Aerodynamics

1919. And then came the Helica, a hopeless challenge…

With the valuable support of Prof. Massimo Grandi's depth of knowledge and illustrative talent

Some images are taken from the book Asi Service "Quando le disegnava il vento" by Massimo Grandi.

Marc Leyat unveiled the Elicicle in 1913. He then spent the WWII years working as an aeronautical engineer, an experience that only served to strengthen his firm belief that aircraft technology could be exploited on the roads.

He began to consider the possibility of producing something that could be sold, and so set to work correcting some of the flaws of his original experiment, the Elicicle. He lowered the engine so as to get a better center of gravity, and he replaced the complex and costly radial engine with simpler types, like the Harley, MAG and ABC Flat-twin (two-cylinder) engines.

A Harley engine. The other engines used between 1919 and 1925 were the MAG and ABC Flat-twin types. Instead, the 1913 prototype was powered by a Scorpion (radial engine).

Leyat also added protection for the propeller, given that you could hardly drive around with a sort of rotating guillotine on the front of your vehicle. The car had rear wheel steering, and he replaced the original single rear wheel with a pair of wheels. He also added two stabilizing fins to solve other problems presented by the previous version. The seating arrangement was like that of a fighter plane, with the driver in the front and the passenger in the back. Two years later, he also proposed a closed version fitted with cheap, lightweight hammock-type seats, an idea subsequently adopted by Citroën for its 1939 2CV.

The closed version, a veritable sedan. Equipped with headlamps and a rear light, it could even be used at night.

Even though very few of these vehicles were sold (around 25 sales are documented), in 1926 Leyat also proposed a modified Sport model that, a year later at Montlhéry, recorded an extraordinary speed: 171 km/hour. Amazing! What can we say? Simply that the idea was inspired by the aerodynamics of an airplane fuselage. Air was the obstacle and overcoming it remained an exciting challenge.

The superfast 1926 modified Sport version