I'll tell you what else happened in 1928: Mickey Mouse made his debut in "Plane Crazy," Amelia Earhart flew across the Atlantic Ocean, and the first Zeppelin, LZ 127, lifted off for its inaugural hydrogen-filled voyage.
Like how "apps" captivate millions of people today, just about anything plane-related could whip people into a frenzy. Between the first flight in 1903 and 1928, 25 years later, mankind's fascination with the airplane had crept into everything from popular fiction to the automobile.
In the early years of the car, it was not uncommon to see people who worked with both aircraft and cars in some capacity, from Henry Ford to Gabriel Voisin.
Before the Martin Aircraft Company was made famous by their series of military aircraft that helped the Allies during the Second World War and beyond, they dabbled in compact aerodynamic automobiles like nothing else on the road——on a per order basis.
The one and only customer for this particular car was Air Force General William “Billy” Mitchell of World War I fame, who was gifted this Aerodynamic four seat sedan. It may look a little bit strange on the outside, but it's nothing compared to this car's spec sheet:
- All-aluminum bodywork
- Pontoon-shaped underbody to aid aerodynamics
- Rear-mounted 4-cylinder engine
- "Airplane-style" suspension—there are no springs
- One door…that opens into the back seat
With a top speed of reportedly more than 170 km/h (100 mph), it should have caught on…but its expensive price tag, strange shape, and probably a thousand other reasons kept it from catching on.
Hemmings reviewed the car in 1998, relaying a story from a former owner, who said he was glad the car had overheated on a long trip—so that they could park the Martin and complete the journey in something else.
The one and only car is now in the care of Nashville's Lane Motor Museum. As I've said before, go visit. They have a few other Martin models, among a number of #bcotd-worthy and #bcotd-featured vehicles.