Some cars are terrible safety risks. The glamorous Tatras of the 1930s contained hidden dangers in their sleek, aircraft-inspired styling. Fast and exhilarating, they were notoriously unstable at speed. On the other end of the scale, the humble Ford Pinto took over the ‘unsafe’ title from the Corvair in the 1970s.
Then again, other cars simply embody outrageous or unreasonable design, and some are so startling in their aesthetic approach that no amount of mechanical good can entice buyers to purchase them – here again, we have the Chrysler Airflow, as well as the ill-fated Phantom Corsair of the late 1930s, a car they called the ‘Flying Wombat.’ Nonetheless, some manufacturers have a stubborn tenacity with regard to outré designs, as ws the case with the Nash Airflyte of the early 1950s.
The problem is, of course, that when an auto manufacturer makes mistakes, the customer pays with his money; perhaps, if he depends upon the machine for his living, he pays with his livelihood; and ultimately, if the vehicle is simply unsafe, the customer may pay with his life.
Automakers hardly set out to create unsafe, unusable or inappropriate vehicles. Indeed, they often begin with the best of intentions. The Corvair, for instance, was born of a desire to introduce European-syle panache to the American highway, and to do it at a reasonable cost. Unfortunately, in the corporate rush to turn a profit, original design strengths are sometimes brushed aside – and compromise is piled atop compromise, with plenty of room for error in the completed automobile.
Just so, while Milton Reeves felt that he was presenting a means to save on tires with his Octo- and Sexto-Autos, his own engineering myopia failed to take into account that the cars would not be easy to handle, despite all his own protestations to the contrary.