04/09/2012 05:21 pm ET Updated Apr 09, 2012

Flying Cars And Beyond: A Look At Entrepreneurial Automakers Over The Years (PHOTOS)

With roots tracing back to the 1800s, the modern auto industry grew out of the grand ideas of entrepreneurs like Henry Ford. Since the inception of wagon-inspired vehicles, the industry has seen everything from the futuristic musings of John DeLorean to the Earth-friendly and design-conscious concepts by Elon Musk to the latest iteration of the "flying car," which debuted this week.

While the whole world bared witness to the meteoric rise and fall of the Big Three auto companies -- General Motors, Ford and Chrysler -- small, private labels have continued to carve out niche markets for vehicles with unique designs and uses.

As a global fuel crisis wears on, a newly competitive market for alternative fuel vehicles has emerged, while industry execs and enthusiasts continue to be enamored by Jetson-inspired plane-car concepts, like the Terrafugia Transition, which was unveiled at the New York Auto Show this week. Created by a group of MIT-trained engineers, the Transition is a two-passenger vehicle with the capabilities to take off and land from over 5,000 U.S. airfields and travel on any road, all powered by high-performance gasoline. "The flying car is something I was promised a long time ago and I want it," Carl Dietrich, Terrafugia's founder told Bloomberg News.

As with any industry, the automotive world has its share of unique characters and scandal, so we've rounded up some of the more memorable vehicles and the brilliant entrepreneurs behind them.



Entrepreneurial Automakers