“The Day After Tomorrow” by Flying Cars author Andrew Glass
When I came across an article in the New York Times about Molt Taylor’s 1949 Aerocar 1, a prototype for a peculiar-looking automobile, which could be easily converted to an airplane, first I wondered what sort of nut would seriously propose filling the skies with flying cars. Then I tore out the article and stashed it in my sketchbook. I imagined writing a brightly colored picture book about the heroic little car that defied gravity and common sense.
I found Jake Shultz, author of A Drive In the Clouds: The story of the Aerocar, on the Aerocar website and wrote to
him of my interest in flying cars. When we finally met at the Seattle Museum of Flight (My wife Joann and daughter Katherine and I were in Seattle for a wedding. Katherine, shown here in her stroller, is now entering middle school, so it’s been a journey), he kindly brought me a copy of an unlikely book titled An Airplane In Every Garage, self-published in 1958 by Daniel Zuck. Zuck makes the Cold War case for a practical flying family vehicle. So Molt wasn’t the only flying car inventor. Nor was he the first! I soon found a copy of From Wheels to Wings, a book of flying car patent applications by Palmer Stiles. Stiles’s chronology begins with “1906 Trajan Vuia tests flying auto near Paris France,” shown in the picture below.
Inventors began combining the futuristic possibilities of flimsy new flying machines with the day-to-day usefulness of sturdy horseless carriages to fly over the mucky, hazardous wagon trails that passed for highways at the beginning of the 20th century. Some historians even assert that Gus Whitehead drove, then successfully flew, a wheels-to-wings vehicle in Bridgeport, Connecticut, in 1901, two years before the Wright brothers ushered in the era of flight by motoring a few feet off the ground at Kitty Hawk,North Carolina.
Could the first motorized flying machine have been a flying car? What a story!
The grainy black and white photos of artfully constructed early prototypes seemed equally unbelievable. Levelheaded engineers criticized the hybrid contraptions, cobbled together from car and airplane parts, as dubious enterprises in which theory and practicality never crossed paths. They insisted that such hybrid vehicles would always be a poor compromise between a sturdy, roadworthy automobile and a streamlined, lightweight airplane. But the story I decided I wanted to tell was of the inspired nuts-and-bolts modern-age visionaries who responded to their critics’ practical concerns with ever more practical prototypes. Cars that can’t fly, they maintained, are the real compromise. Some of their contraptions never got off the ground or even off the drawing board. But other originals flew right to the verge of commercial success. What I loved, and inspired me about these inventors and their extraordinary inventions was how they exemplified in their functional shape and eccentric character the sort of audacity, or possibly a few loose screws, it takes to put conventional wisdom aside and make something wonderful. It’s the spark of imagination ignited when realism and imagination clash to create the day after tomorrow.”
About Andrew Glass:
Andrew Glass is the award-winning author and illustrator of more than sixty books for children. In his newest book, Flying Cars: The True Story, he offers a fascinating look at the airplane-car hybrids designed and built by dreamers, tinkerers, and engineers. Andrew lives with his family in New York City. For more information, visit his website at andrewglassbooks.com.