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While the general conformation of the automobile was largely sorted out in the first decade of the 20th century — particularly that business about four wheels — Reeves thought perhaps eight or a minimum of six wheels might provide a smoother ride.Welding in some bits to a 1910 Overland and adding two more axles and four more guncart-style wheels, Reeves created the Octo Auto, proudly displaying it at the inaugural Indianapolis 500. Zero orders for the patently ugly and silly Octo Auto apparently didn’t discourage Reeves, who tried again the next year with the Sextauto (six wheels, single front axle design).But what he really wanted to do was build cars, which he did with middling failure until the doors closed in 1952.A Hotshot actually won the “index of performance” — an honor for the best speed for its displacement — at the 1950 Six Hours of Sebring, puttering around at an average of 52 mph.This is not a case of the advantage of hindsight; this was obviously a crazy idea, even in 1913.The Bi-Autogo does enjoy the historical distinction of being the first V8-powered vehicle ever built in Detroit, so you could argue it is the beginning of an even greater folly.
It was, in fact, a rickety, paper-thin scandal of a car that, if you stood beside it, you could actually hear rusting.
Twenty years later, the car’s many design and engineering innovations — the aerodynamic singlet-style fuselage, steel-spaceframe construction, near 50-50 front-rear weight distribution and light weight — would have been celebrated.
As it was, in 1934, the car’s dramatic streamliner styling antagonized Americans on some deep level, almost as if it were designed by Bolsheviks.
It didn’t help that a few early Airflows had major, engine-falling-out-type problems that stemmed from the radical construction techniques required.
Chrysler, and the even more hapless Desoto, tried to devolve the Airflow stylistically, giving it more conventional grill and raising the trunk into a kind of bustle (some later models were named Airstream), but the damage was done. It wouldn’t be the last time American car buyers looked at the future and said, “no thanks.” The first sports car produced in postwar America was a major hunk of junk. long, the Crosley Hotshot was a minor hunk of junk, but at least it was slow and dangerous.