The Good, Bad & Heinously Bizarre Truth About Concept Cars

If you've been to WebUrbanist.com you know what a killer design-oriented site it is, and that when they focus on historical transportation design, they shine.

In March, they published a sensational article on Radical Retrofuture Rides: 12 Never-Produced Vehicles, featuring saucers, monocyles, blimps and more. The piece reminds the reader of humankind's overarching ingenuity at dreaming up new ways to transport themselves.

It also reminds us of the enormous gap between the human imagination and functional reality, a frustrating chasm we're quick to overlook the moment an automaker debuts its latest concept car. Fortunately by this reaction we can at best be called eternal optimists and at worst, perennial suckers.

But that's the role of a concept vehicle. Bringing it to fruition is costly and time-consuming, and may result in absolutely nothing of note. If every concept were rushed into production at the speed of the imagination, we would have a lot more Franz Reichelts on our hands …

Preserved by early moving pictures, Austrian tailor Franz Reichelt's notoriously rushed personal flight vehicle prototype, stitched together by his own hands, is equal parts farce and tragedy. Watch his tragic, fatal test-leap off the Eiffel Tower below, if you dare. Knowing what's coming makes the 45 or so seconds he stands on the precipice almost unbearable.

The effort appropriately landed him high on AskMen.com's list of dumb-ass deaths in human history.

Curiously, Franz leaped in 1912, nine years after the Wright Flyer astonished the world. It's impossible to think the news hadn't reached him; the Aero Club of Paris was aggressively trying to keep up with the Wright Brothers—who themselves had demonstrated their Flyer in France in 1908.

In the most drastic terms, Franz Reichelt illustrates the need for that enormous gap between imagination and reality.

At best we might validate his death by saying that, in flapping his arms to achieve flight, Franz finally proved what we all had assumed, by age 5, to be the sad, obvious truth about the vacant transportation potential in human arm-flapping.

Note: WebUrbanist.com also has a dynamite, can't-miss article on Outrageous Concept Cars.

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