DFS 346 – German designed, Soviet trialed rocket plane

DFS 346 rocket-powered aircraft

The DFS 346 was a rocket-powered reconnaissance aircraft prototype developed by the Germans in the later stages of the Second World War. It was designed by Felix Kracht who at the time was working for DFS (Deutsche Forschungsanstalt für Segelflug) – or in English, the German Research Institute for Sailplane Flight. The DFS 346 was developed alongside the DFS 228 project which was a high-altitude low-speed reconnaissance sailplane. In sharp contrast however, the DFS 346 was envisaged as a super high-speed rocket powered aircraft with swept wings and a streamlined fuselage. Interestingly the aircraft also featured an unusual prone-pilot cockpit, not dissimilar to the one used in the later Gloster Meteor “Prone Pilot” experimental aircraft.

The idea behind the DFS 346 project was to create an aircraft which could take reconnaissance photos of England before returning to base in either northern France or Germany. The mission would involve the aircraft being transported close to its intended surveillance target by a carrier aircraft – in this case the Dornier Do 217. After release, the pilot would fire up the rocket motor and accelerate to an estimated top speed of Mach 2.6 while climbing to an altitude of 100,000 ft (30,500 metres). The pilot would then glide over his target while descending, using the rocket motor in bursts to maintain speed. After taking photos the pilot would then head for home, gliding his aircraft back to base. Well that was the idea anyway. The war ended before the aircraft was finished.
Continue reading ‘DFS 346 – German designed, Soviet trialed rocket plane’ »

Aerofex Aero-X Hoverbike

Aerofex Aero-X hoverbike

The Aero-X hoverbike is the product of a California-based company called Aerofex. The company have been developing the Aero-X for a few years now, and just recently they’ve announced that the vehicle could go on sale to the general public as early as 2017.  Aerofex is led by Mark DeRoche, an experienced aerospace engineer who has made it his mission to make flying cheaper, safer and easier.

The Aerofex Aero-X hoverbike is capable of carrying two people at speeds of up to 45 mph, while skimming along at a maximum altitude of 10 feet (3 metres). But like any new type of vehicle, that’s just the start. It would be shortsighted to imagine that’s the maximum performance achievable by a hoverbike. After a few years of testing the performance potential could increase dramatically.
Continue reading ‘Aerofex Aero-X Hoverbike’ »

Top 10 Most Unusual Race Cars

top 10 most unusual race cars

Most racing cars follow the same formula. Fit a powerful engine in a lightweight chassis, cover it with some aerodynamic body panels and bolt on four wheels. But every now and then motorsport engineers and designers get a bit creative and try out something new. Unfortunately however, ever-increasing rules and regulations in top-level motorsport nowadays aren’t really conducive with outlandish ideas and experimental designs. This means that most – but not all – of the more unusual race cars ever devised were developed in the past, when the rule book was more of a pamphlet.
Continue reading ‘Top 10 Most Unusual Race Cars’ »

Veloschmitt KR E-250 electric-assist pedal car

Veloschmitt KR E-250

It’s not hard to see where the inspiration for the Veloschmitt KR E-250 came from. But for those still wondering, it was inspired by the Messerschmitt KR200 bubble car from the 1950s. The Veloschmitt KR E-250 brings the Messerschmitt formula kicking and screaming into the 21st century, thanks to two German designers -  Achim Adlfinger and Fred Zimmermann.

By getting rid of the original car’s tiny internal combustion engine and replacing it with an electric motor and an eight-speed Shimano Nexus cycle drivetrain, the pair have turned the Veloschmitt into a two-person recumbent e-bike with bags of character. The original car’s metal frame and body is replaced instead with a lightweight carbon fiber frame and a fiberglass body. The ready to roll curb weight of the Veloschmitt KR E-250 – with the electric drivetrain installed – is an impressive 60 kgs (130 lbs).
Continue reading ‘Veloschmitt KR E-250 electric-assist pedal car’ »

Stout Scarab – automotive innovation from the 1930s

Stout Scarab 1936

The Stout Scarab was a peculiar but also rather clever automobile developed by the famous engineer William Stout back in the 1930s. The car was designed from the outset to be more practical, safer, spacious, comfortable and versatile than any other car available at the time. Many people have since refered to the car as the very first minivan, and that’s a fairly good approximation of what the Stout Scarab was. But it was also much more than that.

William Stout made his name in the aviation business, designing numerous aircraft which were well ahead of their time and brought in new ideas and improvements to the industry. Stout used his aeronautical expertise when designing the Scarab – which was styled by John Tjaarda. In particular in creating an aerodynamic shape which helped reduce the car’s fuel consumption.

