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Tired of the commute? All you need is $3.5 million
Seattle Times staff reporter
Because only five of them were made, and two are in museums, Marilyn Felling believes the $3.5 million she is asking for her Aerocar will attract a buyer.
At least it will attract attention.
The Aerocar, a contraption that is both car and airplane, was designed by Longview engineer Moulton Taylor nearly 60 years ago. Taylor's goal was to mass-produce the hybrids and sell them for around $14,000 each.
"It has the most colorful history of all the Aerocars and is in very good original condition," said Felling, who lives in Grand Junction, Colo., and has owned it for 25 years.
And for most of those years, it's been kept in a garage.
Felling said she is reluctantly selling hers as part of a divorce settlement.
Taylor, a former Navy pilot and missiles engineer, began building the odd-looking vehicle in the 1940s. The car is boxy, with detachable wings and engines on the back.
One is on display at Seattle's Museum of Flight. Another, the very first Aerocar, is in the Experimental Aircraft Museum in Oshkosh, Wis. Aerocars also are owned by a man in Colorado and another in Wyoming.
One appeared at the Expo '86 World's Fair in Vancouver, B.C. Another was flown by a Portland radio station as a traffic-watch plane. One was purchased by the owner of a Chicago hamburger chain, whose sons drove it to school every day, and another was bought by actor Bob Cummings and appeared in his television show.
"Molt Taylor often said that his Aerocar was the only plane that can drive to the store," said Jake Schultz, a technical analyst with Boeing who just wrote a book on the Aerocar, "A Drive in the Clouds."
Felling, a car enthusiast and collector, said she fell in love with the Aerocar when she saw it on the Cummings show. She thought she and her husband, a pilot, would restore it and fly it, but that never happened. The Aerocar's Northwest roots are the reason she's trying to sell it in Seattle.
The first Aerocar flew in 1950 in Longview. In 1956, it was approved by the then-Civil Aeronautics Administration, now the FAA.
The one in the Museum of Flight was damaged in a 1960s car accident. Taylor took it back and fixed it, and his widow sold it to the museum in 1998.
In a 1958 interview, Taylor explained why he'd quit his job with military laboratories to build the Aerocar.
"I just decided not to spend the rest of my life making things to kill people," he said. "My dream is to look up and see the sky black with Aerocars — and I'm sure that will happen someday."
He died in 1995, and his car-plane was never mass-produced.
The wings on the Aerocar can be detached or towed behind the car in a trailer. The vehicle can fly about 100 mph; as a car, it can reach 60 mph.
Felling says she has kept a detailed history of her Aerocar. It was first owned by a man from Massachusetts who displayed it at aircraft shows. He once flew it to Havana and gave a ride to Fidel Castro's brother Raul, Felling says.
During the flight, the plane ran out of fuel so the pilot made an emergency landing on a country road, frightening a horse that ran in front and damaged a wing.
In the early 1960s it was owned by Portland station KISN, where it was used as the traffic-watch plane. It went through several other owners before it was purchased by the Fellings, who collect unusual sports cars. It hasn't flown since 1977, Felling said.
Ed Sweeney, who also lives in Colorado, said his Aerocar is the only one still flying. He takes it to air shows around the country.
His Aerocar is the last one built, and the one that was owned by Bob Cummings. Sweeney, who bought it in 1988, said he was intrigued by the vehicle when he met Taylor and flew with him in an Aerocar.
"I love it and I fly it," Sweeney said. "We can change transportation with the Aerocar."
He says he's working on a new Aerocar he hopes can be mass-produced sometime in the next decade.
Meanwhile, Felling said potential buyers aren't lining up at her door.
"I'm not discouraged in the least," she said. "Someone will have to have it."
Susan Gilmore: 206-464-2054 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company