An absolute beauty walked down the Geneva Motor Show carpet this year, all thanks to a collaboration between Klairmont Kollections and Goodyear, who managed to restore a 1950’s vehicle that was all but lost to history.
The Golden Sahara II was an iconic custom car of the 1950’s and 1960’s that toured the country showcasing one of the very first concepts of autonomous vehicles and also made appearances on television and in films.
“The 1950s and 60s were a period of intense innovation for Goodyear. We partnered with mobility pioneers in everything from lunar exploration to land speed records. Goodyear’s collaboration on the Golden Sahara II project was our first step in shaping the future of autonomous mobility,” Henry Dumortier, Vice President Consumer for Goodyear Europe said.
The car was developed by Jim Street and George Barris and featured a control system with an acceleration, breaking and steering lever that was inspired by the ones used on aircrafts. In addition to that, it also had an automatic breaking system that made use of sensors that could detect any objects that might cross the car’s path.
The original car even featured an early version of voice and remote control, in addition to remote-controlled doors and remote engine start.
Aside from the stunning and outrageous design, the car’s most interesting feature has to be its tires. Developed by Goodyear using Neothane, a translucent synthetic rubber, they contained internal lighting, which allowed them to glow.
This wasn’t just an aesthetic choice from the part of the designers though – it was actually an attempt to see if improving visibility on the road via this method was a feasible option or not.
“These tires are solid; the original ones were hollow and were able to fill with air. There are actually light strips built into the rim, and the polyurethane is poured over them — they weigh about 150 pounds apiece; I think there’s nine gallons of urethane in each tire. The thing is, as they are now, they’re not really drivable,” Gregory Alonzo of Speakeasy Customs, who was in charge of restoring the car, has said.
As it is, the car can be driven around at very slow speeds but normally it’s only being pushed around on rollers, in order to maintain the tire treads clean.
“The Golden Sahara II is a unique vehicle and a part of American motoring history.
My team and I are proud to have partnered with Goodyear in bringing this iconic vehicle back to life at the 2019 Geneva International Motor Show.”
After the car had finished it tour of the United States back in its glory days, it ended up staying in a garage for almost 50 years and was eventually sold during the Mecum Auctions in 2018, when it was purchased by Klairmont Kollections for $350,000.
Back in the 50’s, the car was worth around $75,000. While we don’t know how much the restoration cost, we can safely assume it was way beyond its original selling price.
Then came the hard part of restoring it, a task that fell on the Speakeasy Customs and Classics in Chicago. According to them, they only had around three months to restore the Golden Sahara, in order for it to be present at the Geneva show and be incorporated into the “120 Years of Innovation” display.
The Speakeasy Customs crew said that they worked from 7 a.m to 4:30 a.m in the final three weeks leading up to the Geneva Motor Show with only a three hour break in between. According to Gregory Alonzo, it was the most difficult thing he ever done in his life.
But it was worth it and everyone who has seen the car during the Geneva Motor Show, or even in the photos, definitely can attest to it.
You only need to glance in the direction of the Golden Sahara II to be transported back in time or get a glimpse into the parallel, alternate future that could have been – the optimism of the atomic age shines in every curve of the vehicle and in every shimmer of its lit-up tires.