Failed Automaker Reminds Us Why We Should Dream Big
If you’re on this site, there’s a good chance you have contemplated building your own car. Perhaps from scratch, using items found in a junkyard. This notion probably came to you as a child, when possibilities were endless and the realities of life had not yet taken hold.
For me, that inspiration came to fruition at the age of eight, in the form of two Radio Flyer wagons, lashed side-by-side, with a wooden pole connecting the two steering mechanisms. The dream of building my own road-faring machine ended there (for now), but for Paul M. Lewis, the dream of creating a car became a lifetime passion.
His creations, the Airomobile and the Fascination, are true works of automotive art. Some might say abstract automotive art, but make no mistake- these aeronautical-inspired vehicles turn heads.
Paul M. Lewis moved to Denver, from Idaho Springs, CO in 1933 to open an airplane company. His goal was to construct VTOL (Vertical Take Off and Landing) aircraft. Shortly after beginning development of his first aircraft, Lewis also decided to take on constructing an automobile. Though he had no experience building cars, he was convinced that he could build an economical mode of transportation for the masses- and sell it for only $300. His design called for a very simple construction, with a three-wheeled layout.
Lewis approached ex-Franklin Motor Company engineers Carl Doman and Ed Marks to build the engine of his new car. He presented them with a scale model, which was curvaceous yet streamlined, and like nothing either man had ever seen before. They were sold, and moved production from Denver to Syracuse, which was home of the Doman-Marks Engine Company.
The original layout for what was to become the Airomobile called for two wheels in the front, and the engine up front, powering a single wheel in the rear. Doman and Marks were skeptical about the three-wheel layout, and drew up plans for a more conventional four wheel design with the engine in the rear.
After much trial and tribulation, in early 1936, the car was ready for production. Unfortunately for Lewis, the SEC stepped in with some major questions. Though they were selling stock, Lewis-American Airways had only built one plane and one car. They suspended Lewis’s right to sell stock. Undaunted, he continued with development and promotion of the “Airomobile”, which averaged 43.6 miles per gallon!