#TBT: Whatever Happened to Flying Cars? A Look Back at U.S. Auto Shows | Tier10lab
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#TBT: Whatever Happened to Flying Cars? A Look Back at U.S. Auto Shows | Tier10lab

Throwback Thursday: Whatever Happened to Flying Cars?
Angela Shoemaker

As the Tier10 team covers the 2013 New York Auto Show and we wrap up the auto show season, we thought that we’d use this month’s Throwback Thursday to take a look back at two things: thoughts of flying cars and the 2004 Detroit Auto Show.

Remember the tales of the high ambitions of automakers in the 1950s? Flying cars would become the futuristic norm. For those of you who viewed the television show, The Jetsons, (1962-1988), flying cars would be our future. Five decades later, do we have flying machines that we can also drive on the highways? Technological advances have brought us closer than you think.

But for now, let’s return to the vehicles that debuted at the 2004 North American International Auto Show, held in Detroit at the Cobo Center in January of 2004, amid brief snowstorms and extremely low temperatures. Featured were 60 new production vehicles and concept cars and trucks.

Highlighting production vehicle excitement was the 2005 Corvette C6, only the sixth generation of the car in more than a half-century. The Corvette C6 was unveiled at the Detroit Opera House, sporting a 400-horsepower, V8 engine. For the first time since 1962, the Corvette would now feature fixed headlamps instead of pop-ups. And it wasn’t until this year’s 2013 NYIAS that we saw the seventh generation 2014 Corvette Stingray.

There were other exciting new vehicle models and concept cars unveiled at the 2004 Detroit Auto Show as well. Toyota unveiled its Highlander hybrid, which the automaker claimed could go from 0 to 60 mph in under eight seconds, delivering up to 270 horsepower with a V-6 engine combined with an improved hybrid electric drive. At this year’s 2013 New York Auto Show, Toyota unveiled the all-new third-edition 2014 Toyota Highlander. The 2014 Highlander Hybrid has a 3.5-liter V6 engine with an electric motor-generator attached and gets 28 mpg combined.

The Saturn Curve (see above) was a low-roofed, four-seater concept coupe, with 200 horsepower from its 2.2-liter, four-cylinder engine. Its key interior features included roof pillars concealed by a wraparound glass canopy and an interior highlighted by a curvy center console made of blonde wood. The Saturn Curve was a concept vehicle advanced for its time. It resulted from a collaboration of GM’s worldwide resources: the European Advanced Design Center in Sweden influenced the design creativity and its final assembly was completed in Italy by an Italian coachbuilder Pininfarina. Five years later in 2009, however, GM announced the closure of the Saturn brand with Saturn dealerships closing by 2011.

Still no flying cars have been seen in 2004. But now, let’s turn to the 2013 North American International Auto Show held in Detroit every January. NAIAS 2013 featured the worldwide debut of 16 concept vehicles, including the Acura MDX, Acura NSX, BMW 4 Series Coupe, Honda Urban SUV Concept, Hyundai HCD-14, Lincoln MKC, Nissan Resonance, Tesla Model X Design Prototype and the Toyota Corolla Furia.

So back to the question of how far have we come in producing flying cars? Published in the International Business Times, February 7, 2011, the article, “Flying Cars Set to Hit Market by 2012,” stated that the U.S. company Terrafugia would start manufacturing flying cars that could be transformed from a car to a plane in just 30 seconds. The Transition Roadable Light Sport Aircraft would fly at 115 mph, with a flying range of 400 to 450 miles, and would travel up to 65 mph on roadways. Its wings would tuck up and in, and it could fit in an average-size garage. You would fill its gas tank at a normal gas station.

So far, we are more accustomed to seeing ever-increasing numbers of hybrid vehicles on the roadways. Can’t say that we’ve seen many flying cars, yet. But in terms of fuel economy, we’ve seen greater numbers of fuel-efficient hybrid vehicle models. The Toyota Prius has been a top choice for many years, now followed by the ever-popular 2013 Ford Fusion Hybrid, which boasts 47 mpg city and highway.

Even more technologically advanced are automakers’ all-electric vehicles, with 122 mpg city per electric charge. Its advantages? No emissions, no shifting gears, no gas, no oil changes…and you’ll get instant torque with only one gear. They may not be able to fly, but the advances made in automotive electric technology would probably impress our 1950s counterparts.

“Throwback Thursday” (#TBT) is Tier10 Lab’s look back at some of our favorite automotive advertising campaigns (or auto shows in this month’s case). #TBT runs the last Thursday of each month.

Take a look at our gallery below for photographs from the 2004 Detroit Auto Show (and yes, they were actually taken with film.)

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[Sources: International Business Times, smart USA]