Motoring Through Ice and Snow Like It’s 1913

The solution to winter driving when William H. Taft was president.

byBen Keeshin|
History photo

Every year, in states above the Mason-Dixon, driving gets difficult. From December to March, precipitation and cold air combine to coat the roads in a fun slick, leaving cars to inch along slowly or careen into a ditch. Some people just stay home. That’s because driving requires thrust, and the cars with powered wheels that we drive require fiction to produce thrust. Snowy roads, whose surfaces provide as much friction as freshly waxed linoleum, hinder travel.

The solution? Wind-powered cars, of course! It’s unimaginable that snow-cursed drivers of Northern latitude haven’t turned to turbines sooner. A technology best known for powering airboats in the Everglades, a fan requires no tire-to-road traction to scoot a car along—just atmosphere. Feasibly, a fan-powered vehicle could power through a foot of powder or across an icy lake. (Steering and braking would, however, remain difficult). Here, in 1913, the inventor of the “air drive” system pilots his plane-car hybrid across a snowy landscape, problem-free. Yes, the mechanism looks loud and highly-dangerous, but a century on, let’s bring that tech back. And, quickly, considering what’s coming Friday.