A brief history of the… Flying car

Henry Dreyfuss’s ConvAirCar.
Image credit: Getty Images
Date:1 January 2013 Tags:, ,

The dream and promise of the flying car is more than a century old. So why aren’t we all zipping around in one? We look to the past for clues. By Phil Berg

Jules Verne’s Master of the World features the Terror – a boat, car, and aircraft that “dart(s) through space with a speed… superior to that of the largest birds”.

The Model 11 Autoplane debuts at New York’s Pan-American Aeronautic Exposition. No record that it flew exists.


The Tampier Roadable biplane lands at the Paris Air Salon and takes a 2-hour, 25-km/h drive in the city.

Robert A Heinlein’s For Us, The Living: A Comedy of Customs includes ovoid flying vehicles with wings and helicopter rotors.

Henry Dreyfuss’s ConvAirCar – a glass fibre-bodied automobile with a wing-and-propeller module attached to the roof – crashes during a test flight. The fatal wreck also kills the car’s prospects for production.

Leland Bryan of Buick flies his Autoplane, which is powered by a rear propeller while driving and flying. Bryan dies in 1974 when he crashes a version of it at an air show.

Henry Smolinski mates a Ford Pinto with a Cessna Skymaster – and dies in a test-flight crash along with pilot Harold Blake.

In the dystopian film Blade Runner, oppressive police patrol aloft in vehicles called Spinners.

PopMech gives a Breakthrough Award to the Maverick, a flying dune buggy that delivers medicine to remote areas.

The first flight of the M400X Skycar is scuttled; it’s another­ miscue by inventor Paul Moller, who has been trying to get a car airborne since the 1970s.

The Terrafugia Transition “street legal” plane completes its first test flight in upstate New York.

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* Video: The successful flight test of the Terrafugia Transition in June 2012