Back to the Future: Your 'personal transportation vehicle'

  • Article by: RANDY A. SALAS , Star Tribune
  • Updated: February 22, 2008 - 5:35 PM
Here are examples of how dreamers of the past envisioned real and fictional cars of the future. Some of their ideas might seem outlandish, but as David Szondy of the retro-future website Tales of Future Past noted: "You've got to be willing to get egg on your face, or you're never going to get anywhere."

º 1917 • Curtiss Autoplane

The first of many concepts for a flying car looks like the front of a pickup connected to the back of a plane -- but navigating traffic with its 40-foot wingspan is a bear.

1933 • Dymaxion Car

Inventor Buckminster Fuller's teardrop-shaped three-wheeler is 20 feet long but light, fuel- efficient and inherently aerodynamic.

1950 • Rover JET 1

The first gas turbine-powered car -- based on the then-modern jet engine -- is fast, but it guzzles fuel and suffers from sluggish steering.

º 1958 • GM Firebird III

Concept car godfather Harley Earl's jetlike automobile boasts realistic future features such as hands-free navigation, rear-mounted cameras (to replace mirrors) and joystick steering.

º 1958 • Simca Fulgur, Ford Nucleon

Nuclear power is the driving force behind these Atomic Age wonders. The French-conceived Fulgur shown here even features radar -- maybe to detect all of those flying cars.

1959 • Ford Levacar

Who needs wheels? This miniature vehicle floats on a cushion of air, the precursor to decades-long quests to create a hovercar.

1977 • "Star Wars"

Luke Skywalker's X-34 landspeeder uses three thrusters and antigravity technology to cruise above the ground.

º 1982 • "Blade Runner"

The spinners of the cult classic switch easily between driving and flying thanks to a combination of an internal-combustion engine, jets and antigravity power.

1985 • "Back to the Future"

The De Lorean DMC-12 is ahead of its time in 1981, but it really takes off as a time machine thanks to a nuclear-powered flux capacitor.

º 2002 • "Minority Report"

In 2054, cars clean themselves, change color at the owner's whim and drive automatically in heavy traffic. "It's a credible future," Szondy says.


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