Idiotic or Inspired?

The Fletcher Flair: A Crazy Floating Porsche Jeep Thing

The Fletcher brothers had a habit of creating great things that just didn’t quite work out. They formed their company, Fletcher Aviation, to try and win an Army contract for a basic trainer aircraft in 1941. The Army only showed brief interest in the plane, but their intention would be to use it as a target drone. Insulting.

Then in 1953 they had two breakthroughs. OK, really just one. That breakthrough was the FU-24, which was primarily produced in New Zealand as a crop duster. Many are still in use today.

The other was that crazy floating Porsche Jeep Thing thing up top. Called the Fletcher Flair, it was a response to an Army desire for a new, floating Jeep and Wendell Fletcher’s obsession with Porsche.

The Ford GPAs (aka “Seep”) were becoming scarce by the early 1950s. Probably because most of them were sitting at the bottom of canals, lakes, rivers, large puddles in the parking lot, etc. The Army, obsessed with amphibious equipment at the time, wanted a replacement. The Fletcher boys jumped at this chance to get a lucrative government contract and built the Flair.

The Flair used the mechanicals from a Porsche 356. The flat-four engine, transmission and suspension were bolted to the aluminum tub. It was light enough, around 1,490 pounds, to be air transportable. A transfer case and front differential were designed to make it four wheel drive. It seemed everything was working in their favor. Until they used the aircraft engine cooling setup patented by Otto Koppen to try to propel the Flair in the water. Mr. Koppen’s system used the exhaust gases to draw cooling air past the cylinder heads of an aircraft engine then out an exhaust exit. It was supposed to be much more efficient in aircraft applications since it did not require large cowl openings, and would work regardless of the forward windspeed. This was a seemingly genius system — it could cool the air-cooled Porsche engine and propel the craft all at once!

Unfortunately, it did not propel the Flair very well. Test drivers said you had better luck going anywhere in the water by turning the wheels. And with that, the project was sunk.

[Image Credit: Hemmings Blog]

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