Space Age ‘levitation car,’ the Levacar Mach-1, thrilled Portland in 1961; ballyhoo proved short-lived


Billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk is famously hoping to remake transportation in the U.S. with self-driving autos and “hyperloop” trains.

But does this potentially wondrous commuter transformation match the transit dreams from 60 years back?

Acquire the Levacar — make sure you.

If you were all over in the early 1960s you could keep in mind the hoopla more than Ford Motor Co.’s “levitation car.”

The Levacar Mach-1, This 7 days magazine heralded in 1961, was the “car that hardly ever touches the street.” A “frictionless cushion” of forced air stored the strategy auto floating just above the floor. A turbo-jet motor would press it forward.

A operating miniature of the motor vehicle manufactured a splashy physical appearance at the Society of Automotive Engineers Convention, held in Portland a couple months before the This Week article was posted.

The Oregon Journal identified as the proposed motor vehicle “revolutionary.”

“Future Commuter May possibly Fly .012 Inches High,” the afternoon newspaper’s headline said.

A person variation of the Levacar was created as a new form of commuter rail procedure. The big automobile would have 400 or so travellers alongside a fastened route at up to 500 miles for each hour. Ford worked on the strategy with big railroad companies, which include the New York Central.

“Since substantial-velocity wheeled targeted traffic gets a issue at speeds of much more than 150 mph, scientists have had to glimpse somewhere else,” Ford’s vice president of engineering, Andrew Kucher, explained at the Portland convention.

“It may soon be viewed in these types of cities as Los Angeles, Chicago and other metropolitan facilities,” he included.

Us residents have generally beloved trains, but the Levacar model that definitely caught the Rose City conventioneers’ creativeness was a smaller solitary seater for a sole traveler’s use. It was type of like what Tv viewers before long would see in the animated collection “The Jetsons,” which premiered the next yr.

Kucher, who experienced expended 20 a long time working on the principle, said he envisioned the Levacar to be in broad use by the yr 2000.

“All the mechanical kinks have been ironed out and we are now heading into the financial aspect of it,” he insisted.

Eventually, the economics didn’t operate — or maybe a lot more mechanical kinks cropped up. By the center of the 1960s, Ford had stopped conversing about the Levacar.

“The wheel is too fantastic a implies of guiding autos,” claimed E.H. Holmes, scheduling director for the U.S. Community Streets Administration.

In 1961, The Oregon Journal experienced claimed the Levacar was groundbreaking. Four a long time afterwards, its automotive author, Peter Thompson, backtracked.

“When it arrives to speculating about potential kinds of mass transit,” Thompson wrote, “it’s really hard to individual the crackpots from the industry experts.”

— Douglas Perry, [email protected]


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