Do Androids Dream of Flying Cars?

Thirty-seven years ago a film once looked at our future and saw a grim film noir detective story out of Philip K. Dick’s “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?” What we got was a near failure at the box office by Ridley Scott and starring Harrison Ford in Blade Runner.

Blade Runner’s title comes from William S. Burroughs’ Blade Runner (a movie), a film treatment based on Alan E. Nourse’s 1974 novel The Bladerunner (alternatively published as The Blade Runner). That book has nothing to do, content-wise, with Dick’s book or Scott’s movie; its plot involves a black market for medical services. Scott just liked the term as a description for Deckard’s replicant-hunting cop. The film was originally titled Dangerous Days.

I’ll admit the movie isn’t a car enthusiast must-see per se, but there’s no denying the fact that the Blade Runner flying car known simply as a “Spinner” does invoke a sense of awe and wonder. The dream of a flying car has been implanted in us for decades. Most of us, at least. Take “The Jetsons” for instance. This TV series came out almost 60 years ago in 1962. Many other shows and movies had futuristic modes of automobiles flying, but nobody pulls it off with such style that we didn’t see until a little film called the “The Fifth Element” went full flying cars and cabs in our distant future.

The vision of a future daily driver capable of flight is something that’s very intriguing to many and has been for a long time. Even though the flying police car from Blade Runner doesn’t have the biggest role in either of the movies, it’s still an important feature in creating this version of a dystopian future.

At first, the original Blade Runner wasn’t widely loved by critics and audiences. Due to its radical perception of a not-so-distant nightmarish future, the sci-fi movie was a near miss. It wasn’t until years later that the film went from being a neo-noir outcast to the sci-fi classic that we know today. For those who haven’t seen the original movie, watch it! And for those who haven’t seen the sequel, I’d recommend watching it as well. I’ll refrain from divulging any plot spoilers here.

The vehicle, driven by Rick Deckard and played by a young Harrison Ford, can be driven like today’s cars, but also flown like a jet. The Blade Runner flying car can take off vertically, cruise with jet propulsion, and hover. It’s not explained how the vehicle has the propulsion of a Harrier jet or some anti-gravity tech that we haven’t made possible yet in our own timeline. The second technological factor is the idea that androids could have been around by our day now. Both sadly have been glossed over in favor of better telecommunication networks and smartphones.

The Spinner vehicles used in the film are actually full-sized cars built by Gene Winfield, a custom car creator. Winfield built 25 vehicles for the film, and also loaned them out to other productions after filming completed. Eagle-eyed viewers can spot a Spinner in the background of a shot in “Back to the Future II.”

In the 1968 novel, the author refers to the cars used by law enforcement as hover cars. But with the creative vision of Syd Mead for the original movie, these hover cars really took flight. The vision then became a reality when Gene Winfield built what came to be a full-size Spinner — based on a Volkswagen — only two of which were made.

Here’s a strange rumor that became an urban legend. Blade Runner has a curse – on the businesses whose logos appear in the film. Atari, Pan Am, RCA, Cuisinart, and Bell Phones all suffered severe business problems in the years shortly after Blade Runner’s release, as did Coca-Cola, whose 1985 “New Coke” experiment was less than successful. Members of the Blade Runner production team refer to this as the “product-placement Blade Runner curse.” Luckily all car logos were removed so nothing of flying transportation was affected by the so-called curse.

For those who saw the movie and noticed the Spinner was a French car, it might have seemed out of place. Much like the plot twists and turns, the choice of a French-made car was definitely unexpected. For one car enthusiast and Jalopnik blogger, this car was unusual because the French car maker has absolutely little to no presence in the U.S. For Ryan Gosling’s character, Officer K, to be driving around in a Peugeot is a bit unlikely. It’s still unclear as to the reason for this automaker’s subtle product placement, especially to an American audience, but it could be foreshadowing to the future of Peugeot.

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