When imagination and folly meet. 1913. Marcel Leyat’s Elicicle

  • 09 March 2020
  • 2 min read
  • 3 images
When imagination and folly meet. 1913. Marcel Leyat’s Elicicle image

Unveiled in 1913, the Elicicle had a simple and, in some ways, rational design. But the road was the wrong place for it!

This land vehicle built by engineer Marcel Leyat of Die, a town south of Grenoble, was perfectly tapered like a plane. Its aluminum body was mounted on a plywood frame. At the front it had a radial engine, of the type seen on aircraft, which drove a two-bladed propeller. Essentially a plane without wings, it was certainly an unusual vehicle to encounter on the road. Its real “selling point” was its simplicity: it had no organs of transmission, while a cable connected the steering wheel and the rear wheel. The tapered fuselage made the vehicle extremely streamlined. Its total weight was just 300 kg!

1-2 Unlimited imagination: a wooden propeller and a single rear wheel. Certainly not suitable for stability

But the vehicle also had plenty of flaws. The engine was situated in its upper part, raising its center of gravity considerably; meanwhile, the air created by the propeller certainly did nothing to enhance the comfort of the driver and passenger, and as for the noise! What is more, the smaller rear wheel made the entire vehicle rather unstable. It is not known whether the Elicicle had a reverse gear. In any case, it would not have taken much effort to roll it backwards by force!

2-1 The designs of the patent already show some evolutions: the protected propeller and the engine lowered to promote stability

Due to the outbreak of the First World War, the project was shelved, but it did not die. In fact, the paradoxical idea of the plane without wings was later taken up again and developed considerably, to the point of producing a record breaker. Indeed, in 1997, a British vehicle called Thrust SSC, equipped with two reactors, obtained the world land speed record, with an average speed of 1227.985 km/h. Faster than the speed of sound.

3 15 October 1997: the Thrust SSC reaches 1227.986 km/h