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Airplane collector Greg Herrick is selling a 1954 Taylor Aerocar for $1.25 million.

Bruce Bisping, Star Tribune

Sky's the limit for 1954 flying car

  • Article by: JEFF STRICKLER
  • Star Tribune
  • July 20, 2012 - 2:59 PM

When "The Jetsons" introduced us to flying cars, we all assumed that we'd have one by the time the 21st century rolled around. You still can have one, but you'll need $1.25 million. And, while you're at it, you're also going to need both a driver's license and a pilot's license, as well as both car and airplane insurance.

Oh, and you'll need to learn a trick in order to land it.

Twin Cities airplane collector Greg Herrick has put his 1954 Taylor Aerocar up for sale. It's one of only five that are still operational, and three of them are in museums. Only this one and one other are in private hands. (That one also is for sale, with an asking price of $2.2 million.)

Herrick bought it in the 1990s when he was collecting planes that represented major turning points in technology or society.

"This is part of a different era," he said. "The vehicle -- I call it that because I'm not sure if it's a car or a plane -- represents a time when society believed that anything was possible. 'You want a flying car? Hey, we can make that happen.'"

He's selling the Aerocar, which is stored in the Golden Wings Museum's hangar at the Anoka County-Blaine Airport, because he wants to refocus his collection on planes from the 1920s and '30s. In fact, the money from the sale is earmarked for the restoration of a 1929 amphibious biplane.

The Aerocar, the creation of aeronautical engineer Molt Taylor, never went into production. All of the existing versions were prototypes. Herrick owns the second one Taylor made.

When it's used as a car, the wings and fuselage come off and are towed behind it on a trailer. While that brings to mind images of the cars tooling down Lake Street dragging their wings behind them, Herrick doesn't think that's what Taylor had in mind.

"I think he was thinking more of flying into an airport, taking off the wings and storing them at the airport while you used the car," he said. "The trailer is not designed for towing any distances."

Although Taylor claimed that the car-to-plane conversion could be done in as little as five minutes "by a woman in a fur coat with high heels on," Herrick figures that it takes closer to an hour, even in sensible shoes. He also questions marketing claims that the plane can take off at 55 miles per hour and reach a cruising speed of 110 mph.

"It takes off at 80, it cruises at 80 and it lands at 80," he said. "You pretty much do everything at 80."

The steering wheel used for the car becomes the stick used for the plane, creating a tricky transition during landing. A pilot landing in a crosswind typically lowers the wing that faces the wind, Herrick explained. That's accomplished on the Aerocar by turning the steering wheel toward the wind.

"Except that also turns the front wheels that direction," he said. "You have to land on the back wheels and then yank the steering wheel straight before the front wheels hit the ground or you're going to make a sharp turn right into the weeds."

Despite those challenges, Herrick's Aerocar has logged a surprising number of flight hours.

"It's got 781 hours on it, which is a lot for amateur pilots," he said. It also has 15,254 miles on the car odometer. Because it has an airplane engine that requires aviation gas, the drivers likely didn't stray far from airports.

Herrick put his initial sale announcement on websites aimed at car collectors.

"I think a car collector is more likely to buy it," he said. "These days, plane collectors are more into warbirds [historic military aircraft]. I don't know; maybe a plane collector will want it. But car collectors are more interested in unusual stuff, and this certainly is unusual."

Whoever buys it, they have plenty of options in terms of getting it home. "It's in drive-away and fly-away condition," he said.

Jeff Strickler • 612-673-7392

Vintage newsreel about the Aerocar:

 

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