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Why the 1956 Buick Centurion Was the Car of the Future

The 1956 Buick Centurion was a concept car back when the automaker revealed it. In that era, many automotive manufacturing companies developed and built these vehicles to show off what sort of cars consumers could drive in the future.

Buick, an automotive manufacturing company, built the Centurion with styling features that made it look like a flying jet-plane car, which was a bit of a tribute to the future. But the Centurion paved the way for what cars really brought as far as what we’re now driving over 60 years later. Legendary Collector Cars website gives us a little insight into the Centurion’s finest features.

Bubble roof and seats

The Buick Centurion was a four-passenger vehicle that had bucket seats for both the front and the back of the car. These seats were virtually unheard of during that time – at least in American cars, which sported bench seats. European vehicles had them since the end of World War II, but America didn’t adopt them until the late ’50s in the sporty-type cars.

They became standard for other vehicles quite a while after that. Headrests also donned the top of those seats as another feature people weren’t used to seeing in their everyday cars.

On top of the vehicle, you see a clear bubble-type dome that was not only for the windows but also for the roof as well. Imagine sitting in those bucket seats and staring upward through the roof and seeing the blue sky or the bright, twinkling stars at night. Today, we have a variation of that, but it’s only in a portion of the roof. We call it the sunroof or moonroof. In our modern cars, we can open that window up to let the breeze in, which the Centurion didn’t do.

A rearview camera

Our modern vehicles often come standard with a rearview camera to help us see what’s behind us when backing out of the garage or parking spot. But this technological idea wasn’t new to our era; it was first introduced by Chuck Jordan, an automotive designer back in the ’50s. The Centurion had a crude version of it, but nevertheless, the concept was the same. Jordan rigged up a television camera installed on the rear of the vehicle above the trunk logo.

The camera would record images from behind the car and then would transmit those images to the screen placed on the front dash. This is much like the infotainment screens we use today. The camera is of different quality now, but back then, the television camera was the highest quality they had, and it blew some people’s minds away at the time.

This type of technology allowed drivers to get by without the use of any mirrors, which is why you don’t see them on this car. Why would they need them when you could see everything on the camera screen? Today, however, we continue to use mirrors.

Other features of the 1956 Buick Centurion

Other impressive features of the Buick Centurion that amazed people included the wing-like fenders, a gear selection dial, and automatic front seats. The fenders were very much jet-like, and they were so stylish that Buick adopted the design to use in some of their later models. The same design feature adorned the front bumper as well as the rear one.

The gear selection dial caught many people’s eyes because it wasn’t a lever you pulled. It was a dial located on the steering wheel. This was a concept that definitely seemed out of this world for those in the ’50s.

The last awesome feature was the automatic front seats. Now, we see this feature in our modern vehicles, but not exactly like what the Centurion had. When you opened the doors, the front seats would automatically slide back to allow you easy entry into the vehicle and easy exit when you went to leave.

The 1956 Buick Centurion wasn’t the only concept car of its day. Many automotive manufacturers had them. The point was to get people interested in their vehicles by seeing what cars had in store for the distant future. What’s impressive about that is the fact that many of those cars got it right, at least in some crude way.