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This is Part 3 of the "Retro-Future" series. Read also parts 1 and 2

Jetsons will be shocked to see this

Among the fascinating concepts that appeared in the 1940s-60s magazines are some pretty good ones that could even prompt interest in modern designers and manufacturers. Other ideas, on the contrary, did not age well and may appear nuttier than a drunk hamster on a treadmill.

Regardless of their potential and practicality, these glorious glimpses into transportation's elusive future can speak to us on some deep level - whispering perhaps to forsake that lumbering sport-utility for a slim and mean aerocar, which will transport us in a blink of an eye to... alas, the same old strip mall for groceries.

Picked mostly from little-known Eastern Bloc publications, most of the concepts shown here are the product of socialist and communist research, often as unrealistic, as their leader's plans for global utopia.

Soviet-dreamed Giant Catamaran - Supertanker - Icebreaker Hybrid:
(with parts of some nuclear submarine thrown in for good measure)

(art by TM, Russia 1974)

Fantastic Avionics

Russian concept of the rotor-plane, 1960:

Soviets also proposed to stick together a bunch of big airplanes to make a REALLY huge one. Kind of like a Lego dream come true:

(art by TM, Russia 1966)

This American concept shows the ultimate helicopter:
(at least the largest we've seen drawn on paper)

(art by Radebaugh)

An interesting helicopter also can be found inside this issue of Startling Stories, 1940:

Ekranoplans & Hydrofoils

Ahhh... How can we not mention the "wing-in-ground-effect" liners? Russia was crazy about ekranoplans and hydrofoils for some time. Here is an ultimate replacement for a passenger airliner:
"The Glider" super hydrofoil, 1960

and a huge passenger/cargo ekranoplan:
(click to enlarge)

(art by TM, Russia 1965)

German version of water/highway transport system, more focused on personal transport:

(image credit: retro-futurismus.de)

Russian Spiral Vehicle

This is a vehicle that literally "screws around a lot" to get somewhere. Never mind the possibility of it being built (there was actually some talk about prototypes spotted in the Russian Army), the vehicle like this would need a lot of "personal space" while it moves. Nobody wants to end up wrapped around the spirals like some kind of spaghetti.

(art by TM, Russia 1961)

Spirals/ screws were popular in the US, too. Witness "The Sea Slug" -

Russian climbing robot personal vehicle. Good to climb the walls of your office building when late for work:

(art by TM, Russia 1970)

American Dream produced some dreamy vehicles

America saw a lot of big and powerful cars in the 50s-60s (see some of them here). But first, American Transportation Dream required a wide system of interstates across the country. Here is a vision of the robotic highway-making machine, which would only require a single operator (from 1943):

(images credit: Transportation Futuristics)

Beautiful supertruck, imagined by the US Royal Tires:
(I had a toy like this once)

(image credit: retro-futurismus.de)

Strangely sinister-looking atomic truck. Raw Nuclear Power!

Artists dreamed of futuristic cars, hurtling down the highway:

(art by Adragna for Amazing, Sept 1964)

(art by Devon Francis, The New York Times Magazine, 1959)

Meet the Jetsons! Futuristic version of "yabba-dabba-doo" in the sky:

(image credit: Plan59)

This aerocar concept from 1967 looks just like my old trusty barbeque in the backyard, complete with the burners.

(art by Popular Science, July 1957)

Note the bottom vehicle in this MAI Russian concept line-up from 1955. Seems like some ideas can float in the air... and across the ocean:

Flying car, according to the Soviet designers, 1967:

and American Modern Mechanix version, much earlier:

(image credit: blog.modernmechanix.com)

(art by Radebaugh)

Bizarre Offerings

True Rollerball! "Trade you trouble for a bubble"?!
(gets my vote for the dumbest ad one-liner):

(image credit: David Zondy)

Octagonal Wheeled Watercraft from 1935 issue of Popular Science:

Strange wheel placement:

(image credit: Plan59)

Goofy-looking Modern Mechanix sphere-wheeled vehicles:

Huge "navi-trucks" will traverse the Earth, according to this 1933 vision. They will be able to penetrate the hardest terrain - the ultimate off-road! And a biggest SUV to boot.

