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Entries in cars (48)


Flying Family Car (1958)

The November 30, 1958 edition of This Week magazine ran this illustration of the flying family car. The image accompanied a larger piece about Army vehicles of the future. Best thing about the article? It promised that this flying car could be a reality within two years.

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Motor Car of the Future (1918)

The March 10, 1918 Oakland Tribune (Oakland, CA) ran this illustration of the motor car of the future. If so inclined, one can read the entire article here. But let's face it, you're just here for the pretty pictures.

The new car will be all glass-enclosed and controlled entirely by a set of push buttons. It will have no clutch, gears or transmission, will sit low, have small clearance and punctureless tires.

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Inventors Die Testing "Flying Pinto" (1973)

Remember a few months back when I made a joke about how dangerous a flying Ford Pinto would be? Well, in 1973 two inventors actually tried to create such a flying vehicle, and died while testing it. The article from the September 12, 1973 Press-Telegram (Long Beach, CA) is below.

Known as "the flying Pinto," a combination of a Ford Pinto auto and Cessna airplane, the prototype plunged to earth about a mile from Ventura County Airport late Tuesday afternoon.

Killed were Henry A. Smolinski, 40, Santa Susana, and Harold Blake, 40, Los Angeles. They were the founders and top two officers of Advanced Vehicle Engineers, launched at Van Nuys in 1968.

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Chrysler VP Predicts Solar-Powered Cars (1958)

The current crisis in the American auto industry has led to louder (though long-standing) charges that it did not do enough to produce fuel-efficient vehicles using cutting-edge automotive technologies. Given Chrysler's bankruptcy filing, and recent sale to Fiat, it seems appropriate that we look at what the auto industry was telling the American public about the future of cars 50 years ago.

This February 9, 1958 edition of the sunday strip Closer Than We Think by Arthur Radebaugh quotes James C. Zeder, a Chrysler vice-president. Mr. Zeder predicted that in the years ahead solar-powered cars would be feasible and that the expanding knowledge of nuclear and solar energy would bring more abundant power to people everywhere. The full text of the strip appears below. As always, thanks to Tom Z. for the color version of this panel.

Detroit, Feb. 7 -- The automobile industry may be producing cars driven by solar power in the years ahead, James C. Zeder, Chrysler vice-president, predicted today.

"We know how to get electrical energy from sunlight by means of silicon converters," said the Chrysler engineering expert. "If we continue to increase the efficiency of these converters, and if we are able to develop small, efficient energy storage cells solar powered cars will be feasible."

Zeder added that expanding knowledge of nuclear and solar energy is "bringing into sight" more abundant power for people everywhere.


Tomorrow the sunmobile may replace the automobile. The power of bottled sunshine will propel it. Your solar sedan will take energy from sunrays and store it in accumulators that work like a battery. This power will drive your car just like gasoline does today.

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"Aerocar" Hits the Road (1950)

The April 25, 1950 Yuma Daily Sun (Yuma, AZ) ran this picture of Moulton Taylor's "Aerocar" which could be converted into an airship "even by a woman, without soiling her gloves." So easy, a woman could do it!

"AEROCAR" HITS THE ROAD - With its wings folded back against the fuselage, his flying auto is ready to cruise down the highway at 50 miles an hour. According to its Longview, Calif., designer, the airship can be converted to the auto "even by a woman, without soiling her gloves."

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General Motors Trucks of the Future (1982)

In 1982-83 Geoff Lawson created these concept paintings for General Motors. Stumbling upon great pieces of transportation futurism from the past certainly makes me wonder if a current lack of imagination is what has doomed the American auto industry. (via BigLorryBlog)

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The future of commuting took a left turn (2009)

Gordon Dickson wrote a piece in the February 15, 2009 issue of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram about the Paleo-Future blog:

In popular culture, paleofuture refers to the study of what people in the past thought we’d be doing today — flying in cars, eating entire meals in a pill, submitting to self-aware robots.

One clearinghouse for information on the subject, including news clips, movies and other material, is It’s a blog that was started two years ago by Matt Novak of St. Paul, Minn.

In a phone interview last week, Novak, 25, said he was inspired by a childhood visit to Walt Disney’s Epcot Center. "As a kid, I remember thinking these visions of the future were already outdated," he said.

Even so, he was drawn to the optimistic view of many forecasters. "There seemed to be a sincerity there that we may not have anymore about visions of the future," he said.

Visitors to may be surprised to learn that futurists in the late 19th and early 20th centuries accurately predicted ready-cooked meals, cellphones, and even e-mail and online shopping.

A 1900 Ladies Home Journal article correctly forecast that "hot or cold air will be turned on by spigots to regulate the temperature of a house."

But the same article missed the mark on transportation, projecting that by 2000: "There will be no street cars in our large cities. All hurry traffic will be below or high above ground when brought within city limits. It will be confined to broad subways or tunnels . . . or to high trestles with moving sidewalk stairways leading to the top. Cities therefore will be free from all noises."

It was a common mistake. In dozens of articles, the conventional wisdom through the ’50s was that driving in the future would be a happy experience. Highways would be wide open and safe.

How could so many soothsayers be so wrong?

Novak, a marketing guy by trade, figures that prognosticators didn’t understand the consequences of building a car-dependent, oil-addicted society. It wasn’t clear to them that traffic could get so bad and that the cost of construction could rise so quickly that we couldn’t build our way out.

Novak’s own view of the future, at least as it applies to transportation, isn’t so cheery.

"I don’t make predictions, after being absorbed in this world where so many predictions were wrong," he said. "But I dare predict that until I die I will be driving a car or a vehicle operated by fossil fuels."

I tend to think Novak’s wrong. My hunch is that desperation will breed innovation and that a better way to commute will soon emerge and make the 21st century more like that fun, zippy place our ancestors dreamed about.

But I could be wrong.

Either way, if this column gets posted on apaleofutureblog and you’re reading this in 2049, feel free to post a comment below.

Previously on Paleo-Future: