1. Éclair – If you’re not familiar with the Éclair, it is a one-of-a-kind, single-seater, propeller-powered car. We borrowed the only car ever made from an airplane museum in France with the understanding that we would restore the original, then make a replica for ourselves. It’s a giant task as the original is missing the engine, although we know the engine is an Indian V-twin. We have found two engines, and are rebuilding them. Also, we have restored the wheels, built a replica frame and suspension, and had new propellers made. From an outward appearance the vehicle looks very simple – a steel tube frame covered with a thin plywood shell. As we have gotten into the restoration we have discovered there are a lot of small and intricate brackets, especially around the engine area. After four years of work on the Éclairs we hope to have them finished by the end of the year.
2. 1947 Gregory – If you think of front-wheel drive, rear-engine cars, the list gets pretty short. The only two cars made in that configuration are the Dymaxion, designed by Buckminster Fuller, and the 1947 Gregory Sedan. Ben F. Gregory was an engineer that believed front-wheel drive was the wave of the future. In 1947 he had two prototype sedans built by a machine shop in Kansas City. They were powered by Continental A-40 aircraft engines that sat in the rear of the cars. We were able to purchase one of the cars several years ago, apparently the car that Gregory himself used as regular transportation for many years. Of course it was missing the motor, but we have located one, and the Gregory now sits in the restoration shop awaiting its installation, and some other general refurbishing. It’s not going to be an easy task as the A-40 did not have electric start (hand prop only) and we will have to figure out some kind of clutch mechanism. Again, we hope to have this oddball car done by the end of the year.
3. Dymaxion – The chassis has been completed and shipped to the Czech Republic for building of the body. That will start in the spring of 2011, and take 2 – 3 years to complete.
4. 1919 Leyat Replica (2nd) – Ecorra in the Czech Republic is working on the second Leyat replica. It will be done in May, and has been invited to attend the Vintage Revival in Montlhéry, France. Montlhéry is a famous racing circuit about 20 miles south of Paris. We will have the opportunity to drive the Leyat around the 4.2-mile banked oval.
5. Andy Zikmund and Mirko Hrazdira are almost finished with the Leyat Airplane Trainer. Leyat designed a small airplane-like trainer that was towed behind a car, and the trainer sat in an airplane-type structure on which one could learn how to climb and turn without ever leaving the ground. We have been able to build this replica from the only three pictures in existence. Anyone want to try it when it arrives at the museum?
6. The Folding Car – In Europe it was not uncommon to live on a street that did not allow parking (usually because the street was too narrow to have parking spaces). The fact was, if you had a car, you needed a garage to store it. Many people that had motorcycles or very small cars would drive them through their front gate, and leave them in the front yard. In 1951 a Frenchman designed a car that would fold up and go through a gate. Essentially, it was a small 3-wheeled car with one wheel in the front and two in the rear. One would get out of the car and slide the back of the car together to make it narrow enough to get through the gate, and into the front yard. We have sourced an engine, and had the plans translated into English, and John Williamson is going to build the wood parts (most of the car is made of wood). Our restoration shop is going to make the metal parts and put it together. Hopefully by year’s end we will be looking for a gate to drive through.
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