Flying saucers continue to pop up in the minds of designers, bringing with them little green ideas. This is a "Flying Saucer Bus":

(art by Science and Mechanics, December 1950)

Monorail Dreams

In some extreme cases, we'd rather say - "monorail hallucinations"... A concept proposed by Popular Science magazine for the World's Fair in 1939:
(cars, passengers all cozy up together inside a cage in the sky)

This (almost) got made: (almost) realistic proposal for rapid transit in Washington, D.C. by D.C. Transit System, Inc., 1959:

Elements of "shark fin" car design can be traced in this 1962 Goodell Monorail:

This monorail is... unhappy:

(art by Popular Science, July 1952)

Russian version, 1973:

Another Russian concept: "Monorail SuperTrain". Double size everything:

Click to enlarge:

(art by TM, Russia 1974)

German version of a similar Super-Train:

(image credit: retro-futurismus.de)

Urban tube train system. Looks good, but if it gets too complex, the maze of tunnels may suddenly snap into the 4th dimension. Read A. J. Deutsch's story "A Subway Called Moebius", where "the system becomes so tangled that it turns into a Moebius strip, and trains start to disappear":

Not a monorail, but a super-size train nevertheless:

(image credit: retro-futurismus.de)

Bohn Designs from 1947

Finally, a series of classic concept transportation images from Bohn - aluminum & brass company from Michigan.

(image credit: plan59)

Yet nothing beats this steampunk "Flying Steam Liner". It can single-handedly cause a global warming, we're sure:

(art by Michal Kwolek)

Sources: 1, 2, 3


This is also a part of the overall "Retro-Future" series. Read previous articles on retrofuture 1 and 2


Permanent Link...
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Anonymous Tangle said...

A flying barbeque, that's got to be my favorite. And the vehicles with the screws... personal space needed indeed.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

The first picture is not a tube train, but a rotary dumper for a bulk cargo ship (coal, iron ore). Similar to a rotary railcar dumper used today .

Blogger Avi Abrams said...

thanks, the pic is removed, I'm gonna use that pic for future boats post.

Anonymous Salamander said...

The Flying Steam Liner is a picture from Michal Kwolek

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Are you sure "The Glider" is an Ekranoplane? It looks more like a hydrofoil, as it doesn't appear to have any engines above the water and the legs are definitely going into the water.

Anonymous Jackson said...

(New) first pic is remarkably similar to modern "semi-submerged platform" ideas, though no current proposal I've heard of includes ice breaking.

...and apparently polar bears were in peril, even then...

Anonymous Cubi said...

The sowjets built a vehicle with screw drive: http://youtube.com/watch?v=afJ18eJeNgU

Blogger Strainu said...

Here are some spiral trucks (pics & movies): http://englishrussia.com/?p=1160

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Chrysler had a screw drive vehicle like the Popular Science cover,they showed it in their TV ads in the 60s.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Both the "largest helicopter" as well as the car credited to "Plan59" are actually by Radebaugh.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Something like Navi-Trucks was used by the US Army- the BARC-LARC 60. Essentially a self propelled 60 ton barge with wheels to drive on land-


Anonymous Anonymous said...

These people are working with Bell Helicopter.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Larger helicopters have been seriously proposed, though usually not as passenger transports. The Hiller Museum in San Carlos CA (south of SFO) has documents and a film from a (semi) serious proposal from Hiller to recover Saturn V booster stages in midair, using an enormous helicopter. I no longer recall the helicopter specs, but it was something like a 200 foot rotor turning at 10 RPM, with full-sized turbojet engines at the rotor tips.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

some very cool ideas for the future, but some very scary ones too, some even depicted women driving? whats all that about then ?

Blogger Eric said...

Where are the jet-packs I remember as a kid?

I just found this site and am loving it!

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi, The Bohn ship is very similar, probably a copy, from the Bel Geddes ocean liner project model (can be seen for exemple at http://davidszondy.com/future/Living/Bel%20Geddes%20Liner.jpg). Bel Geddes was among the first industrial designers, like Raymond Loewy, but mainly created dream products rather than actual products. But fantactic dream products !
Jean-Philippe B

Blogger Emily said...

is it just me, or is the sphere-wheeled motorcycle oddly reminiscent of batman's new motorcycle? without the glassed-in cab, of course.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

All this great concept art undoubtedly influenced movies and real architecture from 'Logan's Run' to the 'Batman' series and the Nationsbank tower in Atlanta. It makes one wonder how far off are our current conceptual projections of the future! Loads of fun!

Anonymous Victor Steerup said...

Super pictures, like the dvd I made for my computer club last year. But what about the Facination automobile, three that actually were built? Or the Elorca watercraft, that looks like you would need the Weiner Wagon to tow it?

Blogger Avi Abrams said...

Victor Steerup - we did feature Fascination car as part of our Aerodynamic Marvels article - but yes, it is indeed awesome.

Anonymous Blake said...

I don't get it none of these ideas actually came true and the ones we are thinking of now is just stupid.


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