Hovercar Speed Record!


In 1960, a "ground effects vehicle" set a new speed record. Fifty-five miles per hour! With a tailwind! Woooo!

Let's read about the impressive feat.

55mph, with the wind at your back. The little article is brief, and doesn't mention what kind of record was set that day. Was it the fastest this particular hovercar ever went? The fastest speed achieved by ANY hovercar at the time?

What we can tell from the photo is that the speed test was run at what looks like an airfield or something. They always do this sort of thing way out in the open, like the Bonneville salt flats, just in case something goes wrong and they set the "fastest cartwheeling air car" speed record. Hey, fame is fame, right? A ground effects vehicle will need loads of room, especially at speeds greater than walking pace. I'd imagine that riding in a hovercar at 55 is a bit like being in free fall, but with less control over your direction and speed.

Next to wondering "Where's my damn flying car?" is the slightly more reasonable question "Where's my darn hovercar?", and well might you wonder. After all, here we are in The Future, and your pocket phoneputer is much larger than the one you had eight years ago. That's progress, right? You should feel entitled to expect to see a hovercar in your hovergarage.

Well, you don't want one. Hovercraft are fantastically loud, wildly inefficient, and take as long to stop as they do getting up to speed. They have wonderfully low friction with the ground, which sounds exciting, until you remember that a lot of the time, you like a little friction. This is also called "grip". You enjoy grip every time you turn your car without plowing through a grammar school. Grip is your friend. Hovercraft do everything with thrust vectoring. Going, stopping, turning, not dying. All of it is done by blowing around great wads of air, which, you will recall, is pretty light, squishy and blowy - not at all like a nice sticky tire with some weight over it.

Please enjoy Noted Captivating Oaf Jeremy Clarkson driving a Russian hovercraft. Of special note is the amount of time he spends sliding sideways, desperately whirling the steering wheel around, hoping to have some effect on the direction of travel.

Only slightly less amusing and massively more informative is this video from Tom Scott (whose channel I have just subscribed to) on why hovercraft more or less failed to take off (heh). Notice how hard it is for him to make himself heard at the distance of one arm's length from his phone, relative to the cataclysmic bellow of the hovercraft. Also note that The English are the best explainers, story tellers, and documentarians... in the wurld!

There's better ways to get around, mate. Enjoy your motorcar. Here's more video of Clarkson making himself killed using an hovercraft. Please to enjoy it, along with your car.

Click for big.


Mat Black said...

I miss Lyle Lanley, Lionel Hutz & Troy McClure.

Peter Lehndorff said...

I wonder why they tried to make it look like a 64 T-Bird. At least it had headlights for night time safety.

Steve Miller said...

This would have been about the tail-end of Curtiss-Wright's 3-year management contract of Studebaker. Coincidentally, C-W also commissioned an engineering study (including prototype) of a rear-engined Lark...

Claus Valca said...

RE: "What we can tell from the photo is that the speed test was run at what looks like an airfield or something."

From the elite (bored) research team at GSD, it looks like the event was held at the Daytona Motor Speedway.

Submitted as evidence, here follows an additional moving still pictures link for your post if interested showing the vehicle in the picture in action...and that building in the background. Video bonus near the end is a pre Bay Watch glamour shot of a "lifeguard" posing next to the car.


More history and links here.

Exploring the Failed Curtiss-Wright Air Cars - Web Originals

The 1959 Curtiss-Wright Model 2500 Air-Car | The Old Motor


Claus V.

PhilAreGo@gmail.com said...

We all miss Lyle, Lionel, and Troy. I remember them from such shows as "The Simpsons, when it was funny".

PhilAreGo@gmail.com said...

Thanks for the Critical Infodump, Claus! We had no idea where the location was. Well found! Whatever we're paying you, we oughta double it! Thanks for commenting!


PhilAreGo@gmail.com said...

As always, good solid info from Steve Miller! Dontcha go changin'!


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