Aug 06 2013

Mystery Foto #27 Solved: Rust Heinz’ 1938 Phantom Corsair

Roger Patterson submitted this Mystery Foto of the one-of-one 1938 Phantom Corsair...considered  by many experts to be the most futuristic car of  the 1930s.


Answers to the Mystery Foto questions:

-Identify the car and the year it was built.

1938 Phantom Corsair


-Who funded the development of the car? Hint: His family is better known in the food industry.

Rust Heinz, heir to the ketchup fortune, funded the development of the car and assisted in its design. The primary designer was Maurice Schwartz of  Bohman & Schwartz Coachbuilding Company of Pasadena, California.  The planeed sales price for the Phantom Corsair was $12,500 equal to  $207,000 today.


-How many were built?

Only one. Rust heinz died in a car accident on July 23, 1939 at the age of only 25 years old. His production plans for the Phantom Corsair died with him.


-Which famous television personality once owned the car? Hint: It was not Jay Leno.

The car stayed in the Heinz family until 1942. From 1951 to 1970, it was owned by comedian Herb Shriner, who was one of the pioneers of 1950s television.


-Which movie featured this car? Hint: It was not Batman.

It was featured in the 1938 movie "Young  in Heart" starring Janet Gaynor, Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., Paulette Goddard and Billie Burke. In the movie, the Phantom Corsair was called the "Flying Wombat".


-Which owner of this car also once owned the Alco "Black Beast"? I told you it was a stretch.

The car is currently owned by The Harrah Collection in Reno, Nevada which owned the Alco Black Beast in the 1970s.


Congratulations to super detective Greg Oreiro, Ariejan Bos, Brian McCarthy, Art K and Phil for solving this challenging Mystery Foto. Special thanks to Art for his links and Phantom Corsair-related jpegs.


If you have a suggested Mystery Foto, please send me a jpeg at [email protected] .


Howard Kroplick

The Phantom Corsair being advertised for sale in The New York Times on June 25, 1950. (Submitted by Art K.)

Phantom Corsair Images

Additional links relevant to the Phantom Corsair:

Automotive Views


Motor Trend

2007 Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance

2009 Amelia Island Concours d' Elegance

The New York Times, March 8, 2009 "A Dream Car Makes an Appearance". (Submitted by Art K.)

Harrah's Automobile Collection

1938 Film "Young in Heart"

When the first real "Car of the Future" appeared to the public?

I guess it happened in a 1938 movie called "The Young ln Heart". The name of the car in the film is "Flying Wombat" but in the reality this streamlined black beast is a Phantom Corsair, a six-passenger coupe that was designed by Rust Heinz, a member of the H. J. Heinz family, and Maurice Schwartz of the Pasadena, California based Bohman & Schwartz coachbuilding company. Heinz planned to put the Phantom Corsair, which cost approximately $24,000 to produce in 1938 (approximately $400,000 in 2008 dollars) into limited production at an estimated selling price of $12,500. However, Heinz's death, shortly after the car was completed, ended those plans. The automobile was featured as the "Flying Wombat" in the David O. Selznick film The Young in Heart (1938) starring Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., Paulette Goddard, Janet Gaynor, and Billie Burke. Heinz and his car were also featured in a segment of the Popular Science film series in 1938.

The other "Flying Wombats" we see in the showroom sequences were just static copies of the car, probably made of wax.The unique 1938 Phantom Corsair now resides in the National Automobile Museum (The Harrah Collection) in Reno, Nevada.

With a height of only 147 cm (58 in.), the steel and aluminum body had no running boards, fenders or door handles. Instead, the doors could be opened using buttons located on the outside and on the instrument panel. To match the advanced design, Heinz chose the most advanced chassis available in the United States at that time to fit the body onto, the Cord 810. The V8 engine equipped Cord also featured front wheel drive and an electrically operated four-speed gearbox, as well as a fully independent suspension and adjustable shock absorbers. To accommodate the large body, various changes were carried through on the chassis. The car's lower frame was made of chromoly steel and the upper frame was constructed of electrically welded aviation steel tubing. Power for the 2-ton / 4500 lb. (2000 kg) Phantom Corsair came from a modified Cord 810 Lycoming 8-cylinder unit, supercharged by Andy Granatelli to produce about 190 hp. The aerodynamic body enabled the car to reach speeds of up to 115 miles per hour (185 km/h), not bad at all for 1938.

Anyway, in my opinion, the production of the "Cars of the Future" (intended as a whole brand new concept of car making) started in 1949, creating an overall concept of Automobile that lasted on the market until the early 70ies.

Here we celebrate the 70th anniversary of the Phantom Corsair with some good quality excerpts from "The Young ln Heart", with part of the shots regarding this outstanding and completely forgotten automobile.


Aug 01 2013 Greg Oreiro 10:30 PM

Vaguely remembered seeing the car somewhere, and definitely had to look up most of the answers! Still just as much fun researching the ones I don’t know!

-Identify the car and the year it was built.

1938 Phantom Corsair

-Who funded the development of the car? Hint: His family is better known in the food industry.

Rust Heinz, son of HJ. Heinz of “57 Varieties” fame

-How many were built?

Heinz died in a car accident in July 1939, leaving the prototype Corsair as the only one ever built.

-Which famous television personality once owned the car? Hint: It was not Jay leno.

Herb Shriner, who owned it from 1951-1970

-Which movie featured this car? Hint: It was not Batman.

Featured as the “Flying Wombat” in the David O. Selznick film The Young in Heart (1938), starring Janet Gaynor, Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., Paulette Goddard, and Billie Burke

-Which owner of this car also once owned the Alco “Black Beast”? I told you it was a stretch.

