The pursuit of aerodynamics in the early decades of the last century was a phenomenon that extended to trains and trucks, albeit within the limits associated with the nature and purpose of these vehicles. Not many people know that an early high-speed train, called Autorail, was designed and built by Ettore Bugatti. Powered by Bugatti Royale eight-cylinder 12763cc engines, it traveled at an average speed of 130 km/hour,
and for much of the 1930s it provided a successful service between Paris and Strasbourg. The field of aviation, too, had embraced the trend: designers of seaplanes, some never actually built, came up with new shapes whose innovative and harmonious lines inevitably influenced tastes in the automotive sector. Although cars had, for a long time, continued to have an angular, carriage-like appearance, eventually there emerged a growing recognition of the value — esthetic as well as functional —, of the new, more rounded, lines.
Some, like the bold Edmund Rumpler, paid dearly for this futurist vision. However, although Rumpler’s Tropfenwagen never took off, his magnificent streamlined LKW typ RuV29 trucks, which were used for many years by Berlin-based publisher Verga Ullstein to ensure rapid newspaper deliveries, left a more lasting impression. Sadly, these vehicles were destroyed in a bomb attack in 1942, with the result that a few, faded images are all that remain of them today. Our illustrations, as well as showing their harmonious and elegant lines, also suggest that they had some extremely practical features. Note, for example, how the rear wheels were lowered to keep the side clean, and how the fenders were carefully designed to merge with the bodywork, creating magnificent lines like airplane wings. Although this may not seem anything special to us today, at the time it was quite an innovation. Back then, fenders were usually nothing more than wheel covers, separate from the bodywork and serving only to prevent spray in wet weather.
Interestingly, Continental developed special tires for the RuV29, capable of withstanding speeds of over 100 km /hour. We should therefore gratefully acknowledge Rumpert’s land vehicles, which proved to be far more enduring than any dreams of large airships and giant seaplanes for passenger transport. All these categories, however, were designed to challenge the air and to exploit the wealth of opportunities it offers.