While no one would deny that the Big Three have brought a host of safety and comfort innovations to American automobiles (in addition to all that torque), there were a great many automotive innovators who were more “lone wolf” in their ambitions. Ray Besasie and his son, Ray Jr., who built and raced cars for the likes of Brook Steves, also concocted their own contraptions that were decades ahead of their time.
Hemmings Auto Blog took a trip down memory lane to commemorate one such vehicle, the X-3 Explorer, a ’57 Chevy Bel Air body with a huge Cadillac motor that was as fast (140 mph top speed) as it was fuel efficient (21 mpg out 365 cubic-inch V8 over 50 years ago!)
The X-3 Explorer was the third in a line of four Besasie X-cars, each playing host to numerous technological innovations that would be at home in many modern automobiles. For example, there’s been a lot of talk about “distracted driving” with many people taking their hands off the wheels to do something else. Besasie eliminated that problem with a center-mounted steering wheel that used hydraulics, controlled by the driver’s knees, to maneuver the car. The Besasie boys also tuned the 365 cubic-inch Caddy engine to produce over 350 horsepower, enough for that 140 mph top speed.
Such a high speed called for that ridiculous dual-wing out the back, and to improve aerodynamics the doors were completely eliminated, replaced with stepping stools to gain entry to the drop top. And while we can neither confirm nor deny the supposed 21 mpg rating, that kind of gas mileage was all but unheard of in huge American automobiles. All this innovation comes at a steep price though; $20,000 (closer to $150,000 today). The X-3 and its siblings are all said to be alive and well, and while none of these innovations ever made it into production, we have always admired the men who put innovation ahead of practicality (really, who wants to steer with their knees??)