.  The car was never actually intended to test the power or speed potential of the gas turbine, but merely the practical feasibility of its use. The braking system differs from standard drum systems, in that the drums are on the outside of the wheels to facilitate fast cooling, and the wings actually have aircraft style flaps for slowing from high speed. So… The concept car dates back to 1953 which means that this Alps version can be dated back to the mid fifties… impressive..

The condition of this Firebird 1 is excellent, its all complete and original and is still in full working order. THIS Firebird one is driven by a friction powered mechanism WITH sparkling 🙂  The red exhaust pipes at the back rotate and inside there are sparks, all still in working order.

The toy shows some light playwear, some light scratching but overall condition is really excellent. Only thing to mention is that the dome is loose on the car, missing 3 of the 4 plastic tabs. Thank god the previous owner did not try to glue the dome back in place… its loose now but for display, it does not matter. No cracks to the dome. The box is original and in rough condition with several tears, a small piece missing in one of the side panels and some internal tape repairs to keep the toplid together. There is no taping on the outside so the box can be relatively easy restored to its former glory. Also the bottom of the box is original to this toy.

At this moment this is the only known existing example of this ultra rare and scarce space toy, Firebird 1 Concept Car, made by Alps in the mid fifties…

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