The Ultimate Prop-Driven Car Quiz

By: Staff

4 Min Quiz

Image: refer to hsw

About This Quiz

Why, did prop-driven cars fail to take off, even though they accomplished some noteworthy strides? Can you keep up with the Helica (or is it the Helicron)? Take this quiz to find out!

Propeller-driven cars had unique, distinctive body shapes. What inspired the design of prop-driven cars?

It's advantageous for all vehicles to move through the air as efficiently as possible, but for propeller cars, it's especially important. Designers of prop-driven cars studied airplanes to understand how to direct air through the propeller but reduce wind resistance around the car's cockpit.

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We're accustomed to automobiles that function like living rooms -- temperature controlled with entertainment at the ready, isolated from the hazards of the road. But prop-driven cars offered a much different sensory experience. Why was the cockpit open, despite the obvious dangers?

Driver and passenger safety wasn't really a priority at the time; everyone was used to open-air vehicles. Even though some engineers encased the propellers within protective shrouds, the whirling blades still significantly increased the possibility of injury.

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How did a prop-driven car run in reverse?

Drivers made the cars go forward with a throttle lever. The cars lacked clutches and transmissions, and couldn't actually go in reverse.

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Where were the cars' propellers mounted?

Designers experimented with the propeller's location. Both front and back mounts worked, but each design had specific problems. A front-mounted prop will create considerable discomfort for the car's occupants from wind resistance and airborne objects; the rear option is only efficient on a tapered body profile.

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Which of these cars was produced and sold to customers?

Marcel Leyat began selling the Helica in 1919, and continued building the car for several years.

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Marcel Leyat designed the Helica, one of the most well known prop-driven cars. Where did the Helica's name come from?

The propeller: It does what it says, and it says what it does. Leyat named his Helica for its most defining characteristic, which, in French, is known as the "hélice."

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Why did Marcel Leyat believe the Helica would be successful?

Marcel Leyat thought that using a propeller for power would improve fuel economy, but over time, this theory proved to be untrue.

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How many propeller-driven cars did Marcel Leyat build?

Even after the Helica went out of production, Marcel Leyat continued to design and build prop-driven cars until 1926. It is believed that he completed a total of 25 to 30 cars over about 15 years.

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So, how did a prop-driven car work, anyway?

The driver started the motor, which turned a propeller and the driver controlled the car with a throttle lever.

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Which of these typical components were absent from prop-driven cars?

Prop-driven cars were controlled by throttle levers -- no gear-shifting necessary. Marcel Leyat thought a simple drivetrain, without a transmission, was essential to the car's efficiency.

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Which one-of-a-kind prop-driven car was rediscovered in 2000?

The 1932 Helicron was found in a barn in France, where it had been stored for an undetermined period of time.

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Where can the Helicron currently be seen?

The Lane Motor Museum acquired the Helicron in 2004, and, after a full restoration, it was put on display at the museum. It's often taken to classic car shows and concours events.

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How much does the Helicron weigh?

The Helicron weighs about 1,000 pounds (453.6 kilograms). It's sleek considering its substantial wood craftsmanship, but hefty compared to the 400-pound (181.4-kilogram) aluminum Helica.

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What kind of engine was originally in the Helicron?

The Helicron was designed with an ABC Scorpion engine, but is currently powered by a Citroen GS 1.3 liter powerplant that can achieve a cruising speed of 30 to 40 miles per hour (48.3 to 64.4 kilometers per hour).

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What design element of prop-driven cars can be seen on modern hybrid cars?

Aerodynamics were a defining factor of the prop-driven cars' aesthetics, and aerodynamic design is crucial to the success of today's energy-efficient cars.

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How fast could the first prop-driven cars go?

On occasion, some cars were able to achieve speeds of up to 85 miles per hour (136.8 kilometers per hour).

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What was the fastest way to stop a prop-driven car?

Although prop-driven cars did have brakes, there was a faster way to slow down or stop. The driver could use the throttle to reverse the propeller (make it spin in the other direction) which instantly created a lot of air resistance and stopped the car. Drifting wasn't really an option without a transmission, clutch, or emergency brake.

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What state almost hosted mass production of a prop-driven car, and when?

The Aerocar, powered by a Chevy 6-cylinder engine, was considered for production in California in 1955.

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What did The New York Times predict in 1912?

In 1912, The New York Times described a hypothetical future in which all disillusioned car owners could remedy their woes by throwing "the offending details on the scrap heap" and modifying their cars with propellers, causing airplane makers to weep for the future.

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Which of the following vehicles have NOT been inspired by prop-driven cars?

In the noble search for efficiency, and the less noble but still endearing quest for land speed records, both bicycles and kart-based race cars have been augmented by propellers.

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