William F. Harrah

Aug 02 2013 Ted 12:51 AM

Hey man,you really got me going on this one. I have an answer. The mystery car is a Ford Seattle-Ite,don’t know what year yet and it was shown at the World Fair in 1960,not done yet,be back,more research to do

Aug 02 2013 Ariejan Bos 5:45 PM

Although not entirely ‘my cup of tea’, I decided to give it a try as a start of my holiday. This is the result:
It is the Phantom Corsair built in 1938 on a Cord 810 basis with coachwork by Bohman & Schwartz of Pasadena. The idea was from Rust Heinz, son of Heinz sr. (the ketchup man), and the realization after a design by Maurice Schwartz was funded by an aunt in Pasadena. The car featured in the movie ‘The Young in Heart’, after which it was nicknamed the ‘Flying Wombat’ (never heard of it, but a wombat appears to be some kind of rodent from New Holland, which by the way sounds more familiar to me!). So in a way it was a kind of bat-car after all. As Rust Heinz died in 1939, the plans for a limited production never became reality and this car remained the only one built.  The car was a.o. owned by TV-star Herb Shriner (unknown in Holland) and was part of the (also here) famous Harrah’s automobile collection, to which once the Black Beast belonged too.

Aug 03 2013 brian d mccarthy 1:15 PM

I’m not an auto buff by any means, but with some Internet searching; I’ll give this a shot. This is the 1938 Phantom Corsair. Rust Heinz conceived this cars design, and had the Bohman&Schwartz; Coach Building company develop it. Mr. Heinz wanted this car in a limited production, but his untimely death in a 1939 car accident put a halt to this. So, only 1 car was produced. This car was featured as the “Flying Wombat” in the 1938 film The Young at Heart. TV personality Herb Shriner owned this car between 1951 and 1970.The Alco Black Beast (current owner, Mr. Kroplick), was once in the William F Harrah collection; which is where the Phantom Corair currently resides.

Aug 04 2013 Art K. 3:20 PM

The car is The Phantom Corsair built in 1938.
Rust Heinz of the H.J. Heinz family (the “57” Variety fortune) designed it.
Only one Phantom Corsair was built.
Herb Shriner owned the car (comedian, TV host).  Here’s two clips to see Herb perform. The last one from the Chrysler Festival shows there’s another connection to the Black Beast (Black Beast’s current owner also owns a Chrysler collectible, The Phantom’s owner performed at a show sponsored by Chrysler).

Herb Shriner
1957 Chrysler Festival
Movie was The Young In Heart and featured the car as The Flying Wombat.  See this great clip to see the car in full force. The Flying Wombat
Bill Harrow owned the Phantom Corsair and the Black Beast.

Aug 05 2013 Phil 8:35 PM

The mystery foto car is an easy one. It is the 1938 Phantom Corsair designed by Gordon Buehrig, funded by Rust Heinz and built by the Bohman Schwartz co, on a Cord 810 chassis. It was in the 1938 movie called The Young In Heart and was called the Flying Wombat. This was the only one ever built. Is the connection to the Alco Bill Harrah ?


Aug 05 2013 Ted 11:32 PM

Where on earth was I looking? I thought I had it.I’m glad I didn’t find the time to research more

Aug 06 2013 Ken Harris 9:21 AM

I just couldn’t identify that car although I remembered seeing pictures of it.  As it turns out, I probably saw the car at the original NY Worlds Fair in 1938/1939.  Of course, since I was only 1 year old at the time I have no memory of it.  My parents had told me that they spent 2 days at the fair(with me), and my father being greatly interested in cars was sure to have looked at it.


Aug 07 2013 S. Berliner, III 11:50 PM

O. K., why is the elderly lady in the film driving from the right side?

Aug 08 2013 S. Berliner, III 12:08 AM

Never mind my previous question: “The body measured an impressive 237 in (600 cm) long and 76.5 in (194 cm) wide, enough to accommodate four people in the front row, including one person to the left of the driver.” - Wikipedia

Aug 08 2013 Howard Kroplick 10:36 AM

From Bruce W:

You’ll probably get a lot of correct answers from us older old-car guys to your mystery-car question.

It’s Rust Heinz’s 1938 Phantom Corsair that was shown at the 1939 World’s Fair in Flushing meadow.. It utilized the front subframe of a 1936 Cord. Heinz designed the car and the body was formed by Bohman @ Schwartz It was also shown at the Park Avenue Armory by Herb Shriner at an indoor car show. I think it was in the 1950’s.

Best -

Oct 22 2014 Kurt 8:47 PM

Although the Wikipedia article states that only one prototype was ever built, the film “The Flying Wombat,” shows a Dealers showroom containing 9 fully built series vehicles…. I am sure the film director did not just order 9 cardboard copies as they look real enough to me ...but can anyone explain this anomaly?

Jun 28 2015 Clark Macomber 3:20 PM

A time in the Phantom’s history that seems unmentioned is in the early 1940s when it was living in Kenilworth IL about a mile from my high school.  My car nut friends and I saw it every once in a while.

Jan 22 2016 Aaron 11:26 AM

The correct title for the 1938 movie is THE YOUNG IN HEART not at heart.

Jul 15 2019 Bruce Craig 11:39 PM

The other Phantoms in the movie were done by “trick mirrors”, not wax or cardboard. The Phantom was not designed by Gordon Buerig (who did design the Cord 810 that Russ Heinz owned and from which the power train and partial chassis was taken and used in the Phantom). Another article says “straight eight” engine which, of course, is incorrect because the Lycoming engine from the Cord used in the Phantom was a V8.

Leave a Comment