This photo gallery follows a simple premise, really, one that came to us as we idly browsed through back issues of our magazine. We were reminded of our once-common practice of launching a car high enough for all four tires to lose purchase with Mother Earth for the sake of a neat photograph to run with a review of a (usually) pedestrian car. Advertisers leaned on the eye-catching format even more, but for this collection we’ve stuck with editorial images run on the physical and digital pages of Car and Driver – like this photo of a 1975 Austin Mini 1000 being flung off a catapult at the end of a rope, from the June 1992 issue. Enjoy!

This flock of flying cars was originally compiled in January 2017 and has since been updated with new entries.

Mike Valente – Car and Driver

2019 Ford Mustang Bullitt, August 2018

In, ahem, launching its newest Bullitt-edition Mustang, Ford staged a drive event in San Francisco, California, on the same mean streets as the famed chase scene from the 1968 Bullitt film. Naturally, some intelligent human in Ford’s marketing department ginned up this photo of the 2019 Mustang Bullitt leaping over San Fran’s hilly topography.

The Manufacturer – Car and Driver

1987 BMW M5, December 1987

BMW’s first ever M5 was fast, handled well, and helped launch the automaker’s M division into the mainstream. But who cares about all of that? Here’s that original M5 with its suspension at full droop during our first test of the sports sedan in 1987.

Larry Griffin

1988 Pontiac Grand Prix Coupe, October 1987

This image of a Pontiac Grand Prix coupe lifting off graced the cover of our October 1987 issue. We can think of no photo more attention-grabbing for the lead story that month (’88 New Cars!) than an airborne mid-size two-door Pontiac. After all, it’s not as though the other stories in that issue could have provided better eye candy. Who wants to look at a photo of the Lamborghini LM002 SUV, Saleen Ford Mustang, Ferrari Mondial 3.2, or BMW 325i convertible that we also tested that month?

1978 Ford Bronco, January 1978

Is there a such thing as too much awesome? Our January 1978 cover featured a Ford Bronco leaping through what looks to be an idyllic field alongside the words “Hump Jumping in Ford’s New 4×4.” A Bronco and references to humping and jumping? We’d snatch that magazine off the newsstand in half a hump.

1991 Nissan 300ZX, August 1991

It’s only natural that when given a 300-hp, twin-turbocharged Nissan sports car, we’d steer it toward the nearest pavement whoop and punch the gas. And so we did during a 1991 comparison test that pitted the 300ZX against a Dodge Stealth R/T Turbo.

Dick Kelley

1991 Dodge Stealth R/T Turbo, August 1991

We jumped the Nissan, so of course we also just had to jump the Dodge Stealth it was being compared against. We’re fans of symmetry.

Dick Kelley

2011 Mopar Ram Runner, August 2011

Ram has yet to offer a factory off-road truck with the same dune-running capability as Ford’s F-150 Raptor, but since 2011 it has offered the Ram Runner upgrade kit for the 1500 pickup through its Mopar accessories catalog. The Ram Runner gear transforms a typical half-ton Ram pickup into a baby trophy truck and a convincing Raptor competitor, advancing wheel travel at all four corners to a useful 14 inches and adding a bunch of hard-core suspension components designed for one thing: sweet jumps. We couldn’t resist.

Jim Fets

2013 Dodge Dart Rallye, September 2012

Jumping this Dodge Dart made perfect sense – it was a Rallye trim that we tested against a Ford Focus, after all! We’re thinking that the Dart trim level’s extraneous “e” stripped it of any rally-car-like abilities, however, because it did nothing to improve the Dart’s flight characteristics or its landing skills. Jumping the compact Dodge did, however, make it seem less boring.

James Lipman

2012 Ford Focus SE, September 2012

Speaking of boring, the Ford Focus sedan – painted silver, no less – that we pitted against the Dodge Dart barely managed to lift off the pavement during its jump attempt. The Focus might not have flown as high, but it can wave its 10Best Cars awards in the now discontinued Dart’s face. If it weren’t already clear, we do not factor in a car’s ability to jump when making our annual selection of the 10 best cars on sale.

