For the past hundred years, we’ve been dreaming about flying cars. Transportation has come so far since the automobile’s invention that flying cars seem like a natural part of what life should be by now. Who hasn’t suffered rush hour traffic without imagining one’s vehicle zipping above the congested highways? Flying cars would be fun to drive. Flying cars would eliminate the hassle of finding a ride to and from the airport. But, unhappily, flying cars have yet to achieve ubiquity.
It’s not as if the automobile industry has lacked viable candidates for a mainstream f.c. We perused our archives to unearth a number of flying cars that we’d love to take for a spin.
In between the Wright brothers’ flight at Kitty Hawk and the rise of Henry Ford’s automobile factories, the first part of the 20th century became a milestone era in transportation. In 1917, aviation heavyweight Glenn Curtiss presented his Model T Ford-like Autoplane at the Pan-American Aeronautical Exposition held in New York. Although the vehicle only managed a few hops, Curtiss still earned a reputation as the father of the flying car. Then, in 1924, Captain Eddie Rickenbacker assured us that flying autos would become commonplace within the next two decades. So what happened?
Every decade thereafter saw the invention of a flying car. Many vehicles were labeled with catchy portmanteaus, like the “Airphibian” and “Aerobile,” and almost all were touted as the next big thing in personal transportation.
Despite their initial optimism, inventors and transportation companies alike balked at the cost of mass-producing flying cars. Perfecting the technology would require time and money, as early prototypes were so bulky that they couldn’t perform at optimal speed in either the air or on ground. Testing often proved dangerous, as people found when Henry Smolinksi died while test-flying his AVE Mizar. Factor in the need for wider roads, revised air traffic laws, and individual pilots’ licenses, and you can see why it might take longer than expected for roadable aircraft to take flight.
If we’re lucky, we’ll live to pimp our stratosphere-skimming rides with propellers and detachable wings. In the meantime, click through our gallery to see the winged tanks, flying jeeps, and other weirdly wonderful vehicles that never quite made it off the ground.
Eddie Rickenbacker’s Flying Autos: July 1924
Curtiss Autoplane: July 1927
Flying Tanks: July 1932
Waterman Arrowplane: May 1937
Windmill Autoplane: June 1935
Aerobile: December 1940
Post-War Family Car: November 1942
The Plane You’ll Fly After the War: March 1945
ConvAirCar: April 1946
The Airphibian: April 1946
Flying Jeep: May 1958