When Philip K. Dick wrote the book "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?", he had vehicles simply referred to as hover cars. By the time Ridley Scott stepped in, the hovering vehicle was still a major player in the plot.
It was the future transportation of law enforcement. Even with the seed already planted,
it took futurist Syd Mead to bring the vehicle to life.
The earlier versions, shot in test footage, looked to much like a "flying brick" according to Ridley Scott, so extra "texture" was added to it, like brighter front lights and blinking police lights.
Suddenly the one object in the film that stuck in many people's minds who saw the film was the spinner. Syd Mead was able to capture something that actual seemed both futuristic and also believable.
In fact, Mead once told me that the idea for the spinner was based on actual 20th century technology, he just scaled the technology down for a 21st century personal vehicle.
Here we see the full size spinner in all it's glory with the futurist who designed it, Syd Mead.
The basic function of the spinner, as Mr. Mead put it, is like the Hawker Harrier jet. It is capable of vertical take off and hovering. The Spinner also works in ground vehicle mode when needed.
Basically, the spinner would make obsolete the need of the helicopter in future law enforcement.
The early version of the functioning full size spinner,
built by Gene Winfield, had a steering system that worked somewhat like a track vehicle, but it proved to
difficult for the cast to drive and in fact one cast member ended up in a little fender bender on the set.
So, a more simple steering system was installed.
Originally it was suggested that Winfield use the engine and frame of a
Camaro. But he felt a Volkswagons would work best because the VW Bug was air cooled, so you don t have to worry about a radiator.
The other asset to using the VW was because of their rear-engine design.
It would be a tremendous problem getting the Camaro’s large engine within the needed body shapes.
There were functions that eventually created cost problems. The hydraulically-operated doors that
lifted up and away ate up a sizeable portion of the $800,000 budget given to Winfield to build the props. It was problems like this that eventually led to there being only two
fullsize props being made of this spinner.
The other full size mock up of this Spinner, as you can see in the three black and white photos to the left here, was called the "flying Spinner" and
was built from scratch over an all-aluminum frame to save weight. Designed to be picked up by a crane to simulate flight, extra hydraulics were installed to match the capabilities of the miniatures: the front wheels folded into the car, flaps dropped into place and moveable body sections channeled out jets of steam and carbon-dioxide.
Winfield had also said that they had heavily detailed the bottom of the
"flying spinner" with tubes hoses and other paraphernalia so it would be interesting to look at and to meet
Ridley Scott's desire for the vehicles to look more street real.
In the photo to the left, you can see the cables holding the "flying spinner" aloft. The cables were to be painted out later,
but due to cost over runs and such, the final release of the film included the shots of the hovering spinner complete with
the black support cables. It was hoped that the rainy atmosphere would hide them, but in the end, they were quite, and most
Here we see two shots of one full size spinner as it looks today resting on the Universal lot in Florida.
The spinner has been paid homage to by appearing in many films since Blade Runner. Films like "Back To The Future II", "Solar Crisis" and "Trancers" to name just a few. Recently it is believed that the spinner again made an appearance in the new "Star Wars: The Phantom Menace" film.
In an interesting anecdote, Blade Runner itself paid homage to Star Wars in one shot where the police spinner that is taking Harrison Ford to police headquarters flies past a very odd looking building.
The building is in fact a modified Millenium Falcon pointing it's bow toward the sky.