Monday, September 3, 2012 marks the anniversary of the Buzz-Wagon’s Labor Day debut. For those not familiar with the Buzz-Wagon, it was a brakeless car that was created by Charles Wisner of Flint, Michigan. Wisner was a county judge by trade who probably should have kept his focus on the courtroom instead of cars. The only way to stop the contraption safely was to pray it stalled. The not so safe method was to wait until it hit something. Wisner drove the car in Flint’s 1900 Labor Day parade with less than favorable results. Afterward, it quickly faded into obscurity. Its anniversary made me think about all the other famous, albeit quirky, inventions to ever sport four tires and an engine. Here’s a quick look at five of them:
1899 Horsey Horseless
The world is full of both literal and fanciful interpretations of ideas. In 1899, Elder Uriah Smith took those two interpretations of the horseless carriage and made them into one, at least on paper. Records vary as to whether or not Smith ever succeeded in building his creation. He called it the Horsey Horseless. From the rear, the Horsey Horseless looked like a car. The front, however, was anything but pedestrian. It sported a hollow horse head that was designed to fool passing horses and store fuel. It was one of several inventions that the learned Smith would come up with during his lifetime. He also penned several books, worked as an editor and gave the first baccalaureate sermon at Battle Creek College.
At first blush, the 1933 Dymaxion looks like a not so distant relative of the Airstream. There were major differences between the two of course. For starters, the Dymaxion was created by R. Buckminster Fuller. Designed to reach speeds virtually unheard of in the 1930s, it sported inflatable wings, a canvas roof and a collapsible tail fin. Its design also contributed to the accidental death of Francis Turner, a famous race car driver, during its 1933 Chicago World’s Fair debut. The Airstream, on the other hand, was created by Wally Byam several years earlier. It was designed for those in search of a better camping experience, not speed.
1957 Waterman Aerobile
What do you get when you combine the elements of a puddle jumper airplane and a car? Some would call it a hot mess. Others, like Waldo Waterman, called it the Aerobile. Waterman created the 1957 Aerobile with an amalgamation of car and airplane parts. It was designed with the hopes that it would dominate America’s roadways as well as her skies. In the end, it became was a footnote in automotive history and a nifty display at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Chantilly, Virginia. It also inspired several similar inventions including the Road Wing and the Aerocar.
Back before the Boston Duck Tours was a well recognized tourist attraction, the world was introduced to the 1961 Amphicar. It was a German made car that was designed to tackle land and sea. It was outfitted with a set of propellers and tires that doubled as rudders. It worked too. In 1965, a pair of Amphicars and their drivers managed to successfully cross the English Channel. The Amphicar was successfully mass produced by the Amphicar Corporation from 1961 until 1968. In 1968, the company succumbed to financial pressures brought on by newly introduced, government regulations.
Despite the regulations, other amphibious cars continue to live on. In the summer of 2004, another amphibious vehicle known as the Gibbs Aquada, made an English Channel crossing of its own. The record breaking journey was completed by none other than Sir Richard Branson, the same man that is in the process of making space tourism a reality.
1972 Toyota RV-2
Most folks are familiar with the old adage about doing less with more. What they may not be so familiar with is the 1972 Toyota RV-2. It was Toyota’s attempt at doing just that. The RV-2 was a concept car that was designed to transform into a camper. It came with fold out sides and a built-in tent, thus giving a whole new meaning to the phrase “roadside lodging.” The idea never really caught on, so the vehicle was never mass produced.
Killeen Gonzalez spent many years working in the hospitality industry. She enjoys history and has an appreciation of classic cars.
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