FEI X-1

Way back when this whole thing started, I wrote about the FEI X-3, the third project to come from a famous Brazilian engineering school. Of course, logic would suggest that maybe the X-3 followed after the X-1 and X-2.

In 1968, a class led by Engineer Rigoberto Soler, who worked on the Brasinca Uirapuru—a car copied by Jensen to make the Interceptor—pushed students at the Fundação Educacional Inaciana to create this masterpiece in just 60 days.

Intended for the São Paulo Auto Show in late 1968, the project was to be a headline-grabbing moon shot, who hoped to use the vehicle to show off their capabilities as a school and to ride a wave of promotion until their next star car was finished.

The brief that Soler and his students set about completing was very ambitious: an amphibious recreational vehicle that was at home on both land and water. From photos, it looks like they succeeded, with a novel-for-1968 combination of a very narrow front axle with small tires to reduce drag while in water, a buoyant fibreglass body with sporty looks, and a honkin' great fan to push it down the road.

Its strange stance is thanks to the mismatch of tires: the fronts are from a racing kart and the rears are from a Gordini.

Did I catch your attention just now?

What if I were to tell you that this radical 380 kg (840 lbs) machine was powered by a Gordini 4-cylinder engine connected to a two-speed transmission (forward and reverse)? As part of the project specifications, this powerful engine is designed to lift the nose of the car at speed, balancing the vehicle on just the two rear tires—steering at all speeds was aided by a massive rudder. What you're looking at here is a (mostly) working version of the Simca Fulgar, minus the nuclear reactor for an engine.

Capable of more than 150 km/h (93 mph) on land (!!) and 20 km/h (12 mph) on water, the X-1 was an impressively-designed answer to a question nobody had bothered to ask.

Some were brave enough to take its joystick controls and go for a buzz—supposedly, former airline pilot and then-mayor of São Paulo José Vicente Faria Lima took the X-1 for a drive and was impressed by its performance. (That said, the modern video of the car in action looks like it doesn't quite perform to specifications…)

Even now, the prototype earns publicity whenever it's on display—maybe it's time for someone to look back at the X-1 and give us a modern version of this wild student creation.