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Billions of dollars are spent on car design and manufacture, and yet few vehicles match the beauty of some of those built for land speed record attempts, sometimes by a handful of people in a garage.Here are our picks purely based on looks rather than actual speed. Seeing them on one page is extremely satisfying.

most beautiful land speed record vehicles

The hovercraft will be 50 years old next year. Like supersonic, interplanetary and deep sea travel, the demise of the world’s largest hovercraft the SR-N4, joined Concorde, the Saturn V and the Trieste as examples of technological retreat.The SR-N4, which was operated by two companies, for many years, to transport people across the English Channel, could carry over 30 vehicles and 250 people. What made these hovercraft particularly unusual is that they represented an example of a design where the civilian versions were more extraordinary than those used by the military, which are still smaller, even today.

18 hovercraft designs

Around the same time Roy Lichtenstein copied comic books for the New York chattering classes, Papua New Guinean tribesmen did the same for their battle shields. These items are real, used in tribal warfare after prototypical lycra-clad American comic book hero The Phantom somehow struck a chord with traditional cultures in the Western Highlands. They are possibly one of the most bizarre items of popular culture’s infiltration of the far corners of the world.

15 Papua New Guinean superhero war shields

Bridge layers have to be about the closest thing in the real world to a Transformer, giant fold up, extendable instantly deployable bridges that are most often fixed to modified tanks. They have been around since tanks first existed, during WW1, and are one of the more bizarre and obscure forms of military hardware. There is also something incredibly circular about a vehicle that carries its own road.

12 mobile bridges

The earliest ejector seats were designed to save your life, but broke your back. Today the ultimate ejection seats are described as zero zero seats able to operate at zero altitude and zero airspeed. Ejection seats are interesting because they are the most extreme form of a commonplace design item – a chair.

12 ejector seats

There has probably been nothing like the sight of dazzle ships, before or since. So impressive were they that their patterns were used into WWII, after their efficacy was questionable, because they were thought to boost morale. Dazzle patterns were designed by modernist painters, in the modernist style, bringing about a very strange meeting of bohemian painters and military types.With no all weather camouflage for ships in WWI, these extraordinary designs were painted on ships to confuse rather than obscure. The sliced geometry meant that it was difficult to align split screen range finders, and fake bows made it difficult to gauge speed and heading.We are breaking our usual rule of showing actual objects rather than paintings or models, for two reasons: dazzle ships were very brightly colored, yet there are no color images of their WWI versions; many of the dazzle designs were by modern artists, and the famous painting of a dazzle ship was by one of the people who designed the camouflage itself, Edward Wadsworth.

dazzle ships

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WTF is That? No. 2

March 30th, 2009 #link

wtfisthat

The man in the picture is not being hurt. In fact people are trying to help him. What in the world is the name of this device and what does it do? Answers in the comments.



8 Responses to “WTF is That? No. 2”

  1. JJoe Says:

    Does he work for Microsoft?

  2. Andy Simons Says:

    Its a pair of electric boxing gloves?

  3. Flixter Says:

    Its an early electric chair.

  4. admin Says:

    Nope, nobody gets hurt.

  5. Indiefab Says:

    Haha. Great pic. That’s one of the first electrocardiograms. His hands are in jars of salt water with electrodes attached. And yes, I cheated. I’m a doctor. Heeheee.

  6. admin Says:

    @Indiefab. Congrats – spot on, its an Einthoven cardiograph.

    More details here: http://chem.ch.huji.ac.il/history/einthoven.html

  7. Yosemite Sam Says:

    It’s the Electrostash Generator 3000. You can see how plump his mustache is just after 5 minutes of treatment. Yes you too can have a luxurious mustache of your very own in just minutes! No more hassle and headaches attempting to look like a real man…just plug in and grow!

    With the ES 3000, you can even use the innovative ‘Select-O-Stash’ dial to choose the perfect mustache for any occasion. A Cary Grant mustache for a professional look, a Salvador Dali for those spunky days, or a Tom Selleck for when you want to impress the ladies.

    Act now, supplies are limited!

  8. admin Says:

    @Yosemite. Oh how we wish it was the Electrostash Generator 3000.