History's Daring Attempts at Rocket Vehicles

Other than for blasting out of Earth's gravitational pull, the rocket-powered vehicle has never gone mainstream—kind of a shame, really! But lucky for us, LIFE has a gallery of some of the more exciting tries. Maybe next century.

History's Daring Attempts at Rocket VehiclesS

To drive this 24 rocket-powered Opel car, circa 1920, would have made you one very brave dude. Eight years later, a version of the vehicle was the fastest car in the world, hitting 50 mph.

History's Daring Attempts at Rocket VehiclesS

This land-speed car, the Wingfoot Express, was the first rocket-propelled racer of its kind, and blasted away records throughout the 1960s. Pictured here are the man who designed it, Walt Arfons, and Bobby Tatro, the driver.

History's Daring Attempts at Rocket VehiclesS

This little piece of vintage failed military experimentation—the "Grasshopper"—isn't technically a rocket, as the pack used a jet engine instead. Fine! From the giant cloud of dust kicked up and the man's flailing limbs, it doesn't look like it was exactly stable. I can't imagine an actual rocket would have worked much better.

Check the full gallery for more photos, ranging from the wacky to the scientifically solid. [LIFE]