The Stout Scarab was based around a monocoque chassis and body – unlike almost every single other car of the time which still relied on a separate chassis/body combination – reducing the overall weight. The interior layout was also unusual. Instead of a front-mounted engine driving the rear wheels through a long driveshaft. The engine and transmission of the Stout Scarab were placed at the rear of the vehicle behind the passenger compartment. This drivetrain position meant the interior could be much more open, and the entire floorpan perfectly flat. A long wheelbase also helped increase the amount of usable room inside the vehicle.
Continue reading ‘Stout Scarab – automotive innovation from the 1930s’ »

Nauti-Craft 2Play catamaran offers full suspension system

Nauti-Craft 2Play catamaran suspension system

The Nauti-Craft 2Play catamaran is one of the few boats to feature a full suspension system. And that’s kinda strange when you think about it. Because the open sea is usually far rougher than any road surface – with the possible exception of roads in Michigan. It’s not uncommon for powerboats to have seats with built-in air suspension, and certainly offshore racing boats have them. But to have the entire deck riding atop a suspension system is unusual. One of the only other watercraft to employ a similar system is the unusual and highly advanced SeaPhantom built by Maritime Flight Dynamics Inc.

However unlike the SeaPhantom, the Nauti-craft 2Play catamaran is a much more versatile vessel with a more practical and familiar deck layout. If it wasn’t for the advanced suspension system it would be fairly unremarkable.

The 26 ft (8 m) Nauti-Craft 2Play catamaran is just the latest in a series of prototypes the Australian company  have developed to test the system in real-world conditions. Prior to building prototype boats, the company used computer simulations to evaluate the design.
Continue reading ‘Nauti-Craft 2Play catamaran offers full suspension system’ »

Colani Sea Ranger – Amphibious insanity from 1979

Colani Sea Ranger

The 1979 Colani Sea Ranger was just one of the many crazy ideas to erupt from the head of the prolific German designer Luigi Colani. Colani has designed a huge range of items during his extensive career, from vehicles and buildings, to furniture and everyday items like pens. His work has taken him from his native Germany, to California as an aircraft designer for McDonnell Douglas in the fifties, back to Germany, then to Japan, Switzerland and China, before retiring back in Germany. Berlin to be precise.

So despite the Colani Sea Ranger’s quite absurd appearance, you can be sure that it’s been well thought out. It was also pretty capable in the mud, primarily due to the fact it was based on a Mercedes Unimog chassis and running gear. This was then wrapped in a watertight amphibious shell which looked like something straight out of a science fiction book.
Continue reading ‘Colani Sea Ranger – Amphibious insanity from 1979’ »

Texaco Doodlebug Tanker Truck

Diamond T Texaco Doodlebug tanker truck

The Texaco Doodlebug was a peculiar-looking Diamond T tanker truck designed and built in the 1930s. It was an experiment in streamlining – a design style that was proving popular at the time. The Texaco Doodlebug was designed by Norman Bel Geddes, and the specially fabricated bodies were constructed by Heil Co in Alabama. It was based on a Diamond T truck chassis.

The Texaco Doodlebug featured a rear-mounted six-cylinder engine. The drivetrain position meant the cab was more spacious and could be located lower down than in a conventional truck. Interestingly, because the engine was at the opposite end of the vehicle and the driver couldn’t hear it, the Doodlebug had a small microphone in the engine bay connected to a speaker in the cab which allowed the driver listen out for when to make a gear change!

The Texaco Doodlebug came about after the company hired the Bel Geddes design firm to refresh their entire brand and give it a more contemporary style. Updates included changes to the Texaco logo, gas station architecture and even the attendants uniforms. Continue reading ‘Texaco Doodlebug Tanker Truck’ »

“Cowasaki” motorcycle made entirely from animal bones

Cowasaki bone motorcycle

Reese Moore, who unsurprisingly lives in Florida, spends his free time crafting motorcycles – like this “Cowasaki” – entirely from animal bones.  He finds many of his macabre building blocks from animals he finds dead by the roadside. But unlike normal people who just drive on, he scoops them up and takes them to his workshop. Some of the other bones are gathered with the help of local hunters and farmers.

The bones used in his creations include cow skulls, alligator skulls, various goat, wolf, racoon, and pig bones, and cow vertebrae. After collecting together the necessary pieces, Moore sands them down to get a clean, uniform color and appearance before assembling his creations.
Continue reading ‘“Cowasaki” motorcycle made entirely from animal bones’ »

Verrado Electric Drift Trike

Verrado Electric Drift Trike

The Verrado Electric Drift Trike is an fun-looking little contraption developed by Local Motors and funded by a successful Kickstarter campaign. It features BMX-inspired styling and a custom fabricated chassis with a trike layout. The front wheel is straight from a BMX bike, as are the forks. The rear wheels are 5-inch karting wheels wrapped in 10-inch tires, which are then encased in thick PVC wheels sleeves allowing the trike to drift easily.

Powering the Verrado Electric Drift Trike is a rear-mounted electric motor which drives the two back wheels. The battery pack takes 3 hours to charge, and then provides around 45 minutes of play time. Although the run time is actually pretty varied and depends on the amount of high-power drifting the rider wants to do.
Continue reading ‘Verrado Electric Drift Trike’ »