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Hagerty
Hagerty Employee

What If? 1957 Tesla | Hagerty Media

Welcome to What If, a new feature from imaginative illustrator Abimelec Arellano and Hagerty. We'll be taking you back in time-and possibly forward into the future-to meet alternative-universe automobiles. Even better, our time machine is working well enough to bring "short take" reviews along with the photographs and advertisements.
https://www.hagerty.com/media/what-if/what-if-1957-tesla/
85 REPLIES 85
DUB6
Instructor

   Wow, what a wild imagination!  As if some kook like your "Musk" fella could scrape together the capital, push the boundaries of current technology, hire people to take the risks involved, and keep the regulators off his back long enough to accomplish putting a revolutionary car on the road.

OldRoad
Instructor

All that and subsidized by the government too.
DUB6
Instructor

The entire premise is absurd...🙄

merlebalke
Detailer

And hilarious.

61Rampy
Detailer

I love these "What If" articles! It was the Fifties! The Nuclear (sorry, Atomic!) Age! Who wouldn't want a mini Chernobyl reactor in the trunk...or back seat... or wherever they put it? The AEC says atomic power is completely safe! The Tesla probably could have a pretty good heater system, too. Hey, it might even glow in the dark! Too bad their road tester, like so many before him, had to go and crash it.  Into a school! And why were there kids in the school? Didn't they have black & white TV's at home to watch educational channels? Keep dreaming these up, Jack. Thanks for the laughs!

Bill
Detailer

Before 1920, gas was not a given. Electricity was pretty much an equal player, even often preferred. Henry Fords assembly line and Standard Oils aggressive lobbying changed the balance. Without Ford and the Rockefellers..... electric cars could have taken the lead 100 years ago.

Detroit Electric was one of the leaders back then. The preferred choice of doctors and socialites needing clean reliable transport. Even UPS had fleets of electric delivery trucks thru the 1930s. And the trolley bus was way superior to the diesel busses replacing it in the 1970s.

The London Tube was/is pure electric and was running before the automoblile was even invented. Lobbying, corporate corruption, easily swayed.... or bought off polititions are the only reason fossil fuels are so deeply rooted today.
RokemRonnie
Detailer

Simply put, you're wrong. Electricity was only an equal player in the very early days of the automobile and by 1920 EVs were mostly a footnote, along with steam.

It was not Standard Oil's aggressive lobbying that carried the day for gasoline, it was the fact that the batteries of the day did not have sufficient energy density to make EVs practical outside of urban use, and the fact that gasoline is a superb liquid fuel. Gasoline is such a good fuel that we can lose 2/3rds of its energy as waste heat and still get a financially valuable and mechanically practical amount of useful energy out of it.

One hundred years ago, energy density and charging times hindered the acceptance of EVs and even today, outside of urban use, EVs are still barely practical.

I'm planning on taking a short camping trip to Michigan's Upper Peninsula. It's 315 miles to the Mackinaw Bridge. A Chevy Bolt has 259 miles of range, so I'd have to stop somewhere around Gaylord to recharge. There are a total of six charging stations in the UP including two Tesla, and three ChargePoint stations. The closest gas stations to the campgrounds I'm planning on staying at are about 12 miles away. The closest charging stations are about an hour away.
Edwardsg
Intermediate Driver

So stop in Gaylord, charge up, then go to Mackinaw City and stay the night while charging. This will give you time to plan your camping in trip in the UP.
And wonder why they push EV’s so hard when a Hybrid would let you keep going.
Seems like a good time to both dream and contemplate the reality of today.
The UP is beautiful, but not exactly utopia for an EV. Just like many others areas I can think of.
Next time I drive across the UP, I will smile as I fill up. And hope the future does not limit my options to how long my stop has to be.
bblhed
Detailer

You will likely have a plug on your campsite and if the EV wasn't lobbied out of favor the range issue would a moot point. The average vehicle today has a 250 to 300 range so you will have to stop for fuel if you take a car anyway.
RokemRonnie
Detailer

The campsites that I prefer are rustic state and national forest campgrounds. Outhouses, hand pumped well water, and no power outlets. 

As for needing to stop for fuel, there's a difference between stopping for five minutes  and getting 300+ miles of range, and stopping for 30 minutes and getting 90 miles of range. I'd rather spend my time on the shore of a Great Lake than at a fueling/charging station.

Even if the campground has power outlets, the Bolt recharges at 4 miles per hour at 120V. If you have access to a 240V fast charger, that goes up to 25 miles per charging hour, and even a DC fast charger can only give a Bolt 180 miles per charging hour.

