Auto Tech

Goodyear's Golden Sahara II is the future restored in Geneva

Based on a 1953 Lincoln, this Jet Age show car featured autonomous capabilities, voice control tech and translucent, illuminated tires.

Andrew Hoyle/Roadshow

More than any other auto show on the international circuit, you just never know what you're going to see at the Geneva Motor Show. Take this unusual Goodyear tire company premiere, for example. This is the Golden Sahara II, a freshly restored show car that claims to be one of the world's first autonomous car concepts. 

Born in the 1950s, this golden vision was a joint project between Goodyear and famed Hollywood car customizer George Barris. Based on a 1953 Lincoln Capri hardtop, this one-off Jet Age show car, commissioned by Ohioan Jim Street, has been the subject of an intensive restoration effort ahead of its debut here in Switzerland.

Get past the car's outrageous Barris bodywork and focus on the period future tech: the Golden Sahara II employs an "aircraft-inspired control lever for acceleration, braking and steering," and it featured a sensor-based automatic braking system that relied on antenna to spot objects in front of the car. The original car, which debuted in 1954, even featured a kind of voice control, as well as remote-control doors and engine start.

Goodyear's chief involvement with the car -- both then and now -- is a set of translucent tires made of synthetic rubber. Dubbed Neothane, the material allows for internal lighting. At the time, the company was investigating whether tires could be illuminated when a vehicle was under braking or in bad weather for improved visibility. Another novel wheel-based feature? Crystal hubcaps that feature built-in turn signals. 

The Golden Sahara II was put on tour nationwide as a vision of the future, including numerous appearances on TV and in film. It was then left to sit in a garage for nearly 50 years. The car was subsequently purchased at a Mecum Auctions event in May of last year by Klairmont Kollections -- for $350,000.

This show car cost the then-outrageous sum of $75,000 to be built, but we're guessing the just-completed restoration ended up costing much, much more. As a time capsule of unbridled atomic-age optimism and as a predictor of future safety tech that's only just now coming into reality, the Golden Sahara II has few equals. Get a closer look in our gallery below.