James Lipman

Chevrolet Vega Cosworth Rally Car, December 1976

The intrepid Don Sherman, who has been racing and beating on cars for Car and Driver since the 1970s, took a modified Chevrolet Vega Cosworth rallying in 1976. Before he did, he wrote about the car’s build in our December 1976 issue. Of course he jumped it for photos before later running the car in the Marquette 1000 rally.

2017 Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro, November 2016

When life gives you an upgraded Toyota Tacoma that’s ready for the off-road grind, you take it off-road. And then you jump it. How could our test of the ’17 Tacoma TRD Pro be complete without a few leaps?

Michael Simari

2017 Ford F-150 Raptor, December 2016

Does this shot look familiar? It should, because that’s the same sand mound off which we launched the Tacoma TRD Pro. It’s at Michigan’s Silver Lake Sand Dunes park. We tested the Tacoma and the F-150 there at the same time but under orders from Ford we weren’t allowed to share our Raptor experience until about a month later. We found that, with much more horsepower and even beefier suspension components than the Toyota, the Ford pickup could safely carry far more speed over this jump, which explains why the Raptor made it much higher.

Michael Simari

1994 Mercedes-Benz C220, August 1994

In an otherwise ordinary comparison test of $32,000 entry-luxury sedans (in Ohio, no less), what could possibly add pizazz? A senior staffer taking an early Mercedes-Benz C-class higher than any C-class had ever been – and likely higher than all others will ever go. Seriously, that is a concerning distance between the Benz’s tires and the ground.

Tom Cosgrove

McLaren F1, August 1994

Today, McLaren’s F1 is looked to as a watershed moment in supercar performance with escalating values to match. Back in 1994 when we tested one, it was merely the newest hot thing, even if we already knew it would reach icon status. That’s not to say we intentionally set out to jump the F1, but sometimes unexpected stuff happens at speeds above 100 mph on unfamiliar roads. A hump in the pavement was all it took to send the F1 skyward.

Andrew Yeadon

1995 Nissan 200SX SE-R, February 1995

Forget the half-foot or so of air under the Nissan Sentra 200SX’s tires. Just check out that void between the coupe’s twist-beam rear axle and the underbody! This photo was the perfect match for the cover of our February 1995 issue, which blared: “Nissan’s High-Flying 200SX – Think of it as a Sentra SE-R with new duds.”

Aaron Kiley

Pontiac Firebird Trans Am, February 1996

And here’s an unplanned “flight” that occurred in 1996, when our then editor-in-chief, Csaba Csere, attempted to break a speed record at the Bonneville Salt Flats in a modified Pontiac Firebird Trans Am. We decided to go with a chronological, film-reel play-by-play of that record attempt’s transition to a flight over Bonneville for two reasons. First, our photographer was too far away – for safety reasons – from the Pontiac’s run to get a better shot. Second, the play-by-play offers at least a partial explanation for how the Pontiac went from hurtling down the salt at more than 200 mph to a sort of high-speed fluttering leaf with wheels several feet above the salt. The non-blurry version of events is that a lack of downforce unsettled the front of the car enough to deaden all steering response, with the Pontiac uncontrollably careening toward the ungroomed salt beyond the course. Csaba had no choice but to lift in an attempt to bring some front-end grip back and keep the Pontiac on course.

The move worked, insofar as the car indeed steered back onto the groomed salt – but it also entered a lurid back-and-forth fishtail before the car’s front end lifted off the ground, the whole thing spun 180 degrees, and the front slammed down, shunting the car sideways again. At this point, the glass rear hatch tore off, and the Trans Am simply lifted off the ground like a crude wing before landing squarely on its roof, blowing out every remaining window save one and sliding for another quarter of a mile before coming to a rest, filled with salt. We know this isn’t a jump, but that Pontiac sure went flying that day. Our esteemed EIC walked away sore but otherwise okay.

Rich Chenet / Ray Nessel

Original Article

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