Bill Gurstelle is a Contributing Editor for MAKE magazine. His most recent book is entitled Absinthe & Flamethrowers: Projects and Ruminations on the Art of Living Dangerously. You can follow Bill on his danger-quest at twitter.com/wmgurst. He is a guest Make: Online author for the month of August.
In my last online article, I discussed the concept of the flying car and how difficult it is to make a viable one. But designers continue the quest.
Hollywood set designer turned engineer Norman Bel Geddes came up with one of the first flying car concepts. His work yielded a design for something that looked much like a 1940 Chevy Coupe with wings welded onto the sides and the wheels replaced by a single rear-facing propeller.
Bel Geddes never got off the ground with it.
But since then, quite a few flying cars have been successfully flown. One of the first and perhaps most successful was the ConvAIRCAR.
On paper, the ConvAIRCAR was envisioned as the marriage between an automobile and an airplane. It promised to revolutionize the daily drive for thousands, perhaps millions, of commuters.
In November of 1947, a prototype ConvAIRCAR circled San Diego for about an hour and a half. It appeared, for a brief time, that the aircraft’s developers had actually produced “the Fertile Mule,” that is, a hybrid with a viable future. But, in reality, this airborne sedan was still a flying car, and therefore a single successful test flight proved little.
A few days after the test flight, a test pilot crash-landed the ConvAIRCAR on a dirt road when it ran out of gas. The only prototype of the ConvAIRCAR in existence was damaged beyond repair. And that’s as far as that particular flying-car ever went.
Next post: Flying car tragedy