Editor’s Note: The photography that accompanies this post isn’t at the standard we usually require, but the vehicle is so unique that we’ve decided to run it.
In 1932 somewhere deep in the French countryside a project was underway to build an automobile with a slightly unusual method of propulsion. It isn’t known if the designer of the Helicon was a pilot or an aircraft engineer, but it’s clear that the car takes a significant amount of influence from early aircraft design.
The Helicon was originally powered by a an air-cooled boxer twin and utilised a wooden frame and body to keep weight as low as possible. Steering is accomplished using the rear wheels, the rear track is significantly narrower than the front and the rear axle is sprung to help smooth out the ride – but the front is rigid.
After a few years of use the Helicon was rolled into a barn around the time that WWII broke out across Europe. It stayed in the barn for decades until it was rediscovered in 2000, at which time a full restoration was undertaken.
It was decided early on to keep the car as original as possible, so the painstaking process of restoring the wooden frame, wire wheels, dashboard, steering wheel, steering gear, brake pedal, light switch, headlights, and the type plate began. The only significant change from the original car is the addition of a Citroën GS engine – chosen because the original powerplant had been lost to time.
The propeller is directly connected to the Citroën GS engine’s crankshaft, so increasing engine RPM translates directly into additional aerodynamic thrust, and braking is accomplished via drums on all four wheels.
Incredibly, the Helicon actually passed the required exams to be used on French public roads after its restoration – meaning it can be driven across the EU. Although you’d probably need to expect to be pulled over by the gendarme reasonably frequently.
If you’d like to see the 1932 Helicon in person you’ll be able to see it at The Hilton Head Island Motoring Festival on the 1st of November. If you’d like to learn more you can click here.
Images via Lane Motor Museum.
Articles that Ben has written have been covered on CNN, Popular Mechanics, Smithsonian Magazine, Road & Track Magazine, the official Pinterest blog, the official eBay Motors blog, BuzzFeed, Autoweek Magazine, Wired Magazine, Autoblog, Gear Patrol, Jalopnik, The Verge, and many more.
Silodrome was founded by Ben back in 2010, in the years since the site has grown to become a world leader in the alternative and vintage motoring sector, with well over a million monthly readers from around the world and many hundreds of thousands of followers on social media.