CHASSIS NO: 194501
• Concept car, the only one in existence
• Featured in August 1948 edition of Popular Mechanics
• Museum piece since 1966
• Comes with documentation, build sheets, and manufacturing records
92 cid Continental flathead inline four-cylinder engine, 50 HP, four-wheel drive, manual transmission, electronic entry; wheelbase: 124”
Offered from The Roaring Twenties Museum Collection is this remarkable one-of-a-kind Surlesmobile. The Surlesmobile is arguably the one of the first Japanese import cars to arrive on domestic shores after World War II. Developed during the mid-1930s by Don Surles, this concept car emphasized greatly on passenger safety and economic feasibility. Its unique falling raindrop shape is similar in design to Tatras, Chrysler Airflows, Hupmobile Airliners, and other aerodynamically inspired cars of the day. Built in Japan’s Tokyo Bus Works, the Surlesmobile is extremely advanced for its time and shares many similarities with the minivans of today. For starters, it is built on a four-wheel drive chassis and powered by a Continental flathead four engine. Quite different from a traditional car, the Surlesmobile is equipped with a disappearing entry “portal” which splits into two disappearing halves at the flick of a switch. While it may seem silly at first, this portal system avoids the safety hazards of having to open conventional doors in tight spaces. The teardrop shape of the car, though aerodynamic, was designed with an additional purpose. Should the Surlesmobile be struck in an accident, there was a 90% chance that it would end up back on its wheels. There was no need to worry about shattering glass either, as all the windows are made of perform plex with the headlights and taillights being the only glass fixtures on the car. Don Surles’ innovation did not stop there. Inside his creation, two built-in roller-bar bench seats fold down to form a single bed. The two bench seats are meant to accommodate four people each, making this an eight-passenger car.
Unfortunately, Don Surles let the patents expire and, within 30 days, General Motors announced the disappearing tailgate on Chevrolet’s new station wagon. Further misfortune followed the Surlesmobile to America and it was hit within hours of being unloaded at the Port of San Francisco. Luckily, damage was minor, and a new set of Pontiac bumpers solved the problem. Since being repainted in 1966, the car has remained in The Roaring Twenties Museum, drawing consistent interest from curious onlookers. This sale also includes build records, original photos, drawings, manufacturing correspondence, to-be sales literature, and even a 1948 copy of the Popular Mechanics magazine that featured the car. This unique, one of a kind automobile has never been offered to the public and has been on static display for 53 years which yields a myriad of opportuniities for the next owner.