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.
More on the Maker quest towards building a flying car….
Batting third in the flying car line up was the Mizar, a true and actual product of the Technology Underground, but it has a sad and far more tragic case history than the others.
Henry Smolinski and Hal Blake took the top half, engine, and wings from a light airplane, and placed tehm in an attachable module that fit on rails set on top of a modified 1971 Ford Pinto.
By melding the two disparate vehicles through a variety of attachment methods, they came up with a flying car – half Ford economy car and half high wing airplane. Initially it worked pretty well. In fact, it really did fly and as such it got a lot press (as flying cars tend to do.)
Here’s a quotation, from a 1973 magazine article (Peterson’s Complete Ford Book, 3rd Edition):
“Planned as a dual-use vehicle to fly long-distance travel and then operate as a conventional automobile for local surface travel, here’s how the Mizar works. Equipped with its pusher-type aircraft engine, the Mitzar airframe will be kept on telescopic supports at a convenient airport. You drive the AVE-modified Pinto to the hanger and back the car under the airframe. A self-aligning track incorporated into both units makes attachment an easy job that requires less than two minutes to complete.
Structural connections are made with self-locking high-strength pins in the structurally linked track assembly and wing support connections.
The last line in that description is worth special attention. For in late 1973, Smolinski and Blake climbed aboard the Mizar prototype one last time and powered up the engines. No one knows what went on in the cockpit of the Mizar as it rolled down the runway during takeoff. But what is known is that very shortly after they left the ground, the “self locking high-strength pins” gave way and the flying car developers found themselves driving through the Southern California sky in a suddenly wingless, and decidedly non-airworthy, Ford Pinto.
The tragic death of the two principal developers resulted in the end of the Mizar project. So, still, the world awaits the first practical flying car. But there is always another one looming on the horizon, ready to take off from the technology underground and fly into the big time.