Think of the worst driver you know. Maybe it's the idiot texting while barreling down the highway like a one-man Mad Max murder convoy. Or, the dangerous dimwit who glides across three lanes of traffic to take an exit without breaking eye-contact with the horizon. Now, imagine them piloting the fabled flying car, alongside dozens of other flying cars. Suddenly, the accidents they cause on the ground today are the horrific plane crashes of tomorrow. Oh, look -- another shower of fiery debris and human limbs carpet-bombing an unsuspecting McDonald's/hospital/backyard barbecue!
That hasn't stopped people from thinking the flying car is always just around the corner -- prominent, noncrazy people, even, such as Henry Ford (who was technically sane, except for all the Jew-hating), who once said, "Mark my word: a combination airplane and motorcar is coming. You may smile, but it will come."
Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Henry "CARS WILL FLY STOP LAUGHING AT ME" Ford.
But, even Ford probably didn't think he would be proven right almost immediately after saying that, when an aeronautical engineer in San Diego named Ted Hall invented a fully functioning flying car -- in the 1940s.
Hall worked for Consolidated Aircraft Corporation (later Consolidated Vultee Aircraft Corporation, or Convair), an aircraft manufacturer that made everything from commercial airliners to fighter jets to bombers to NASA rockets. They designed and manufactured thousands of planes for the U.S. military's aerial effort during World War II. During the war, Hall came up with the idea for a new kind of plane to be used for special operations. It was a plane that could, say, land behind enemy lines like a flying Rambo, shed its wings like a termite, and then become a car like a freaking Transformer. He began development on a combination commando/insect/robot prototype in 1939, on his own, without the help or financial backing of Consolidated, who probably thought Ted should stop sniffing model glue and get back to work on planes that killed people thanks to bullets and bombs, not because of midair fender benders. But, after the war finished, Ted quit his job and dedicated his life to making a car fly.
Ted's flying car wasn't like the DeLorean in Back To The Future or anything in Blade Runner. The car and the plane sections weren't part of a solid whole. They were separate modular pieces. The idea was that you would drive around town in a weird looking three-wheeled car, failing to pick up any chicks, and when you wanted to fly, you would head over to the airport and attach a set of wings to the roof and a propeller to the hood. In Ted's long-term, extremely rose-tinted plans for mass distribution, customers would only own the car and would have to rent the wings at an airport.
San Diego Air and Space Museum Archive/flickr
"So, I'm buying a flying car without the flying part? Son, do you think I'm an idiot?"