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Homepage. This page: An old photograph from the late 1940s, of the ConvairCar flying car in flight.

Convaircar 116/118.

At first glance I assumed this unidentified photo showed a model car/plane, perhaps something similar to the AMC Matador "flying car" in the 007 film The Man with the Golden Gun. But a check of the registration number, NX90850, confirmed that this, the Convaircar, was in fact a real creation, designed shortly after the war to fulfil a perceived need for a car that could be converted swiftly into an aeroplane.
The Convaircar in flight
The design of the Convair 116/118 was by a Theodore P. Hall (aerodynamicist) and Henry Dreyfuss (a designed of some note), with the build funded mainly by aircraft manufacturer Consolidated Vultee. The latter saw a real market opportunity in building a car/plane to be used by Joe Public on the daily commute. Perhaps garages in the US are regularly over 35ft wide, as they'd need to be to store the 34.5ft wide wing and tail unit of the Convaircar. The wing attachment incorporated a 190hp Lycoming aero engine, whereas the fibreglass-bodied car unit made do with a Crosley engine of 25.5hp mounted under the aerodynamic rear bodywork. Sparkling on-road performance was never going to happen, but at least the quoted 45mpg was quite impressive for the day. It was predicted that some 160,000 Convaircars would be ordered once full-scale production kicked in, optimistic figures perhaps but high sales would have been essential if Vultee had ever hoped to recoup the several hundred thousand dollars they'd poured into the prototype's creation. The suggested price for the car section was $1500, but accurate estimates for the cost of the airframe attachment seem hard to find.
The first flight of 1hr 18mins took place on November 1st, 1947 over San Diego, the brave chap at the controls being a one Reuben Snodgrass. Encouraging news reports about Mr Snodgrass' landmark flight seemed to pave the way for great success. Unfortunately, the wheels would soon fall off the Convaircar project, mainly thanks to an unfortunate crash landing of the prototype just a few days after the inaugural flight, due to fuel starvation. The wrecked car was beyond repair, but the wing and tail units were salvageable and later saw use again, with a second car slung beneath the wing. Period photographs show one light coloured car in flight, and others show a dark car, but which was the first I'm not sure as both flew using the same registration. By now public confidence in the Convaircar had also nosedived, and Consolidated Vultee pulled the plug on the scheme. The second Convaircar survived for some time, but was lost in a fire at the San Diego Air & Space Museum.
Vultee though weren't the only company experimenting with the flying car concept following WW2. There was the Arrow/Aerobile, and the Skycar, and perhaps best of the lot at the time, the Fulton Airphibian which even managed to impress the CAA enough to gain official certification. The latter was reminiscent of a "proper" aeroplane, the roadable car section looked very like the forward end of an aircraft fuselage, with faired-in landing gear protruding down from each of the four corners. But the complexity of the wing attachments, and the sluggish performance of the Airphibian both in the air and on terra firma, put paid to it ever being a viable transport alternative to the conventional car.
Below is a magazine article from 1948 featuring the ConvAirCar.
Magazine article from 1948 on the Convaircar
Return to Old Motoring Photos Page No. 9.
Also related to flying cars is a design for a model version of a similar vehicle that featured in a copy of Hobbies Weekly, in 1947. Details of the wooden model can be found on the Hobbies Weekly page, in the toys and models section.

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