The Mysterious Spectra-1 Hovercraft Made In Ottawa

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The Spectra-1 made in Ottawa in a photo from the 1971 sales brochure of it on the Ottawa River. Note the Champlain Bridge in the background (from decastris.com)

The year was 1970 and on River Road south of Ottawa a company was building hovercraft vehicles. Dubbed the “Spectra-1”,  this unique vehicle was straight out of a James Bond film of the same era. The product of Modern Hover Vehicles, a company that existed on paper at the address of 1078 Queensdale Ave.in Blossom Park, but that address has apparently never existed.

spectra_i_1

Sales brochure of the Spectra-1 (from decastris.com)

Introduced in 1970 as the “Spectra-1”  with an air cooled 18.5 HP Single Cylinder hover engine and similar propulsion engine, this orange fiberglass bodied hovercraft would travel at speeds of up to to 45 MPH on land and on water up to 40 MPH, yet over ice the Spectra would reach a blazing 60 MPH.

sectra_i_2

More info on the Spectra-1 made in Ottawa.Note Champlain Bridge in photos. (from decastris.com)

The Modern Hover Vehicle sales brochure touted the Spectra-1 as the “in thing for the in people” and photos show the hovercraft traveling over the rapids of the Ottawa River at the Champlain Bridge area.

spectra_march_24_2016_pp21055

A provocative image from the Spectra-1 sales brochure with a frozen Ottawa River in the background (from davidsleds.mysite.com)

This Ottawa company building these craft on River Road then improved on the Spectra-1 by introducing the Spectra-2 which was developed in 1973. The Spectra-2 used bigger 2 stroke engines and incorporated an enclosed plexiglass cockpit windshield for the driver.

The Spectra-2 was, according to their sales brochure, “The most advanced light hovercraft in the world” and was for applications in the geological, armed forces, police and rescue fields of use.

spectra2a

The Spectra-2 with enclosed canopy. (from decastris.com)

The company, Modern Hover Vehicles, had an address of 1078 Queensdale Ave. but that address does not seem to exist according to Google Maps. A fellow on Twitter said he had acquired a Spectra-1 in a trade and is in the process of restoring it, but that is the only one I have ever seen.

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A Spectra-1 in the United States awaiting restoration. (photo submitted by Matt Norman via Twitter)

It is unclear what ever happened to the mysterious Ottawa born Spectra Hovercraft, the company that made them, or if any others are still in existence.

Andrew King, November 2016

SOURCES

http://www.decastris.com/hcc/builders/mhv/spectra1.htm

davidsleds.mysite.com/

 

 

 

 

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9 comments

  1. I remember them well, they were made on River Rd. at an old building that we called Bogue Electric Manufacturing Co. I believe that it was a wartime plant. A very good friend of mine David Petrachuck (deceased) got a job there and called himself their “test pilot”, though I never saw him fly or actually saw the real machine. We all envied him and wondered how he got so lucky while we were in more mundane pursuits. He did tell us that he had a lot of trouble stopping as they tended to drift into solid objects resulting in a lot of fibreglass repairs. It came to an unceremonious end, they were very expensive and breakdown prone so sales dried up fast.

  2. They were on River Road, just past the Uplands Airport, next door to TMC of Canada, in the 1960’s while I delivered there for Star Delivery. Saw some Reports in the Papers then, and they used the Rideau River for testing !!

  3. Hi, you caught my interest with this one, so I thought I should share what I found. Looks like they were made by MHV Industries, which had NASCAR owner Carl Kiekhaefer (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carl_Kiekhaefer) as director in 1970 (see page 30 of the November 1971 issue of Popular Mechanics here: goo.gl/G7pLQX).

    MHV disolved in 1980 (https://www.ic.gc.ca/app/scr/cc/CorporationsCanada/fdrlCrpDtls.html?corpId=0510297), so I can only guess that selling hovercrafts as a replacement for snowmobiles wasn’t the best marketing move in the world.

    All that said, the part about 1078 Queensdale not existing still bugs me. Maybe something happened with the rail line down there at some point? The address would have been almost right on top of it.

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