Video: Production-ready flying car due to debut

A car that flies has been a staple of science fiction for years, not to mention the movies – remember Scaramanga's example in The Man with the Golden Gun? Well, you can now order one.

The Terrafugia Transition has been under development since 2006 and will be officially launched at the New York Auto Show next month. In case you were wondering about the dreadfully contrived name, Terrafugia is derived from Latin and means "escaping the earth".

The Transition features the obligatory folding wings and a small 100bhp Rotax petrol engine. In the air, it has a cruising speed of 105mph and a range of 490 miles. In fact, the makers do not describe it as a flying car, but a roadable aircraft, which neatly sums up its priorities.

It is possible to drive it on the road, but realistically only if you live close to an airfield. The dimensions would make it a nightmare on a British B-road - a length of six metres (nearly 19 feet) and a width of 2.3 metres mean that it is a bit longer and a lot wider than a Rolls-Royce Phantom - and trying to go through a width restrictor would slice off the front wheels.

Apparently getting it approved by the NHTSA (the US health and safety people for cars) was a bit of nightmare - it needed a special exemption to use plastic windows instead of glass. It also needed an exemption from mandatory ESP, because of the fear the system could be tricked by movement in the air into cutting engine power - a scary thought.

The price will be $279,000 - about £180,000 at current exchange rates. Selling the first few should be easy, as there are bound to be a few rich people who want the wow factor of turning up to the golf club in one of these (inevitably, the design includes a space for clubs). It will be interesting to see if it catches on once the initial excitement subsides.

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