It’s a Bird! It’s a Plane! It’s…A Leyat Hélica?

It isn’t all that uncommon to hear of strange and unusual custom vehicles — from trucks that look like sharks that are half boat, cars covered in chia, and even some cars that don’t look like cars at all. It is, however, uncommon for these vehicles to come from actual manufacturers. While Leyat is far from a popular or well-known automotive manufacturer around the world, this French car brand is actually legitimate, and it gave us the Leyat Hélica — a plane-like car.

The Plane Without Wings

The Leyat Hélica was the first production vehicle from the under-appreciated French manufacturer, and it was known as the “plane without wings” which pretty much summarizes its appearance, but also how it operates to some degree. The vehicle itself did actually look very much like an airplane with its wings removed, and even more interesting was its powerhouse.

Unlike any other vehicle in the 1920s, the Hélica was not powered by a gasoline-powered engine or an engine at all. Instead, it was quite literally propelled — that’s right, the Hélica was powered by a large wooden propeller mounted to the front of the vehicle, which provided 8bhp. While that may not sound particularly impressive, the Leyat Hélica was surprisingly fast. In fact, its top speed was rather concerning if you look at the flimsy construction of the not-airplane — it could reach a reported 106mph.

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Fun Facts About the Leyat Hélica

As you can imagine, the Leyat Hélica was made in relatively low production, but the company reported selling at least 30 of these odd little death traps, including one that eventually made its way onto The Grand Tour. It definitely wasn’t the vehicle to pick up a hot date in, either, as the driver seat and passenger seat are one in front of the other, though you can fit two adults at least.

If you dive into the history of Marcel Leyat, the founder of Leyat, the idea behind this car isn’t quite all that novel. Prior to building automobiles, Leyat had a history of building biplanes, his inspiration rather obvious.

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