Illustration for article titled 31 Levitating Vehicles From the Dawn of the Hovercraft

Hovercrafts are truly amazing vehicles: Whether on land, water, mud or ice, these air-cushioned craft rule the unpaved wilderness. And they were born from a wildly optimistic and experimental era of engineering—as reflected by these incredible early prototypes and designs.

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I recently came across a bunch of rare hovercraft photographs in a few old Hungarian scientific magazines and books, and I immediately wanted to share them with other hovercraft fans out there. Each one of these ships—from obscure prototypes and early production models to insane, never-produced visions—reflects the ingenuity of 20th century engineering. Just see for yourself.


The Ford Levacar at the Dearborn testing facility.

Illustration for article titled 31 Levitating Vehicles From the Dawn of the Hovercraft
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Source: Korunk technikája, Gondolat, Budapest, 1964.


The Ford Aeronutronic.

Illustration for article titled 31 Levitating Vehicles From the Dawn of the Hovercraft

Source: Korunk technikája, Gondolat, Budapest, 1964.


The US Navy's Hughes Hydrostreak XHS1.

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Source: Korunk technikája, Gondolat, Budapest, 1964.


The Bell SKMR-1 Hidroskimmer, an experimental US Navy hovercraft intended for submarine reconnaissance.

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Source: Korunk technikája, Gondolat, Budapest, 1964.


D-1 prototype hovercraft designed by Denny Hovercraft Ltd.

Illustration for article titled 31 Levitating Vehicles From the Dawn of the Hovercraft
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Source: Korunk technikája, Gondolat, Budapest, 1964.


The Saunders-Roe SR.N1 ("Saunders-Roe Nautical 1") was the first practical hovercraft.

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Source: Korunk technikája, Gondolat, Budapest, 1964.

Illustration for article titled 31 Levitating Vehicles From the Dawn of the Hovercraft
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Source: Népszerű Technika, 1959. szeptember


A cutaway illustration of the next generation SR.N2. Only one was built, but it can be regarded as the prototype for commercial hovercrafts.

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Source: Korunk technikája, Gondolat, Budapest, 1964.


The Westland/Saunders-Roe SR.N2 hovercraft could carry 48 passengers.

Illustration for article titled 31 Levitating Vehicles From the Dawn of the Hovercraft
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Source: Korunk technikája, Gondolat, Budapest, 1964.

Illustration for article titled 31 Levitating Vehicles From the Dawn of the Hovercraft
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Illustration for article titled 31 Levitating Vehicles From the Dawn of the Hovercraft

Source: Népszerű Technika, 1962. augusztus


The first Vickers hovercraft prototype, the VA-1.

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Source: Korunk technikája, Gondolat, Budapest, 1964.


Small-scale ferry service: the British United Airways's Vickers-Armstrong VA-3 hovercraft.

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Source: Korunk technikája, Gondolat, Budapest, 1964.

Illustration for article titled 31 Levitating Vehicles From the Dawn of the Hovercraft
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Source: Népszerű Technika, 1962. augusztus


A modified Land Rover truck for farmers, also by Vickers.

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Source: Korunk technikája, Gondolat, Budapest, 1964.


The Curtiss-Wright Air-Car.

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Source: Korunk technikája, Gondolat, Budapest, 1964.


The Cushioncraft (CC-1), a British hovercraft prototype gliding on a ring-shaped air cushion.

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Source: Korunk technikája, Gondolat, Budapest, 1964.


The Cushioncraft-2 (CC-2) could carry 12 passengers.

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Source: Korunk technikája, Gondolat, Budapest, 1964.


The French Bertin had eight separate air-cushion rings.

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Source: Korunk technikája, Gondolat, Budapest, 1964.


GEM-1, a US Army prototype with two frontal propellers.

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Source: Korunk technikája, Gondolat, Budapest, 1964.


The GEM-3.

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Source: Korunk technikája, Gondolat, Budapest, 1964.


Pioneer-1, a simple and cheap hovercraft built by the Manufacturing Company Of Seattle.

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Source: Korunk technikája, Gondolat, Budapest, 1964.


A cross-section drawing of the Pioneer-1.

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Source: Korunk technikája, Gondolat, Budapest, 1964.


Motor-cycle: The first hovercraft bike!

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Source: Korunk technikája, Gondolat, Budapest, 1964.


X-2, an experimental Air-Scooter developed at Princeton University.

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Source: Korunk technikája, Gondolat, Budapest, 1964.


A Soviet prototype, the one-man Vezdekhod.

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Illustration for article titled 31 Levitating Vehicles From the Dawn of the Hovercraft

Source: Korunk technikája, Gondolat, Budapest, 1964.


Dr. William R. Bertelsen, a medical doctor from Illinois who developed a craft called the aeromobile.

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Source: Korunk technikája, Gondolat, Budapest, 1964.

Illustration for article titled 31 Levitating Vehicles From the Dawn of the Hovercraft
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Illustration for article titled 31 Levitating Vehicles From the Dawn of the Hovercraft

Source: Népszerű Technika, 1959. szeptember


Dr. Bertelsen's upgraded Aeromobile.

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Source: Korunk technikája, Gondolat, Budapest, 1964.


Here's the Ilen by Weiland, a strange box-shaped hovership.

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Source: Népszerű Technika, 1959. szeptember


And Neva, a Soviet-era air-cushion ship.

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Source: Korunk technikája, Gondolat, Budapest, 1964.


Zarya, another Soviet passenger hovercraft, was intended for crossing shallow lakes and rivers.

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Source: Utak és járművek – A Szovjetúnió közlekedése. Magyar–Szovjet Baráti Társaság, 1975.


A definitive Soviet beauty: The Sormovich hovercraft. It could reach 74.5 MPH and carry up to 50 passengers over frozen rivers.

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Illustration for article titled 31 Levitating Vehicles From the Dawn of the Hovercraft

Source: Utak és járművek – A Szovjetúnió közlekedése. Magyar–Szovjet Baráti Társaság, 1975.

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A smaller Soviet hovercraft—this one used to cruise on rivers.

Illustration for article titled 31 Levitating Vehicles From the Dawn of the Hovercraft
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Source: Utak és járművek – A Szovjetúnió közlekedése. Magyar–Szovjet Baráti Társaság, 1975.


This concept art shows the near future, when large hovercrafts will cross the La Manche channel.

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Source: Korunk technikája, Gondolat, Budapest, 1964.


This is how the engineers at the British Hovercraft imagined the traffic on the La Manche channel, filled with 100-ton-vessels of the near future.

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Source: Korunk technikája, Gondolat, Budapest, 1964.


Another artist's rendering of a futuristic hovercar.

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Source: Népszerű Technika, 1960. január


And an artist's impression of a futuristic hovercar by Robert Szenes, complete with fins and headlights.

Illustration for article titled 31 Levitating Vehicles From the Dawn of the Hovercraft
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Source: Népszerű Technika, 1959. szeptember


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