The True Story of When Albert Einstein Drove a Flying Car

Few things capture the imagination of the automotive world as much as a flying car. Whether in shows or movies like the Jetsons, Blade Runner, or Back to the Future Part II, flying cars typically are depicted as a vehicle of the future. However, over 80 years ago, the legendary physicist Albert Einstein drove a flying car — but not in the way that you may think. You’ll want to hear this unbelievable but true story. 

Movie of Einstein driving a car on a Warner Brothers soundstage

Albert Einstein in a suit and tie
Albert Einstein | Lambert/Keystone/Getty Images

While cars are a common, everyday occurrence, in 1931, they were still a novelty for many, as most people could not drive. However, the 1930s was also a time of rapid technological advancement for the automotive industry. Automotive companies added new inventions to cars during this time, such as automatic transmissions, V8, V12, and V16 engines, heaters, and radios.

Einstein, even with the unmatched brilliance of his mind and his scientific expertise, was not immune to feeling a sense of wonder about cars. A few years ago, a remarkable movie was unearthed of Einstein driving a flying car with his wife Elsa, as reported by From the Grapevine. The movie put Einstein’s theory of relativity to the test. The Hollywood studio did some movie magic by making things “seem what they are not.”

Aerial journey with Einstein and his wife

On the soundstage, Einstein and his wife hopped in a dilapidated car. At first, Einstein was reluctant to go in the car because he did not want others to photograph him in it. However, some German technicians persuaded him to do so. The lights were then turned down low, and a screen appeared in the background behind the car. With Einstein at the wheel and Elsa in the passenger seat, they went on an aerial sightseeing tour.

First they “drove” the car down Broadway, through Los Angeles, and then to the beaches. After that, the car rose through the sky like an airplane. Einstein took his hand off the wheel of the car, while the picturesque Rocky Mountains appeared below. From there, the car made a safe landing and moved on through Germany.

The movie was missing for decades until it was discovered in 2018 by a student working at the Lincoln Center in New York. It was unknown to the public until then. This is because Warner Brothers destroyed the master film. The studio gave the only copy of the movie to the Einsteins.

Did Albert Einstein drive a car?

Albert Einstein in a car with his wife and another man
Albert Einstein in Car with Frank Aydelotte and Wife | Bettmann/Contributor

By all known accounts, Albert Einstein did not own a car and didn’t know how to drive. This may be one of the reasons why he was initially reluctant to be photographed in the flying car on the Warner Brothers soundstage. Einstein was able to travel in cars with the assistance of chauffeurs and relatives that could drive. In addition to Einstein, many other famous people from yesteryear either never or rarely drove, such as Jack Kerouac, Woodrow Wilson, Elizabeth Bishop, Mae West, and Rae Bradbury.

Will flying cars ever move from the realm of Hollywood movie magic into an everyday reality? We can only dream and look toward the future.

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