Imagine for a moment that Gordon Murray has been commissioned by Autoglym to design a one-off Bristol Fighter to be used in an advertising campaign for its products, and which will eventually be given to David Beckham as a gift.
Two years later, having felt constrained by Autoglym’s design brief, Gordon begins designing his own car, this time based on a current model Jaguar XKR-S. He spends a total of 7,000 hours and more than £125,000 in design and construction costs to create something entirely unique.
Now stop imagining. Wind the clock back to 1955. Instead of Gordon Murray, picture an ex-Chrysler, General Motors and Ford designer-turned-independent-consultant named William J Flajole. The car he is commissioned to build is not a Bristol, but a Nash-Healey; and rather than being for David Beckham, it is to be presented to baseball legend Ted Williams by the Johnson Wax Company.
When going about designing a unique car for his personal use, Flajole chose a Jaguar XK120 M (SE in British specification terms), and spent thirteen times its base cost – as well as many thousands of man hours – turning it into something truly unrepeatable.
“From seeing it in pictures, you imagine the Forerunner to be massive, and you also expect it will be horrendous to drive. Neither presumption is true.”
It is nearly two years since I read that pull quote by Octane‘s Mark Dixon, at which point I had already decided that the Flajole Forerunner was really rather cool.
You may think it looks like something co-owned by George Jetson and Dick Dastardly, but the Forerunner is undeniably a masterpiece. The styling is deliberately futuristic, though not so radical when compared to contemporaries like the Lincoln Futura, Ghia Gilda and Bertone’s BAT cars for Alfa Romeo.
Flajole also introduced features like a retractable plexiglass roof and high-back seats, the latter boasting a genuine safety improvement over other cars on sale at the same time.
It should probably be noted that Flajole was able to invest such a large sum into his own design largely due to the modest domestic success of another of his designs: the Nash Metropolitan. Having sold around 100,000 cars worldwide, Flajole was retained as a consultant by Nash-Kelvinator to design other products, mainly consumer white goods.
The Forerunner was Flajole’s labour of love as much as it was a genuine effort to move car design forward. This was a vehicle that took any whiff of post-war conformity and just obliterated it. Whether or not you would buy it is of course a matter of personal taste, but for the simple matter that it exists at all, I dare you not to love it.
The car was offered by Barrett-Jackson in Scottsdale, Arizona in January 2012, with a high bid of $200,000 but the reserve wasn’t met. The Flajole Forerunner is currently for sale with Hyman Ltd, asking $295,000.