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Paul M. Lewis started an airplane company in Denver, CO in the 30s, to construct VTOL (Vertical Take Off and Landing) aircraft. Shortly after, he began to design an economical mode of transportation for the masses he planned on selling for $300. It took form as a three-wheeled aerodynamic automobile called the “Airmobile”.
The first rendering of that body was designed by John Tjaarda, a Dutch automotive stylist and engineer who worked on projects such as the first Chrysler Airflow and the first Lincoln Zephyr. Tjaarda was taken with the research of Tatra’s engineer, Paul Jaray, the early aeronautical Hungarian genius behind the aerodynamic teardrop shape of the Tatra T-87.
Two former Franklin Automobile Co. engineers, Carl Doman and Ed Marks, brought Lewis’s design to fruition. The vehicle was powered by a newly-engineered, air-cooled OHV flat-four with 57 hp, which drove the front wheels through Spicer constant velocity joints derived from Citroën components. The single rear wheel didn’t even have a brake. Lewis drove it all over the US proving its 43.6 mpg ability. Despite restyling and reengineering, Lewis couldn’t raise financial backing for production. The only Airomobile prototype is in Harrah's Automobile Collection.
In the late 60s, Lewis came back to establish the Highway Aircraft Corporation at the former U.S. Army Depot near Sidney, Nebraska. He produced a rear propeller-driven prototype but an accident during its demonstration forced Lewis to abandon the propeller idea. Instead, a Volkswagen engine was installed in its place. Though this prototype would prove to be ultimately unsuccessful, it inspired his next “Fascination” series of automobiles.
In 1962 the Fascination prototype was built in Denver, Colorado. It looked like it came right from the Jetsons animated sitcom. Lewis put it on display at numerous dealerships and gained plenty of interest from the public. He had big plans for a radical electric powerplant called the “Nobel Gas Plasma” and/or the “EvGray fuelless motor”. His brochure stated, This engine is a closed two-cycle reciprocating engine that has no intake, uses no air, emitting no exhaust at all…fuel is self-contained and hermetically sealed in the cylinders which are initially charged at the time of manufacturing, carrying their own power supply that will last approximately 60 to 75 thousand miles with no fall off of efficiency.
Lewis’ fantastic powerplant never materialized. Three additional examples were started in Sidney, Nebraska, powered by Renault engines. A fifth and final Fascination received a Chevrolet V6 engine coupled to an Oldsmobile Toronado transmission with butterfly doors. However, shortly after production started, Lewis was removed from the project by stockholders. Only two vehicles were completed before everything shut down, leaving three more examples unfinished. Remarkably, the five Fascinations survive.
Manufacturer: Highway Aircraft Corporation
Country of Origin: USA
Engine: Volkswagen Type 3, air-cooled, fuel-injected, flat-four engine, 1,493cc, 65hp
Transmission: Automatic three-speed
Top speed: 130 mph
Years Produced: 1962-
Number Produced: 5 total Fascinations