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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 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 airplane.jpg

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.

convaircar Dude, Where's my (flying) car? Part 2

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

Dude, where’s my (flying) car? Part 1

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