As the automobile industry grew in conjunction with the aircraft industry, some overlap between the two was inevitable. Going back through history, some notable crossovers from aircraft to motorcars and vice versa include Rolls-Royce, SAAB, Mitsubishi and Bristol. There have certainly been others some other more obscure ventures, one of which is the Czech firm Aero. Aero was founded in Praha in 1919 primarily for the manufacture and repair of aircraft. But when the aircraft business was lean, Aero turned to making motorcycle side cars, motorcar bodies and eventually, moving to complete car production. At first, cars were assembled in the Aero Works using parts supplied by EMKA, however by 1929, they shifted to producing their own complete car in-house.
Aero’s first complete automobile was the Aero 10HP, a cute cyclecar with simple but clever unitary platform construction and a 490cc single cylinder two-stroke engine driving the rear wheels. By 1932, Aero’s cars were growing larger and more sophisticated, with the 500, 662 and 1000 models (all named for their displacement) available as four-seat sedans or sporty little roadsters. The roadsters, particularly with the 1000 cc two-stroke four-cylinder, proved quite popular in competition. In fact, Aero enjoyed a fair bit of sporting success within Eastern Europe and even in major international events such as the 1934 Monte Carlo Rally, where Bohumil Turek scored a third in class in his Aero 1000.
Building on that momentum, Aero introduced the A30 and its larger sibling, the A50, which both featured a sophisticated independently sprung platform chassis and front wheel drive. The 50 was a very special machine, a flagship model of sorts for Aero. Bodies were available from the factory, however clients could opt for a body from a coachbuilder as well. Automobile production trickled to a stop following WWII when the Czech motor industry became nationalized. But Aero continued making aircraft, and remains in business today as Aero Vodochody.
This 1937 Aero 50 is an extremely rare example of this most unusual Czech sporting car. While little of the earliest history is known, we do know that this Model 50 was first brought to the United States by an American serviceman after WWII, and has remained largely untouched since. This particular car is quite unusual in that it wears a very attractive coachbuilt body by J. Sodomka, a Czech coachbuilder known for building lavish bodies inspired by the great French design houses of the time. This car is also rather unusual in that it is fitted with a 1971cc OHV inline six-cylinder engine sourced from a BMW 326. As the Aero 50 is front-wheel drive, the engine is turned 180 degrees in the chassis, and the fitment appears very well engineered, most likely done before the car came to the United States. In speaking with marque experts, we have learned that the addition of the BMW inline-six was a relatively popular upgrade in the period, giving the Aero 50 far greater performance than the standard two-cycle engine could deliver. Some believe that conversions were done at the factory, and while this has not been verified, it would go far in explaining the quality of the installation. Another distinct possibility is that the engine was fitted at the time the chassis was at the Sodomka coachworks.
The Aero 50 presents today as a partially completed project. The most recent owner did begin a restoration after the car languished for many years, however it was left unfinished. The engine appears to have been restored, and some of the body panels repaired and primed. Even in its imperfect condition, it is easy to appreciate the beauty and quality of the Sodomka coachwork. It is a finely styled machine, very much in the spirit of a BMW 328, Adler Trumpf Sport or pre-war Riley. Restoration of the body has been started, though some additional fabrication work on the floors and rear section would be required. Once completed, however, this would be a wonderful and intriguing candidate for tours, rallies or shows, as the twin-carb BMW engine is a delightful and tractable unit. Few examples of the Aero 50 were sold within the Czech Republic and even fewer have made it outside of Europe, making this coachbuilt example an extremely rare sight from this esoteric Czech automaker.
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