Bunka
Intermediate Driver

A lot of comments about batteries. A look back to 1898 and we have a hybrid automobile whose range is limited by the gas tank, no batteries. The ICE engines (2) powered generators that supplied electricity, real time, to the hub mounted motors. Your range was only limited by your gas tank. No charging time. The astonishing thing is that no one has built on this idea. I would think that 123 years of technical progress would have led to a very efficient hybrid and I have no idea why we haven't gone there. There is hope in this direction in the form of hydrogen powered vehicles. Fuel cells producing electricity to power the motors. The designer of this hybrid went on to a career of historic automobile development. Dr. Ferdinand Porsche.
Jack_Hagerty
Moderator

General Motors poured a cubic mile of money into the Volt, which was intended to be a serial hybrid as described above.... but there was no amount of money that would make it work, and the Volt ended up being basically a Prius.
Edwardsg
Intermediate Driver

Converting energy has loses. The additional weight and cost also impact the end result. I looked at a Volt - but when I factored in the cost and the limited range on just battery, it quickly lost luster.

Here’s an imaginary trip - a solar vehicle that could be able to run down a lit highway. If we could do this, even a cloudy day would not be a big deal.

And then all that infrastructure goes away. Which they talk about needing, but never share a real cost, or even the projected amount of additional electricity expected to be needed to power all these vehicles. With rolling blackouts at times in some areas, this is not something to just overlook.
TG
Advanced Driver

There are so many better ways to go with things. Simply applying the weight saving and aerodynamic techniques used on a car like a Tesla would yield considerable efficiency gains for a gas or hybrid vehicle. Vehicles now are heavier than they were in the 70s. My sister did not believe this until I informed her that her 3-series beemer weighs more than my 65 Impala
EventHorizons
New Driver

The diesel-electric locomotive, that wiped out the steam engine, is exactly this.
They have been successfully making them now for over 70 years!
Only recently have they started switching from DC traction motors to Variable-Frequency Drive AC motors.
Obviously, the mission design parameters are different for a locomotive then for a road vehicle, but I wonder why GM failed with the Volt as mentioned by another?
Sledogpilot
Intermediate Driver

I recently read an article in AOPA Pilot that stated jet fuel is 50 times the energy density of batteries per unit of weight. This is just physics and can’t be overcome with current (no pun intended) battery technology.
TG
Advanced Driver

take all of the politics and conspiracy theories out of the mix and transportation fuel boils down to a simple formula of energy density.
compaqdeskpro
Intermediate Driver

If you think our legacy of carbon emissions is bad, imagine if we had been dumping lead acid batteries for 100 years.
61Rampy
Detailer

Lets face it, the real killer of steam and electric cars was Ketterings Electric Self Starter.  With out that, some people were just not strong enough to hand crank an engine. This also limited compression ratios, and therefore power and efficiency.

Edwardsg
Intermediate Driver

If you don’t do it properly, you can also get hurt.
So besides convenience, there is a safety factor involved.
Go start a model T, and see if you get an education. My buddy who owns 2 of them was a bit too confident starting one for me. I got an education just by watching, and double check every time.
61Rampy
Detailer

Actually, when I was 15, I hand cranked a 25 Model T, in a Chicago winter. Took me about an hour! And my arm was sore! I knew enough to retard the timing, tho.
hyperv6
Technician

Hmmm let’s not!

Longislander1
New Driver

The idea is interesting, but the line about sending random payments “to the indolent” is an insult to the millions of Americans workers who lost their jobs during the pandemic through no fault of their own and needed help paying the bills. If Hagerty is going to allow writers to inject their political views into these pieces (and that’s clearly what it is, so don’t tell us the comment was inadvertent”), then perhaps insurance customers need to take their business elsewhere.
61Rampy
Detailer

Lighten up. You have to take this in 1957 context. Back then, government's job was not to bail out anybody. I thought it was a funny line.

Edit: Thanks for all the likes! Also, I didn't mean to sound nasty, just a reminder that the article should be taken as satire.

merlebalke
Detailer

I did too.
win59
Detailer

And so did I. This is "Humor" - in an article meant to "Entertain". The idea is to have fun, not victimize.

I got a nice chuckle out of it,

Thanks Jack!
OldFordMan
Intermediate Driver

But there is always one with a big chip on the shoulder (his, not the road).
Jack_Hagerty
Moderator

Ah, but you didn't have a problem with the line about the banks, right?
The idea was to point out how different the past was from the present. In 1957 you might have gotten bread lines, you'd maybe have a WPA-style public works push to keep people employed, but the idea of a "stimulus check:" is very much a twenty-first century invention, courtesy of GWB as I recall.

I apologize for any offense you took.
DUB6
Instructor

Here's an idea for a future "What If?"...what if we held a forum discussion on taking political potshots at one another - and nobody came?

61Rampy
Detailer

Or what if everybody agreed with one another???  WTF am I saying???

