GM kept Albanita concept secret

Classic car folklore says that the Buick Y Job of 1938 was General Motors’ first concept car.

But that’s only half right. It was the first concept it showed to the public.

During the early 1930s, GM developed a number of concept cars, but never let them go beyond the protection of the high walls of its proving grounds.

GM’s Albanita is one such car. Built in early 1933 it combined every new tech idea that the company could reasonably stuff into one automobile.

For a start, it had all round independent suspension. Now, that might not sound like much these days, but in 1933 it was very advanced engineering, at a time when most cars still had solid axles and leaf springs.

Testing convinced GM executives that independent suspension, at least at the front, was a must-have for improved ride and handling.

It was then progressively implemented across the entire GM passenger car range.

The chassis consisted of a central, thick steel backbone pipe with two long tuning fork style prongs at each end. 

The pipe was 12cm in diameter.

The engine and front suspension were attached to the front forks and the rear assemblies hung off the rear forks.

The drive shaft went through the centre of the pipe.

Testing quickly demonstrated that it was not strong enough for a passenger car and GM moved on to an X-frame chassis idea.

The body was also experimental, being all steel, in an era when most cars still had a canvas patch in the centre of the roof, because steel presses were not big enough to stamp out a one-piece roof. 

Quarter vent front windows were also tested.

In the 1930s, long before car air conditioning was even practical, quarter vents were considered a major advance in passenger comfort.

Albanita’s styling followed aerodynamic principles and was the first car GM tested for wind resistance and airflow.

The Albanita name was given to the car to honour one of the engineers, Harold Albinson.

The car no longer exists and records of what happened to it are scant . . . but a few images survive.

David Burrell is the editor of


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