As described in the script of the pilot episode of Irwin Allen’s “Land of the Giants,” the Spindrift is a “sub-orbital transport.” This concept took the idea of the Concorde one step further by having the ship briefly exit the atmosphere to reduce the time it takes to traverse the globe. By using this technique, the Spindrift could get passengers from Los Angeles to London in just over 3 hours. (This mode of transportation was only practical for the very wealthy who value time over money.)

Built at the Lockheed plant near Lindberg Field, San Diego, CA, the flying Spindrift used in the show could not actually exit the atmosphere, so the scenes of it in “space” were shot at night at an altitude of 30,000 feet over the clear desert skies of Utah.

Like its sister ship, the Flying Sub, the Spindrift has a uniquely organic and sculptural form, which producer Irwin Allen insisted upon. In breaking from more traditional NASA style, the engineers created a very futuristic-looking ship with no wings or control surfaces. Unfortunately, Allen’s demand for “form over function” made the ship notoriously difficult to fly. Because of this, it remained in dead storage on the 20th Century Fox backlot until the late 1970’s.

In 1977, the storage hangar it was housed in was set to be demolished to make way for further development of Century City, and the Spindrift was slated for disposal.

Luckily, retired former Lockheed engineer Robert L. Davis heard of the plans through a contact at the studio, and arranged to have an aircraft towing vehicle brought to the studio lot late one night. (The oft-repeated story that he paid off a night guard on the Fox lot is probably apocryphal, but even today, Davis is amusingly vague about the exact details of his acquisition.) To the relief of obscure aircraft fans everywhere, Davis managed to slip the Spindrift out the night before the bulldozers moved in, saving another sci-fi treasure.

Although still flight-worthy thanks to Davis’s attentions, the Spindrift is usually put on a flatbed truck and driven between appearances at air shows. Even though covered up for its journey, its distinctive shape is still evident, and truck drivers hauling the vehicle report many people honk and give the thumbs-up sign as they pass by.

Spindrift

Click on the images to see a larger version.

Slated to be demolished, the Spindrift was spirited away at night by a collector.
Because of its “form” over “function” design, the Spindrift is notoriously difficult to fly.

 

A rare copy of one of the Spindrift’s Safety Cards.

 

Both the Spindrift and Flying Sub have uniquely organic hull designs.

 

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