Forget what you learned from watching “Leave it to Beaver” reruns: The late 1950s were hardly a golden age in America. The Soviets were never more than a few seconds from annihilating the world, poisoned air was shortening your life (at least according to Mechanix Illustrated) and an ever-growing number of speeding, seatbelt-less hunks of Detroit steel made venturing out on our shiny new Interstate Highway System virtual suicide.
Fortunately, we had a hero: Sir Vival, the most grotesque thing to ever sally forth on four wheels. Sir Vival might have been a cyclopean horror (not to mention a bad use of an innocent 1948 Hudson), but he was a cyclopean horror with our best interests at heart.
Of course, regular Jalopnik readers will be familiar with Sir Vival — it (he?) was just elected the number one car Amazing Car of the Future that was actually horrible. But is that title justified? We dug through our library/the moldering stacks of magazines hemming us in on all sides and found the original April 1959 Mechanix Illustrated feature on the car.
Designed by Walter C. Jerome of Worcester, Mass., Sir Vival was deemed worthy of three pages in Mechanix Illustrated plus that coveted cover photo. The magazine billed it as the “Last Word in Safety Cars?” The question mark was their addition, not ours.
Despite its “startling unorthodox two-section” design and shocking $10,000 price tag (a Cadillac Series 62 started at around $5,000), Mechanix Illustrated chose to play it straight, highlighting the car's numerous safety features.
And not entirely without reason. Let's ignore Sir Vival's horrifying looks and the utter lack of a compelling business case for it (Americans will always choose a stylish, unsafe ride over a nightmarish $10,000 safety-mobile) and take a look at its several innovative features. A central steering position isn't such a bad idea — at least the boys at McLaren didn't think so when they designed the F1. Doors that stay closed in an accident? Who could be opposed to that?
That conical driver's portal/dome setup is actually rather ingenious, too. Instead of conventional windshield wipers, Jerome positioned built-in felt wipers on the inner and outer edges of the dome's frame. By rotating the dome, it was cleaned continuously. Brilliant!
Maybe Sir Vival deserves a second chance. If you're in the mood for a hopelessly expensive restoration job and don't care a whit about making your money back when it's all done — if it's ever done — we just so happen to know where Sir Vival is living out his slightly rusted, more or less complete dotage.
You can learn more about Sir Vival than you ever knew you wanted to know at Autoweek — we've got high-resolution scans of the original April 1959 Mechanix Illustrated article. Enjoy.