Over the years many designers and engineers have tried to look into the future; to predict the sort of cars we shall all be driving 10, 20 or even 50 years from now. One rich source of these imaginings is the science fiction comic – but none were as carefully thought through or meticulously drawn as the ideas of Frank Hampson (21 December 1918 – 8 July 1985). This British illustrator is best known as the creator and artist of Dan Dare and other characters in the boys’ comic, the Eagle, to which he contributed from 1950 to 1961.
Most of Hampson’s designs were naturally those of space craft – but there were a few land-based vehicles too. Our image comes from a pop-up book of unknown date but almost certainly in the mid-1950s – and it specifically identifies the year as 1999. Hampson was therefore visualising a world over 40 years into the future.
The story being told here is of three spaceships equipped with atom-bomb torpedoes on a mission to destroy Asteroid 2345, known as the “Red Moon”, as it approaches earth. Mercifully, the mission was a complete success (as we all know, of course).
The car on the left at the main barrier is identified as an Anan Jet Super Sports Aqua-Gyro car, from its name presumably capable of travelling on land and water. A blue car of the same or similar type is parked on the extreme right. The red car looks to be somewhat smaller, and its different grille suggests that there was still more than one manufacturer in 1999. The fire engine in the foreground shares the same basic style (bubble cockpits were clearly all the rage in 1999 and it is to be hoped that air-conditioning was standard on all vehicles).
The power source for these vehicles is sadly not given, but Wolseley enthusiasts will no doubt be delighted to see that the ideas of Count Peter P Schilovski were finally taken up, more than 80 years after his gyro car design was constructed by that otherwise conservative manufacturer in 1913. The stabilisers on either side of each vehicle also follow Schilovski’s concept. Dan Dare’s personal ship, Anastasia, was known to have four types of propulsion, one of which was “jets for use as aircraft or car” – so perhaps this was the method used. There appear to be jet nozzles at the back of the green car, and some highly suggestive black marks on the wall behind the blue car – so the red car could possibly be electric. We here at the SAHB take our research very seriously.