Flying cars are typically something we see in science fiction films. Most people don’t know that shortly after the Wright brothers built the first flying vehicle in 1903, people were already picturing a future where cars zipped through the air.
In fact, the idea of flying machines can be traced all the way back to the great Renaissance man Leonardo Da Vinci, and his drawings of the “aerial screw,” a contraption which appears to be a crude prototype for the modern helicopter.
In America, the fascination with flying cars started with the 1921 “Tampier Avion-Automobile” model created by René Tampier.
He dreamed of a self-propelled aircraft which could be driven on a road or flown in the sky. But he only built two prototypes, neither of which ever made it to production.
In 1924, A.H. Russell of Nutley, New Jersey created a prototype with a front propeller.
His prototype never made it to production either. Other inventors dreamed of the combination of a car, boat, and airplane in 1928, long before such a vehicle would become the fascination of late 20th century spy movies.
In 1940, Jess Dixon threw his hat into the flying car ring, creating what looked more like a road-bound helicopter than a flying car. Powered by a forty-horsepower motor and controlled by foot pedals, Mr. Dixon’s car was supposed to be able to turn in midair and reach speeds of over 100 miles an hour. But like his predecessors, Dixon’s flying car never made it to production.
Since then, many have attempted similar prototypes, from Ted Hall’s NX59711 model in 1946 to the Fulton FA-2 Airphibian (same year), to the ConvAirCar Model 118 one year later in 1947. In all of these cases, only a few prototypes were ever built, and none of them made it to production. The same was true for the 1958 Piasecki AirGeep, of which seven prototypes were created, followed by Moulton Taylor’s Aerocar II in 1964.
Finally in 1971, a California company prototyped the AVE Mizar using a Cessna Skymaster welded to the top of a Ford Pinto.
The model almost made it to production two years later, but a failed trial destroyed people’s confidence in the project.
The right wing strut had broken off of the Pinto, causing the flying car to crash to the ground, along with any hopes of turning it into the world’s first flying car.
At the wheel, was AVE founder Henry Smolinski along with the AVE Vice President Harold Blake, both of whom were killed in the fiery crash. Since then, no one has managed to create a production-ready model of a flying car.
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Who knows, maybe Leonardo Da Vinci knew something we just haven’t figured out yet.