Ford Nucleon

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The Ford Nucleon concept car.

The Ford Nucleon is a concept car developed by Ford in 1957, designed as a future nuclear-powered car—one of a handful of such designs during the 1950s and 1960s. The concept was only demonstrated as a scale model. The design did not include an internal-combustion engine; rather, the vehicle was to be powered by a small nuclear reactor in the rear of the vehicle, based on the assumption that this would one day be possible by reducing sizes. The car was to use a steam engine powered by uranium fission, similar to those found in nuclear submarines.[1]

The mock-up of the car can be viewed at the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan.[2]

Design concept[edit]

Nucleon at the Deutsches Technikmuseum Berlin

At the time of the concept's unveiling, nuclear technology was relatively new, and it was believed that nuclear fission technology could be made compact and affordable, such that nuclear fuel would become the primary energy source in the U.S., and gasoline would become obsolete.[3] Ford envisioned a future where gas stations would be replaced with full service recharging stations, and that the vehicle would get 5,000 miles (8,000 km) before the reactor would have to be exchanged for a new one. These would be scaled-down versions of the nuclear reactors that military submarines used at the time, utilizing uranium as the fissile material. Because the entire reactor would be replaced, Ford hypothesized that the owner would have multiple choices for reactors, such as a fuel-efficient model or a high-performance model, at each reactor change. Ultimately, the reactor would use heat to convert water into steam and the power train would be steam-driven.[4]

In popular culture[edit]

The Nucleon is the inspiration for nuclear cars in the Fallout video game franchise.[5] For example, in-game billboards describe the fictional Chryslus Corvega Atomic V8 as having an "Atomic V8" engine. The game's depiction is purely satirical, however, as the cars explode into an implausible mushroom cloud and release radiation when shot.[6][7]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Bellows, Alan (27 Aug 2006). "The Atomic Automobile". Damn Interesting. Retrieved 8 Jan 2011.
  2. ^ "The Henry Ford, America's Greatest History Attraction". Retrieved 20 Mar 2012.
  3. ^ Morris, Neil (2010). Transportation. p. 13. ISBN 978-1410939111.
  4. ^ Bellows, Alan (2009). "The Nucleon - Ford Motor Company's vision for an atomic-age wonder-car". Alien Hand Syndrome: And Other Too-Weird-Not-to-Be-True Stories. Workman Publishing. pp. 168. ISBN 978-0-7611-5225-5.
  5. ^ Marquis, Erin (July 17, 2014). "Nuclear-powered concept cars from the Atomic Age". Retrieved March 11, 2018.
  6. ^ Kapell, Matthew Wilhelm; Elliott, Andrew B.R. (24 October 2013). Playing with the Past: Digital Games and the Simulation of History. ISBN 9781623567286.
  7. ^ "Fallout 3 vehicles" (MediaWiki). The Vault, the Fallout Wiki. Retrieved 7 Mar 2011.

External links[edit]