MotorCities National Heritage Area
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By Robert Tate, Automotive Historian and Researcher
Images courtesy of the Ford Motor Company Archives
Published 6.16.2021

Press Information for the 1953 Ford X 100 Show Car RESIZED 1Press Information for the 1953 Ford X-100 Show Car 

One of the most popular and exciting show cars introduced to the public during the 1950s was the 1952/53 Ford X-100. Ford Motor Company called the model “A laboratory on wheels.” The model was first called the Lincoln Continental 1950X at its introduction and was exceedingly popular with its torpedo styling. It also received a lot of great press.

The Ford Design Studio early 1950s 2The Ford Design Studio, early 1950s

The Ford X-100 exterior was designed by Joe Oros, and John Najjar designed the interior. Elwood Engel was also a part of the design team. Auto historian and author Michael Lamm, along with Dave Holls, who wrote “A Century of Automotive Style: 100 years of American Car Design” said the following: “One of the fundamental purposes of dream cars was and remains to show the type of styling that each auto company believed people would want, or at least would accept, in the future.”

Rear design for the Ford X 100 Show Car 3Rear design for the Ford X-100 Show Car

The 1952/53 Ford X-100 show car introduced many new styling features and accessories for the driver and passenger. For example, a new hydraulic jacking system was included, and an electric shaver was placed in the glove compartment. Another important design feature was the rear end taillights, which would later become popular on the 1961 Ford Thunderbird production models.

The Ford X 100 parked outisde of Fords Design Center 4The Ford X-100 parked outisde of Ford's Design Center

The X-100 was a fully functional, road-driven prototype car which many consumers liked and admired for its great looking styling. It also offered a great canopy top with seating room for two passengers and electric seat warmers.

The Ford X-100 was introduced at the Chicago Auto Show in January 1952. The model was very well-received, and many thought the car would become the next Continental. Ford Motor Company President and CEO Henry Ford II was very impressed with the model and wanted it to symbolize Ford’s future design focus. His brother, William Clay Ford, was also very impressed with the X-100.

Ford X 100 Show Car RESIZED 5Ford X-100 Show Car

After the Chicago Auto Show, the model was officially renamed the Ford X-100, changed from the Continental 1950X. The show car was also shipped to Europe to appear at the Paris Auto Show, as part of Ford’s celebration of the company’s 50th anniversary. European auto enthusiasts also appreciated the great styling of the X-100 dream car like their American counterparts. The vehicle had a de Dion style independent rear suspension, power brakes, power steering and a 1952 Lincoln Y block overhead-value V8 engine with many carburetors for great performance. It was also equipped for the first time with Firestone radial-ply tires for improved handling. Finally, the X-100 offered many other new other features, including a retractable clear roof section and a hooded head lamp design over a protruding, front bumper.

The X 100 Show Car on display 6The X-100 Show Car on display

Later, the 1955 and 1956 Mercury production models would use many of the same design features on the Ford X-100. The popular 1956 Lincoln Premiere models would also use the same design theme, which proved to be extremely popular among the driving public.

The Ford X 100 interior 7The Ford X-100 interior

The Ford X-100 was displayed at the famous Ford Rotunda in Dearborn and was also featured in a photo on the cover of the company’s commemorative book published for its 50th anniversary celebration. The cover highlighted brothers Benson, William and Henry Ford II with the Mercury XL-500 show car and the Ford X-100. The Ford X-100 also became part of pop culture, used in the 1954 movie “Woman’s World” starring Lauren Bacall and Fred MacMurray.

The X 100 on the cover of Fords 50th anniversary book RESIZED 8The X-100 on the cover of Ford's 50th anniversary book

In conclusion, the Ford X-100 was truly a laboratory on wheels, a creation many people around the world came to admire. Ultimately, the Ford X-100 show car was donated to the Henry Ford Museum. From a design standpoint, the Ford X-100 was a part of our 1950s auto heritage and chrome styling culture.

Bibliography

Dammann, George H. “Fifty Years of Lincoln Mercury.” Crestline Publishing, 1971.

Strohl, Daniel. “The Car with the Most Gadgets: The Lincoln X-100 Could’ve Become the Continental.” Hemmings, April 27, 2015.