Padua, 1420

Giovanni Fontana’s Traveling Chair
Reconstruction: Museo del Sidecar, Cingoli (Macerata)
Materials: wood (oak, spruce, poplar, ramin), forged iron, hemp, gunpowder, natural glues

The vehicle designed by engineer Giovanni Fontana (active in Padua in the first half of the 15th century) consists of a wooden cockpit, in which the driver, comfortably seated, can operate the steering lever that rests on a cogwheel and works on the front axle, changing the direction of the vehicle. As soon as the direction is set, the driver releases the lever, which is held still by the gear teeth, and takes again the rope to advance to the next curve. The wheels are iron-hooped. As an alternative solution to operate this vehicle, Fontana proposed the propulsive force of rockets, suggesting that caution should be exercised.