This is a 1:6th scale remote control model of the Leyat Helica. It’s powered by an air-cooled diesel engine, and propulsion is provided by that distinctive front propeller.

Though the Leyat Helica may look like a steampunk fever dream it was an actual low-volume production automobile that debuted in 1913 and was produced until 1927. It’s estimated that approximately 30 were built in total, and a number of them have survived to the modern day.

Leyat Helica Car 2

Image DescriptionThis is the “sport version” of the Leyat Helica, it was fitted with four wheels, tandem seating, and open cockpits.

The Helica was developed by early French aviation pioneer Marcel Leyat who was both an engineer and inventor. Over the course of his life he would design 30 different aircraft, and he very nearly completed the first powered crossing of the English Channel in a fixed wing aircraft, but he was pipped to the post by Louis Blériot who did it three weeks earlier.

Although he was best-known for his aircraft designs, Leyat did venture into the world of automotive production, though even then he didn’t stray far from his aviation background. He developed the Leyat Helica as essentially a “plane without wings,” it had a plywood fuselage with tandem seating for two, three or four wheels, and a front mounted engine and propeller.

Now whether it was a good idea to fit an aircraft propeller to a car that was intended to drive around on streets past pedestrians, animals, and small children, is open for debate.

There were a few advantages to the design, it was near impossible to get bogged for example, there was no need to stop at pedestrian crossings as people would be fleeing for their very lives, and there was no need for a horn as people would hear you coming from three arrondissements over.

The first prototype was called the Helicocycle and it debuted in 1913. It was powered by a British JAP motorcycle engine, it had three wheels, and just one was made. Other examples would follow, all more refined than the last, including one example that was built to work on a mine railway system in the Congo.

The final example was produced in 1927 and it would be a record breaker, achieving a top speed of 170 km/h (105.6 mph) on the Montlhéry circuit in France on September 7th later the same year. Amazingly it did it with three wheels and almost no brakes.

Above Video: This is a Leyat Helica that made a memorable appearance on The Grand Tour, with Clarkson, Hammond, and May seeming to enjoy it a great deal.

The 1:6th Scale Leyat Helica Model Shown Here

The vehicle you see here is a remarkable 1:6th scale model Leyat Helica built by Bob Ashwell in 1980. It isn’t just a static model either, it has a functional single-cylinder diesel engine powering the propeller, and a remote control unit so it can be driven around just like one of the originals.

We have included the starting sequence for the vehicle below, as it will doubtless be of interest to many of you:

“Open driver’s door and find the wire that plugs into the charger. When connected to charger, plug the charger into wall socket, turn on, and a red light will come on, this is then charging. Leave overnight to charge, then remove charger.”

“Flick the small switch (next to steering wheel) for on. Model diesel goes in fuel tank in front of windscreen, the pipe with the small silver dot is the filler the other pipe is the overflow to show when the tank is full.”

“Turn on the transmitter and it is ready to be started. The prop starter needs to be attached to a 12v battery and start using the torque starter on the propeller hub, keep fingers out the way, to turn off smother the carb with finger. Use only model diesel fuel with the syringe provided.”

Leyat Helica Remote Control

Image DescriptionThis scale model Leyat Helica is powered by a diesel engine, it comes with a starter, and a controller.

If you’d like to read more about it or register to bid you can visit the listing on Bonhams here.

It’s due to roll across the auction block on the 13th of April with a price guide of £1,800 – £2,800 or approximately $2,271 to $2,278 USD​.

Leyat Helica Car

Images courtesy of Bonhams

Published by Ben Branch -