All things considered, one could make the case that automobiles hold no great surprises anymore. The internal-combustion engine, for example, has remained relatively unchanged (save for constant incremental improvements) ever since its invention. Today’s cars are four-wheeled metal boxes just like their precursors, just with 100 percent more computers per mouthful.
But what about a five-wheeled car? Such a thing was pioneered decades ago, as you can see in the video below; the 1951 Cadillac shown actually uses the spare tire at the rear of the car, mounted perpendicular to the four run-of-the-mill wheels, for parking. At the pull of a lever, the driver can lower this wheel to the road, so that the rear of the car pivots along a very small turning radius for easier parallel parking.
Okay, to be fair, no; we don’t actually believe that innovation in the automotive industry has stagnated. It’s simply been a good while since we’ve seen anything so wacky and unique make its way to the forefront. The big automotive breakthroughs of tomorrow – electrification, autonomous driving, hover cars (please?) – are not small steps forward by any means. But none of them quite have that punch-you-right-in-the-face-with-their-oddness je ne sais quoi that this 1951 Cadillac’s parking wheel offers.
Well done, postwar American innovators. Well done indeed.