- Written by webmin
We previously encountered Richard Harp and his Jetmobile a couple years ago in a collection of photos sent to us by a reader, so we weren’t too surprised to come across Richard and his three-wheeler again in (and on the cover of) the May 1952 issue of Mechanix Illustrated. But it looks a little different here: The windscreen’s smaller, more jet-like (as opposed to the UFO-like windscreen in the other picture), and the grilles to the rear-mounted engine don’t appear as tall and narrow as in the other picture.
With a little bit of digging, we see why. The Mechanix Illustrated photos were taken right around the time of the Jetmobile’s debut, at an auto show in Washington, D.C., not terribly far from Harp’s home in Boonsboro, Maryland (this configuration is also seen in a briefer piece about the Jetmobile in the March 1952 issue of Popular Science). According to a widely distributed article following the Jetmobile’s display at the New York Auto Show in early April 1952, the first incarnation of the Jetmobile – as seen in the Mechanix Illustrated article – was destroyed by fire after the D.C. auto show. Harp, with help from his friends, was able to rebuild the Jetmobile into its second incarnation (as also seen in the June 1952 issue of Popular Mechanics), which earned him more exposure. The discrepancy regarding the May publication date of the Mechanix Illustrated article can probably be chalked up to either long lead times or to MI’s editor at the time, Bill Parker, sitting on the story for a few months.
The Jetmobile very well may have burned down again or disappeared altogether – we see no mention of it at all after April 1952.
UPDATE: Geoff Hacker supplied a couple more photos of the Jetmobile, included in the gallery above, along with some additional information. It appeared for sale in the September 1955 issue of Motor Trend, fitted with the V8-60 and Hydra-Matic; the picture accompanying the ad shows it in the second configuration. Richard Harp was selling it (for $4,500 with trailer), but listed his address as Myersville, Maryland.
On the back of the sepia-toned photo above is listed the following information:
THREE-WHEEL SPECIAL – Powered by rear mounted Ford V8-60, chain drive to Willys rear axle. Olds juice drive is used. Airplane fuel tanks form body with cycle spring at front. Featured in Yugoslavia Exhibit by U.S. Government. OWNER: Frank J. Dallago, Hagerstown, Md.
with the note that the photo comes courtesy International Championship Auto Shows. Presumably, this dates from after 1955 and in advance of some sort of show, but what show? Also note the closing up of the forward headlamp and yet another cockpit/canopy configuration.
The scan from the July 1952 issue of Auto Sport Review just adds more confusion to the tale. The Jetmobile is in its second configuration, as it would be for the 1952 New York Auto Show, but the caption notes that it still has an aircraft engine (we’re presuming it switched from Lycoming to Ford power at the time of the fire).