Milan, 1478-1485

Leonardo da Vinci’s Self-Propelled Cart
Reconstruction: Museo del Sidecar, Cingoli (Macerata)
Materials: wood (oak, poplar, elm, fir), forged iron, natural glues, beeswax

Leonardo (1452-1519) revised and altered his self-propelled cart several times, as shown in a series of sketches drawn between 1478 and 1485. The clearest image is in the Codex Atlanticus (f. 812r), where two self-propelled carts are portrayed. The model on display is the one on top. The presence of a rear steering wheel with a control lever suggests that Leonardo was thinking of a driver. The power is provided by a leaf spring which, after being bent, tends to return to its original position and acts on a series of gears, which transmit the movement to the vehicle. Conceived to amaze at court parties and in theatrical performances, the range of the self-propelled vehicle was a few meters.