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This is a follow up to a previous question of mine: How do I keep my futuristic racing hovercraft from becoming airplanes?

I'm in planning stages for a futuristic racing game and I'm trying to figure out what the aerodynamic body plans for my vehicles would look like based on how they are supposed to function within the setting. Unfortunately, I don't have the money for virtual wind tunnel software, so I can't really just experiment with it myself.

I intend for the craft to hover on a cushion of air created by a combination of the ground effect and vertical thrusters. The reliance on that air cushion pushing up on the bottom of the craft keeps them at a relatively constant height to the ground while under their own power. The vertical thrusters are meant to generate lift and to supplement the pressure cushion while at low speeds and when making hard turns that might disrupt it. As the craft builds up speed and the ground effect kicks in, power is diverted from those vertical thrusters to the main thrusters to go even faster.

As discussed in the previous question, the aerodynamic profiles of these hovercraft are not supposed to allow them to go into sustained flight. Gliding is allowed if a craft is separated from the ground to prevent a crash and for higher risk races that might involve jumping over something (or the absence of something.) The vertical thrusters are also meant to assist with slowing a fall and trying to rapidly rebuild the air cushion before the bottom of the craft smashes into the ground or to mitigate the damage done if it is going to bottom out.

These craft are meant to make some pretty hard turns. My inspiration was the podracing scene from Star Wars: Episode I (and the racing game that came out with it) and that was the level of speed I was looking for, but with more realistic vehicles.

I know real world ground effect craft like ekranoplans didn't have the best turn radius, especially for the type of game I'm making, so I don't think I can pull much visual inspiration from them. I was thinking something like the designs from the F-Zero and Wipeout games, but made a little more realistic. What types of body plans might give me the lift I need, without becoming an airplane, while allowing for tight turns?

Whether they're obscure real world prototypes I haven't found, fictional craft or just a general shape to follow, I'd like to see examples that will help me pull together a general theme to start designing my own vehicles for the game.

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    $\begingroup$ You won't get realistic vehicles that combine hovercraft, vertical-thrust, and ground-effect. The different external requirements for each (skirts, wings, directional jets, etc) suggest a bulky, heavy monstrosity that Dr. Frankenstein would be proud of. The piloting complexity of shifting between flight modes of such a beast without immediately crashing into the adjacent ground would suggest a rather morbid sport in reality. So ditch realism, use a bit of technobabble as a fig leaf, and just draw something unrealistic-but-cool. $\endgroup$
    – user535733
    Mar 16 at 10:41
  • $\begingroup$ I don't think I'm going to be able to make something that is 100% realistic. I'm just trying to get some rough ideas to get something that looks believable, but still cool. Really just looking for stuff I can lift design queues from. $\endgroup$
    – Arvex
    Mar 16 at 18:38

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Sprint cars.

sprint car source

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sprint_car_racing

Winged sprint cars

... In the early 1970s, many sprint car drivers began to put wings with sideboards on both the front and top of their cars. The added wings increase the downforce generated on the car, with the opposite direction of the sideboards helping to turn the car in the corners. The increased traction makes the car faster and easier to control.

The wing also affects safety. The added downforce lessens the likelihood of going airborne.

My idea for your prior question about these vehicles was skirts. For this update I propose wings. These are not plane wings. These are wings to convert forward force into downward force. Wings to keep cars down on the ground are called spoilers, but these are super hypertrophied in the sprint cars as depicted - wings on the top and on the front.

If you want your vehicles to glider you will want to be able to change the tilt of these wings to facilitate that - driving your gliding car into the ground is not ideal. It is not such a big ask to have wings that tip up when gliding then tip back down.


If you want to emulate the Phantom Menace race you need variety. You could have a car with a rotating cylindrical wing like a paper airplane cylinder.

cylinder paper airplane https://www.ualberta.ca/newtrail/how-to/how-to-make-a-paper-airplane-to-challenge-your-assumptions.html

You could have a vehicle with a fan like a fanboat but 2 on the sides for lift and one on the rear that could tilt to provide lift or thrust.

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