Edwardsg
Intermediate Driver

The context for the time was correct. Yes, there was also a pandemic back then.

There are those that in today’s world who had tragic job losses, death, and other struggles.
I know several who took the unemployment, free insurance, and the supplement as a free vacation. So among the ones to feel sorry for, there are some that are indolent.

A few of my close friends and I have polar opposite views on many topics. Unlike many, we can have open discussion. Many of these lead to discovering not everything is as each of us believed, sometimes changing or tempering the others opinion. We still can fish, eat dinner, take trips, and enjoy car shows and life in general together.

Viewing everything through a political lens is destructive. Many times when this is done, important context is left out, or in its substitute your context of the time. I know several people who have abandoned this lens, and are much happier today.

I consume something like this for what it is - a ‘What If?’ story of time and a lot of imagination. Nothing more.

drjim
Detailer

Aside from the "Inevitable Political Snarking By Commenters", this is quite a funny article. In fact, I think it's the best "What If?" you've done.

I could nit-pick that RTG's don't produce steam to spin a turbine, but that would detract from the article.

Ooops, guess I just did! Sorry, Jack, but the Engineer in me pops out at times.....

- Jim
Jack_Hagerty
Moderator

So what happens with these is that Abimelec does all the illustrations and then I have to do the story based on them -- we don't have a back-and-forth.

I spent a fair amount of time trying to research the state of atomic energy in 1956, particularly small-scale atomic energy, and I had a choice between two hand-waves: either pretend someone had miniaturized the reactor architecture, or pretend that an RTG could actually make that much power, a thousand times the net power of the Voyager unit that weighed 75 pounds. So I figured --- what if we took the heat from it and ran a turbine rather than doing the heat-to-electric conversion? Still junk science, but I'd hoped it would pass a quick read 🙂
DUB6
Instructor

Aw, man - don't go and ruin it all by feeling you have to explain how you came up with a "completely-imaginary-made-up-what-if-story".  Facts and plausibility have nothing to do with it!  🤔

adambravo
New Driver

Some clever ideas (although I would have liked to see the 50s equivalent of Autopilot). The only flaw is the visuals, which look like a hodgepodge of conventional 50s design cues. The artist would have been better off starting with a Tucker…
WAB
Intermediate Driver

I have to agree...........this makes me think that somehow an Edsel and "Christine" united and became............awkward.
Grace
Hagerty Employee

i think the rendering's generic '50s look is spot-on, for the purposes of the (satirical) analogy. doesn't the Model S look handsome ... but in the most conventional 20-teens way possible? 

Bunka
Intermediate Driver

Somebody commented that that the rendering looked like a 57 Ford. I agree except for the knee knocker GM wrap around windshield. The rear quarter panel fins are a bit exaggerated also. I loved the article, very entertaining. I hope we get more!!!!
Numberscruncher
Detailer

Other than the plutonium key fob and the "mishap" at the school, loved the article! More, please!
Astonmart
New Driver

It's fun to speculate, but seriously, Elon Musk's grandfather would not have based his design on a 1957 Ford. Never! Maybe (if he had to crimp) he'd have used a Facel Vega or Citroen, but never a Ford 4-door.
edddurst-gmail
Intermediate Driver

The rendering looks like a "57 Ford and a "57 Chevy were in the back row of the drive-in.
DUB6
Instructor

Well the fins suggest (to me) that there was also a Plymouth in the woodpile.

CBL
Pit Crew

Owned by none other than Buck Rogers?? I am assuming it would need a trailer full of batteries. Yea kind of an absurd "back to the future" set of dream-works but certainly no harm using ones imagination.
Flashman
Instructor

It's always a pleasure to take a trip in your imagination.
Mountaindriver
New Driver

Technology aside, I would love to drive that 2 ton flashy ride around my town.
merlebalke
Detailer

Hilarious! I especially liked the harmless plutonium ball in the pocket.
Jack_Hagerty
Moderator

I got the idea by reading through a lot of contemporaneous descriptions of nuclear reactors. They really did underestimate the danger of everything from X-rays to radium back then. 🙂
bblhed
Detailer

I was racing over the road EV's back at the turn of the century and if anyone pulled off a 60 mile day using the best available tech from 1999 it was considered an amazing feat. GM was barely getting 120 miles from an EV1 on a good day in 1997 when that was the best production EV you could buy. The idea of an EV in 1957 with that tech and the mentality of the time just would not be possible, but if there was an actual effort then, the EV of today would be a far better thing than it is now and it would be more accepted.
SLD
Pit Crew

I think this car was way ahead of its time. I mean, nine years later didn’t the Batmobile have atomic batteries? (“Atomic batteries to power, turbines to speed.” “Roger, ready to move out.”)