Aerocar (Taylor) Model III
The AEROCAR was the brainchild of Innovative designer / builder Molton 'Molt' Taylor, founder of AEROCAR Incorporated of Longview, Washington, U.S.A. His idea was to have an aircraft that could be easily converted by one man into a usable road-going car in a matter of minutes. The wings and fuselage would be in a detachable 'package' that could either be folded and towed behind the car, locked safely away in a garage, or parked at the airport until it was needed.
The last AEROCAR to be built was the Model III. From the start, Molt Taylor was aware that the road-going car component was going to be the cause of most of the problems that would be met in the future. The ever changing styling of the American motorcar, plus meeting the very strict American safety laws that seemed to increase the weight of the vehicle with each new idea, meant constant monitoring of the situation at all times. In a move that would considerably reduce the build-time of the updated design, Taylor decided to buy back one of his early Model I's that had been involved in an accident. The flying component would be little changed visually from the tried and proven original.
Most of the AEROCAR's were well documented and their history known, but this could possibly have been the pre-production prototype (N4345F), which seems to be very light on available information. It had become very obvious that the car portion of the AEROCAR Model I's, although successful in every way, had very out-dated looks and would require far more than just a face-lift to bring them into line with current trends. This prompted Taylor into producing a completely new car with a much improved shape and interior, although it still had to be compatible with the detachable flying portion. The result wasn't up to the standard that he wanted, but it looked as good as many other small cars of the time and performed better than previous AEROCAR's, both on the ground and in the air.
The jump from Model I to Model III caused much confusion because there weren't any details of a Model II available. But the confusion came about because Taylor had adopted several of the revolutionary ideas from his AEROCAR Model I into the designs of various self-build aircraft that the company was producing. He had called them 'AEROCAR / AERO-PLANE's' because although they were not road-going, the flight component was taken from that used on the AEROCAR. In a strange, but logical way, these aircraft soon became referred to as AEROCAR II / AERO-PLANE's and for that reason, Taylor called his new flying car the AEROCAR III. The new car component is completely different from its predecessor both in design and mechanically. It's all new all enveloping fibreglass body bears more than a passing resemblence to the Jaguar 'E'-type saloon but in a smaller, stubbier way. The high divided windscreen has dual washers, 2 speed wipers and twin defrosters on the inside. Both doors have hidden hinges and safety locks and are fitted with wind down windows. They also have large interior door pockets and armrests. Between the seats is a console that carries the gear lever, an ashtray and a dual armrest. A foam padded dashboard with walnut inlay, has a large square hooded instrument panel with recessed dials and switches set directly in front of the left-hand mounted walnut rimmed steering wheel. Two comfortable bucket seats are fitted and there is a much improved heating and ventilating system. The fluid drive, 2 speed, plus reverse gearbox drives the front wheels through a 'torque-loc' differential. Disc brakes on the front wheels automatically disengage when the fuselage / wings are attached allowing the use of the rear wheels only when taking off or landing. Power comes from a Lycoming 0-320 engine (de-rated to 143hp) as used on the AEROCAR Model I. The 12 Volt electrical system has been substantially revised and the fuel tank has been increased to 32 gallons capacity, giving a range of 500 miles. On the road, the cruising speed is 60 mph at 15 mpg. In the air, the cruising speed is 135 mph at 8 gph.
A new feature is the electrically operated, three position retractable wheels:
1. Fully extended for take-off, landing and for attaching or removing the flying component.
2. Partially retracted for normal road use.
3. Fully retracted for flying to reduce drag.
The landing gear has independent torsion bar suspension with hydraulic shock absorbers.
The flying component is basically as the original assembly, but has revised folding geometry. All rivets are flush fitting and the strut fixing points have been streamlined to reduce drag. For the same reason, the fit of the aircraft component to the rear of the car has been given considerable attention. Extending the propeller further out has cut down the noise and improved the
propeller efficiency and the long drive shaft has been fitted with rubber dampeners. A new towing system is fitted.
The AEROCAR Model III was first flown in June 1968. Registration number N100D has been given to this, the only Model III built. Despite suffering two strokes, Taylor started work on an even more revolutionary AEROCAR Model IV was to use a Geo Metro as the car component. (Note! the Geo Metro was the American export version of the Suzuki Swift). Unfortunately, the AEROCAR, successful as it was, never made quantity production. Only five flying cars were built and all exist, either in the hands of private collectors or in aviation museums in America. This one is painted red with silver wings and fuselage and is on show in the Museum of Flight, Seattle, U.S.A.
After being accepted into the Hall of Fame by the EAA (Experimental Amateur built Aircraft), Molt Taylor suffered his third and fatal stroke and died in November 1995 aged 82 years.