Hemisphere Drive Speedster (Oct, 1938)

I love the last line of this article: “Two factors of importance, not outlined by the inventor, but which must be considered, are the gyroscopic effect of the motor and bumps in the road.”

That sort of like designing an airplane but neglecting to account for little things like taking off or landing.

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Hemisphere Drive Speedster

New French invention produces an entirely new system of drive which is remarkably flexible.

UNIQUE in the annals of automobile development is a new type of vehicle designed by a Frenchman, M. Lame, and demonstrated at the Lepine Exhibition. This tricycle type of automobile, powered with a three h.p. motor, was able to develop a maximum speed of 43 miles per hour. Its more modern version is shown on the cover of this issue.

With a 600 h.p. airplane engine, this machine could travel at incredible speeds.

As will be observed in the photographs, the motor operates a large hemispherical unit which makes contact with the surface of the road. When the hemisphere is set in a vertical position, there is no forward motion, but the moment it is inclined slightly, friction with the road drives the automobile forward and although the speed of the motor is maintained constantly, acceleration and deceleration depends entirely upon the peripheral surface which the hemisphere presents to the road. Thus, knowing the speed of the motor, only a simple calculation is required to determine the speed at which the automobile could be driven. Two factors of importance, not outlined by the inventor, but which must be considered, are the gyroscopic effect of the motor and bumps in the road.

  1. Rick Auricchio says: September 13, 200711:58 am

    Interesting. What he’s developed is essentially a continuously-vaiable transmission.

    The photo shows the hemisphere in no-motion state (though I wonder if it simply scrapes its apex on the pavement!)

    As one side of the sphere is lifted, a circular section makes contact, moving the vehicle. Lift farther and the contact circle becomes larger, speeding up the vehicle.

    This is analogous to using gears of different sizes to create different speeds. Think of the sphere as a gear (pinion) and the road as a flat gear (a rack). As you roll the sphere/gear, you move along the road. When you make the pinion larger (by tilting to get a larger section of the sphere into road contact) you move faster.

    This idea may have ended up in some mechanical designs, but we know it’s never been used as shown.

  2. Orv says: October 31, 20078:10 pm

    Some lawnmowers use a design that’s similar in concept, but with two perpendicular discs instead of a hemisphere. The farther out from the center one disc contacts the other, the higher the effective gear ratio.

  3. Gary says: October 14, 20088:37 pm

    I love the comment that with a 600HP aero engine incredible speeds could be achieved. I think that tends to apply regardless of the manner in which it applies traction! Dreaming about 600hp cars……

  4. blast says: July 9, 20117:11 am

    Just announced a few days ago, after having been re-invented:


    Congratulations, Curtis Boirum. That’s a really cool design. Don’t you hate it when it turns out “there’s nothing new under the sun,” though?

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