This 1934 McQuay-Norris Streamliner Is a Bizarre Bubble Car Built From a 1930s Ford
Only six were ever made and this one is the last known survivor.
In the 1930s, engine parts maker McQuay-Norris wanted a car to show off the superiority of its piston rings, bearings, and the various other engine rebuilt parts. For that, it developed this—the McQuay-Norris Streamliner, an aerodynamic bubble car with a Ford V8 and a futuristic (for its time) shape.
Jeff Lane, the founder of the Lane Motor Museum in Nashville, Tennessee, is a lover of odd, interesting cars. He's been collecting cars since his early 20s and, by the time he was in his 40s, he amassed a collection of about 75 cars, prompting him to open the museum. More recently, Lane bought the McQuay-Norris Streamliner from classic car collector Mark Hyman in St. Louis, Missouri and it's been a favorite of his ever since.
The McQuay-Norris Streamliner wasn't a production car, though. Only six were made in the 1930s, all of which were built for the sole purpose of promoting McQuay-Norris' parts business, and Lane's is the only known survivor. Its quirky, Jetsons-like aerodynamic shape was futuristic at the time, and had some genuinely interesting engineering features. Although, the entire car was mostly built around its gauges, to show off the superiority of its McQuay-Norris parts. There were myriad gauges mounted to its wooden dashboard, for things such as oil pressure and blowby pressure, the latter of which was meant to prove the quality of its piston rings.
Powering the Streamliner is a 221 cubic-inch flathead Ford V8 making 85 horsepower mated to a three-speed manual transmission. It only had a top speed of 80 mph but you wouldn't want to go much faster than that anyway. The chassis was from a basic 1930s Ford, with a custom wooden frame and sheet metal body, and its weak rod-actuated brakes make it sketchy to drive in modern traffic.
However, it has some clever features for being a promotional car. For instance, the aerodynamic wraparound windshield means it doesn't need windshield wipers, as rain sort of just beads sideways away from the front of the car. It also has four front vents that open to bring fresh air into the cabin footwells on hot days. And, despite its vast-looking greenhouse, passengers actually sit under a pretty shaded roof, so it doesn't feel too hot inside.
Strange cars like the McQuay-Norris Streamliner are breaths of fresh air in our modern era of homogenized manufacturing. It isn't quick, nor is it luxurious, or really groundbreaking in any way, but it's a unique piece of American automotive history. Thankfully, Lane's love for quirky cars saved the last known Streamliner in existence.