Cars that fly down the road.
When it comes to inspiration, airplanes are a logical place for designers of fast cars to go. The mix of stomach churning speed, aerodynamics, and even a childlike fascination with fighter planes has fueled many a car designers imagination over the years. Of course, there have been some comically childlike designs as a result and the absurd Ferrari Fx1 RR concept and Lamborghini Egoista spring to mind. However, there have also been some very cool cars inspired or even derived from airplanes and their technology. These are the cream of the crop and the ten coolest examples of airplane inspired cars.
Let’s kick this list off with an older car that sneaks under the radar time and time again. The Vector V8 is one of the best all-American supercars made, yet rarely gets a mention despite Road & Track giving it the cover and a very positive review in 1991. It was built using aerospace technology and the cockpit is a pure homage to its airplane influence. It was built by Vector Aeromotive Corporation, and it could out-sprint a Ferrari Testarossa. Unfortunately, the company was killed by a hostile takeover before the Vector WX8 could get beyond the concept stage, although rumors have resurfaced that the founder is planning a hypercar comeback.
The Reventón was built as a limited run of 20, plus one for display at the Lamborghini museum. According to Lamborghini’s press release, the exterior styling was inspired by "the fastest airplanes.” It certainly has the aggressive edges of a fighter plane while also following the Lamborghini tradition of naming cars after bulls. Reventón means "small explosion” or "burst” and is the name of the fighting bull that killed the famous Mexican bullfighter Felix Guzmán in 1943.
The Tramontana is a Spanish built mid-engined sports car that was built initially with the aim of creating a new niche of supercars. Whether it achieved that or not is debatable, but as a bespoke supercar it’s a phenomenal blend of Formula 1 car and jet fighter plane and each model takes over 4,000 working hours to build. The two-seater version takes the jet fighter style to the next level by placing the passenger behind the "pilot” and the seating position is raised so they can see over the driver's helmet.
The C8 Aileron is a special edition that leans heavily on both Spyker's racing and aviation history. Only three were built as a send-off for Spykers Coupe as it ends production, and as well as the exterior enhancements the Audi 4.2-liter V8 engine gets some forced induction in the form of a supercharger.
Marussia’s B1 and B2 hold the distinct curiosity of being the first sports cars built in Russia. The jet fighter inspired B2 may not have been the fastest supercar produced, but it’s lightweight and uses a Cosworth supplied mid-mounted 3.5-liter V6 in a more than respectable 3.8 seconds. Valmet was contracted to build the car, and if that name sounds familiar that's because it also built cars for Porsche and Daimler AG as well specifically the Fisker Karma.
You don’t need to go for a concept car, limited edition supercar, or bespoke custom model to get some jet fighter-inspired design on your driveway. While the name Mustang wasn’t directly linked to the World War 2 fighter planes, the evocation did help get the name over the line. Then, when the Mustang was given a makeover in 2015, the designers had the idea of putting the passenger airbag in the glovebox which gave them an extra 4-inches of room to get creative with the dash and instrument cluster.
The symmetrical twin brows of the dashboard evoke wings on an airplane and the aviation theme carries over to gauges and switches, and the speedometer even has the words "Ground Speed” printed on it. To polish the feel off, there’s even the four plated toggle switches at the bottom of the center stack.
Moving away from production cars, this entry into the pantheon of cars inspired by airplanes is about as pure as it gets. The United States Air Force occasionally throws down a crazy car and, in this case, it's about the most American car on the planet daubed with a matte black finish that absorbs radar like an F-117 Nighthawk stealth attack aircraft. The USAF didn’t just stop there though, a 360-degree camera is used to project its image onto the windshield and an infrared thermal imaging camera can be used to drive it at night with the lights out via screens on the dashboard. It even has a power control lever instead of a throttle pedal. If you're wondering if the exhaust might be a giveaway, it has a stealth mode that reroutes the gasses through extra mufflers.
Before Ford built in some jet fighter style into the cockpit, Galpin Auto Sports took a 2009 Mustang and built a seriously cool recruitment tool for the United States Air Force, who supplied some gadgets to go in it. The custom jet cockpit interior features a joystick instead of a steering wheel and an actual ejection seat for the single occupant in case they get into an unrecoverable tailspin. Like the Vapor, it also has thermal monitors and both cars toured the US as part of a mobile marketing campaign to promote mechanical and technical career opportunities within the Air Force.
Lamborghini has a history of concepts influenced by aircraft, but the results aren't always easy on the eye. However, the Indomable is a full-on design study and probably the best of the lot. It’s based on the Gallardo and its influence is fighter planes, specifically the F-22 Raptor. One of the two designers is Daniel Chinchilla Ochoa, whose history includes working on aftermarket aero kits for VW and Ford which could be why there’s real credibility in the design despite Lamborghini passing on it in the end.
When General Motors’ Design Chief Ed Welburn and head of GM’s west coast studio, Frank Saucedo, sat down with Jay Leno, they came up with the static exhibit concept based around a jet engine running on biofuel. However, Leno has a team of mad scientists capable of building or maintaining just about anything. They set about the awesome task of turning concept to reality and ended up installing a Honeywell LT-101 turbine engine that runs on B100 biodiesel and got the fully functioning vehicle up and over 150 mph. If nothing else, the EcoJet is a testament to what can be achieved with creativity, expertise, and a big bankroll.