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By Robert Tate, Award-Winning Automotive Historian and Researcher
Images Courtesy of the Petersen Museum, AllCarIndex, and Custom Rodder magazine
Published 5.1.2024

Astra Gnome sketch Richard Arbibs Archives 1An Astra-Gnome sketch (Richard Arbibs Archives)

There is always something new, interesting and exciting when doing research in automotive history. For example, Richard Arbibs’ vision for the future of the automobile began with a design concept called the Astra-Gnome, which was built by Andrew Mazzara of New York. The model was very different in design with its styling features. It offered aluminum panels and hidden wheels behind the body design. Some consumers liked it, and others did not.

Astra Gnome Time and Space Car sketch 1956 Richard Arbibs Archives CROPPED 21956 Astra-Gnome Time and Space Car sketch (Richard Arbibs Archives)

The concept was featured at the New York Auto Show in 1956 and on the cover of Newsweek magazine. It was designed to speculate as to what the automobile was going to look like in the year 2000.

Astra Gnome at the New York Auto Show CROPPED AND RESIZED 3The Astra-Gnome at the New York Auto Show

A graduate of the industrial design program from the prestigious Pratt Institute in New York City in 1939, Arbibs (September 1, 1917 - February 22,1995) was a great automotive designer who started his career at General Motors working with Harley Earl and then became an armament specialist during World War II. Later, he would help design the great-looking Packard Pan American show car for 1951. Arbibs also appeared in the 1952 International Motor Sports show program, which at the time was owned and promoted by Herb Shriner. After joining American Motors, he designed the Astra-Gnome concept with a futuristic design that was referred to as the “time in space car.”  

Astra Gnome public relations Richard Arbibs Archives CROPPED 4An Astra-Gnome promotional image (Richard Arbibs Archives)

Some automotive historians called Arbibs a great design consultant known for great-looking futuristic automotive designs. Over his career, he was also involved with several other companies, including French automaker Simca, the Swank Company, the International Nickel Company and the Tidewater Oil Company.

Astra Gnome cover photo of Newsweek 1956 Newsweek RESIZED 5The Astra-Gnome concept on the cover of Newsweek in 1956 (Newsweek)

The Astra-Gnome concept interior offered a chromed blue steering wheel. The gearshifts and the innovative instrument knobs were finished in a clear and transparent blue material as well. The exterior did not include the popular 1950s trade mark popular tail fins, which most concept cars offered at the time. The Astra-Gnome also featured a bubble top canopy that was a part of the Buck Rogers era which many still remember. The concept was constructed on a 1955 Nash Metropolitan framework with a powertrain and running gear parts from the same model.

Astra Gnome side view Richard Arbibs Archives 6A side view of the Astra-Gnome (Richard Arbibs Archives)

In conclusion, the Astra-Gnome was a 1950s concept car designed by Richard Arbib, using a Nash Metropolitan as a blueprint. The concept offered a space age design speculating how automobiles might look in the year 2000. The Astra-Gnome is still around today and has been a part of many great automotive exhibits around the country, including at the Petersen Museum in Los Angeles.

Astra Gnome on display 7The Astra-Gnome on display in a museum (above) and at the Petersen in Los Angeles (below)

1956 American Motors Astra Gnome Petersen Museum CROPPED AND RESIZED 8


Hacker, Geoff. “A Car is Born: International Motor Sports Show, 1952 and 1953.” September 21, 2011.

Shaw, Kristen V. “The 1956 AMC Astra-Gnome is the Closest You’ll Get to a Jetsons Car.” Petersen Automotive Museum News, March 16, 2024.

Wilson, Kevin. “Presenting the Fabulous Astra-Gnome.” Mac’s Motor City Garage, June 28, 2014.