- Written by webmin
On a suggestion from one of our readers, I picked up Richard Schweid’s 2004 book on 1950s cars in Cuba, “Che’s Chevrolet, Fidel’s Oldsmobile: On the Road in Cuba.” While I didn’t find exactly what I was looking for in the book, I did come across a couple other tidbits worth mentioning.
One of them dealt with the 1959 Havana International Auto Show, the first and only international auto show to take place in Cuba. Schweid noted that manufacturers from the United States, France, England, Spain, Germany, Sweden and Czechoslovakia attended the show and that more than 250,000 people took it in, making the three-week-long show a success.
There was something else too. Schweid wrote:
One of the star attractions of the show was a car that converted to an airplane, built by a Massachusetts company. It was driven from New England down to Key West, Florida, from whence it flew to Havana for the auto show. It covered the ninety miles in eighty minutes, which included “several” minutes circling low over Havana before landing, during which “thousands of persons could not believe their eyes,” according to the Diario de la Marina.
The article in Automotive World reported that the aeromobile could attain heights of 12,000 feet and go a hundred miles an hour. Its propeller was mounted in the rear, the wings folded up inside of less than five minutes, and there was room for four passengers. The article was accompanied by a photograph of a smiling U.S. ambassador, Philip Bonsal, sitting behind the wheel of the pod-shaped prototype.
So which flying car was it that made it to the Havana auto show? It certainly wasn’t the Skroback. I checked our SIA article on flying cars, but it lists none from Massachusetts and only a couple specifically from the late 1950s – same for the Roadable Times’s listing of flying cars. As well, trying to find any sort of reference on the 1959 Havana Auto Show is next to impossible – it seems the newspapers at the time just didn’t give it much coverage.
However, I did find mention in the January 11, 1959, edition of the Miami News of the Aerocar appearing at the International Foreign and Sports Car Show early that year. If that’s the same Aerocar that Molt Taylor built, then we see that Taylor did continue building experimental flying cars at least into the 1970s, and his flying cars were indeed of the pusher type. It doesn’t prove that it’s the same flying car that buzzed Havana (Taylor hailed from Washington state, not Massachusetts), but it does prove that Taylor was exhibiting his Aerocar at about the same time.
Of course, the possibility exists that it was an unaccounted-for flying car that made the trip to Havana. Can anybody help solve this mystery?
UPDATE (18.March 2010): Thanks to Marilyn Stine below, we have an answer. Indeed, it was an Aerocar that flew to the 1959 Havana International Auto Show, as chronicled in Jake Schultz’s book, “A Drive in the Clouds: The Story of the Aerocar.” The Massachusetts part of the mystery comes from the exhibition of the Aerocar not by Molt Taylor, but by Aerocar buyer/dealer Thomas Weitbrecht.