ConvAirCar, a car with wings

The phenomenon of ‘the flying car’ is quite a broad topic. After all, over the years there have been countless attempts by established and less established names to market the concept. There are quite a few breaking points, of which the cost and complexity are in fact the main obstacles. A flying car is only for the happy few and even if you have a hefty bag of cash, you still need to get a pilot’s license to operate the car safely. In addition, you can of course not take off and land at will. The dream picture sketched above of taking off in a traffic jam would degenerate into total chaos when several flying cars appear on the road.

As mentioned, there have been many attempts to give the car wings. Shortly after the Second World War, the American aircraft manufacturer Convair, later best known for its military aircraft and missiles, decided to get started with the idea of ​​​​the flying car. Designer Ted Hall was in charge of the project. The Convair Model 116 was the aircraft manufacturer’s first attempt. Another name for the creation was ConvAirCar, a nice contraction of ‘Convair’ and ‘Air Car’. The Model 116 was a two-seater that tapered towards the rear. The car stood on four small airplane wheels, but the whole thing was still clearly recognizable and usable as a car. Only the lighting shone on the 116 in its absence. In the back was an air-cooled 26 horsepower Crosley engine to power the wheels.

The Convair Model 116 at an airport.

Of course, the Model 116 really stood out from any other car on the road because of the wings and tail that sit on top of it. In that part was a second engine from the Franklin Aviation Company, which drove the propeller at the front. That power source was initially good for 90 hp, later that became 95 hp. By disconnecting the wings and the separate engines, the Model 116 could simply be used as a car. That principle may remind movie buffs of the flying AMC Matador from the Bond film ‘The Man with the Golden Gun’. The Model 116 was intended as a prototype and made its maiden flight on July 12, 1946. In total, the Model 116 flew 66 times before the more developed Model 118 took its place.

Further development

Where the Model 116 had no lighting, the Model 118 did have two round headlights. The rear of the Model 118 also ran a little further and the car looked a bit more streamlined than its predecessor. Also important: the Model 118 was a lot more usable thanks to its four seats. The 118 was built on the same principle as the 116, with a detachable top section. In that upper part, however, there was now a 190 hp aircraft engine. The Model 118 was therefore able to reach a top speed of 201 km/h in the air, 22 km/h faster than the 116 could fly maximum.

Flying car

The further developed Model 118 in the air.

Corvair had ambitious plans for the Model 118. The flying car was to be priced at $1,500 and a production number of 160,000 was planned. Quite a number, partly due to the fact that Corvair thought the 118 would be bought en masse to rent out at airports. The winged car never came to the production stage. During a demonstration flight on November 18, 1947, the first prototype of the 118 had to make an emergency landing because it ran out of fuel. The pilot escaped with minor injuries, but the hard landing had reduced the body of the 118 to scrap. He had checked for sufficient fuel before take-off, but he was looking at the fuel gauge of the car, not that of the plane. A silly and costly mistake.

After the incident, Corvair built a second prototype, but that proved futile. Enthusiasm for the project was waning and people no longer saw any value in it. On January 29, 1948, the second prototype made its last flight.


The idea of ​​the flying car is still around in car land. PAL-V, a Dutch company, seems quite advanced in the development of its flying car: the Liberty (photo 4). That car is now allowed on the road and PAL-V expects to receive approval for the airspace next year. In addition, Toyota (photo 5), Hyundai (photo 6) and Cadillac (photo 7) have also started working on this idea. What the car manufacturers are concocting, however, are not flying cars in the traditional sense of the word, but VTOLs: short for Vertical Take-Off and Landing. In fact, these are more or less drones that can transport people: individual transport in the air. That vision of the future may soon become reality, because Hyundai wants to have its first flying machine ready by 2025.

Source: AutoWeek by

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