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There is Nothing New Under the Sun: The Maine Mobile

George McLaughlin of Bangor, Maine, constructed the very unique “Maine Mobile” in 1926. It was intended to be driven on the road, on the water, and over snow. A seventy-two h.p. six-cylinder airplane engine powered the rear-mounted prop, which allowed the machine to travel as fast as a claimed 106 mph on the road. Side-mounted pontoons, in conjunction with thrust generated by the propellor allowed the vehicle to travel up to 35 mph in seawater.

Share with us what you find of interest in the photographs. The lead image and information is via Bob Cunningham at the AACA Facebook page. The front view of the “Maine Mobile” above is via AllCarIndex. View other prop-driven vehicles here on The Old Motor.

33 responses to “There is Nothing New Under the Sun: The Maine Mobile

  1. L 6 Liberty engine maybe?
    But I bet if you stood it upright on its front end it would go straight up in the air just like the Beany and Cecil cartoon Beany-Copter.
    “Come on kids let’s flip our lids…”

    • I don’t think so, the Liberty six put out 215 hp and weighed nearly 600 pounds.
      And looking at the two, they have different manifolds, oil pans and sections where the crank exits the block.
      I’m guessing some other six cylinder engine….in that time period there were many manufacturers…

    • the Liberty was a V12 of about 27 litres and 400 hp.Quite what the fitted engine is ..I thought Curtiss but…

      • John

        There were 4-6-8 straight eight Liberties,
        I checked Curtiss’ too, they were mainly V-8s, likewise the Hispano Suiza aero engines.
        Hall Scott also was a big aero engine producer of the period, but their 6s were more or less Liberty 6s.
        I even checked Lycoming (remember, they were part of the Cord empire and made a lot of I-8 car engines before becoming a flat 4-6 aircraft engine maker), no luck there either. Likewise Continental made car engines too.

        • The Liberty 4s and 8s were only ever prototypes – 2 of the former and 15 of the latter were made.

          72 horsepower for an aviation I-6 in the 1920s seems low, since the 1912 Adams-Farwell produced that much in a V-2 configuration, and it’s on par with what Thomas put in their K 6-70 automobiles in 1909. For something with that apparent displacement, I’d expect a higher power output.

    • according to a search, Isadora Duncam was killed in an Amilcar CGSS
      when her scarf got caught, It wrapped around the rear wheel and pulled her from the car

  2. Quite a ride for 1926, with no transmission or clutch to worry about, and no possibility of spinning your wheels in three or four inches of snow. It would be a different story, however, for the poor fellow following that contraption down a gravel road. He would soon need a new windshield and a paint job.

    • With no clutch, transmission OR reverse gear, parking could be a bit of a problem. Plus you probably wouldn’t want to carry anything loose in the cockpit.

      • Hi Jay, no long scarves either. Didn’t a famous movie star get killed with a long scarf in a car?

        • On September 14, 1927, dancer Isadora Duncan is strangled in Nice, France, when the enormous silk scarf she is wearing gets tangled in the rear hubcaps of her open car. (“Affectations,” said Gertrude Stein when she heard the news of Duncan’s death, “can be dangerous.”)

        • I remembered that too, and looked it up. Her name was Isadora Duncan. Supposedly a movie called “Isadora” was made. I suspect the scene with the scarf was near the end of the film.

        • Isadora Duncan, in 1927. Her long, red scarf got tangled in the back wheel while she was a passenger. As Gertrude Stein said when she heard the news, “Affectations can be dangerous.”

          And, yes, an aviator’s scarf makes better sense when the propeller is in front of you.

          Welcome back, David. I hope the upgrade is working smoothly.

        • isadora duncan ,,her scarf caught in the wheel of a Bugatti .One big issue of course with prop cars is the starting lack torque a s with an aircraft variable pitch is desirable.

          • For whatever it is worth, news reports and legends vary somewhat on the car she was riding in. Many stories do say it was a Bugatti, others say it was a French Amilcar sports car. I stumbled into that discrepancy some years back when the question came up in another forum, and have never found a definitive answer to which car it was. The Bugatti version is sexier, and better known. It also appears to be more fitting for this famous bohemian artist. But there is some evidence the “Bugatti” was an embellishment added after she was killed in such a tragic manner. In more recent years, many websites have dropped mentioning the marque of the automobile she was riding in at the time of her death, and simply state a “sports car”.

          • Well, at least it’s confirmed that French existentialist author Albert Camus died in a Facel Vega.

          • Good point! And indeed Camus had no use for travel by automobile, having taken the train to the South of France for holidays at his family home. His publisher, a fan of flashy cars, drove down in his Facel with his family to join him. After New Years, Camus’ wife and daughter returned to Paris on the train, the publisher having talked Camus into going back in The Facel instead. On the trip back, the publisher lost control on the rain slicked roads, splitting the car in two on those trees that typically line the French autoroutes, killing himself and Camus. Remarkably, the publisher’s wife and daughter in the back seat survived. In Camus’ pocket they found the unused return trip ticket to Paris.

  3. Propeller driven transport was nothing new around this time. While vacationing in the UP of Mich ( der hey), a motel had their hallway lined with vintage pictures of the area. Since snow inundated the peninsula for most of the winter, alternative methods of travel were needed. Propeller driven sleigh’s were just some of the ways people got around. Some were pretty crude, to say the least. For “regular” transport, it just never “took off”. Like Stefanie sez, can you imagine a traffic jam with all the cars like these?

  4. There are several cars with a front mounted airplane propeller in existence, and have been shown at various car shows. I have never seen one with a rear mounted one like this one.

    • There have been a fair number of rear mounted prop-driven cars, especially very early on. The first one intended for road use was that of Count Bertrand de Lesseps (the son of the man who developed the Suez Canal), in 1912. There was an earlier ABC propeller car in Great Britain, but it was for testing propeller designs rather than a normal street car.

      The British Admiralty also tried a rear-prop armored car in World War I, the Sizaire-Berwick Wind Wagon. It was intended for use in the desert, where conventional drive systems had traction issues. It never left the testing facility.

      Maybach built a prototype in 1937 with a seven-cylinder radial engine and three-bladed prop.

      After the Russians captured the Schlorwagen Pillbug during World War II, they converted it from a standard rear-engined car to a rear-prop car.

      In the ’50s the “Aerocar” was a scratch-built rear-prop in Argentina. Not to be outdone, in the ’60s the FE1 X1 was produced in Brazil’s Centro Universitario da Fei as an amphibious prop-car.

      Unlike the front-prop Helica and Helicron, most of these aren’t known to survive.

  5. Oh they eventually caught on all right.Think of all those airboats down in the Everglades tearing up Flora and Fauna.
    Didn’t seem to affect the alligator population though

  6. When I was researching this story, I noticed there was no radiator. I assumed that was because the engine was air-cooled … that was the only logical explanation I could think of. McLaughlin intended to build thousands of Maine Mobiles, but I found no evidence thaproduction went beyond the prototype stage.t

    • yeah . . . I thought about air cooled. Would make sense but the ole 6 banger just didn’t have the look. The setup would definitely have applications . . . and limitations.

  7. Engine rotation is the same as your standard road car. Aircraft engines generally are considered RIGHT HAND ROTATION.

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