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June 15, 2022

Dan LaLee Streamline Retractable Hardtop Car, 1938

Borrowing ideas from the transport planes he has piloted, a California airman designed and built a streamline automobile with a rudderlike tail. With its supercharged V-eight motor he asserts that the car will travel 120 miles an hour, yet it is economical in fuel use, delivering eighteen miles to the gallon at sixty miles an hour. Wind resistance is reduced to a minimum, even on the front wheels which have independent “pants” that turn with the wheel. Electric controls are built in wherever possible.

A push button on the dash opens the doors. The disappearing top swings into place at the touch of another button, embodying the same mechanism applied to raising and lowering landing gear in an airplane. When the top is raised it forms a strong steel turret roof.

The car has a 112-inch wheelbase. Built low, the car has no running boards. The headlights retract into the fenders.

The photos all date from February 10, 1938, and depict LaLee, along with Jack Knight of United Air Lines and model Betty Bryant, showing off the retractable in or around Dearborn, Michigan. A couple of the photo descriptions include the word “rebuilt” and those wheels appear to come from an earlier Ford, so we can presume LaLee used a chassis from a wrecked car on which to base his retractable.


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