I get a kick out of all this fuss about electric cars. Electric cars are nothing new. I owned an electric car as far back as 1980. Well, it wasn’t really an electric car. If I tell you I had an electric car you might envision something like one of those really ugly things that promise you the sun and the moon until you try to drive it on the electric motor alone. That’s when you find out it only goes about twenty miles per hour before you have to go the old standby, gas. My electric car only carried one person but it was totally electric. There was no gas engine to take up the slack. I drove that thing all over Salinas back when the local policemen were one of your friends and they could understand a joke. It was not unusual to see me cruising up and down the two and three hundred blocks of Salinas.
I wish I could tell you that it was some sort of advanced technology that allowed me the freedom to jump on my electric, well; I guess I may as well tell you. It was an electric bar stool. Yeah, it wasn’t meant for long trips or for carrying any large packages. It was sort of a one person stool. I guess with all the Mothers Against Drunk Drivers and the roadside check points it would be folly to try and drive one today but there was a time when we used to race these bar stools. I actually found out about the whole deal from my older brother that used to farm cotton over in the San Joaquin Valley. I went by to visit him one day and when I walked with him out to his shop I saw it for the first time. It was painted red. Not that there was anything unusual about anything being painted red at my brother’s house. He painted every car, truck and tractor he ever owned red. The local body shop, run by the Lugo Brother’s actually blended a special red paint and called it “Roger Worthy Red.” They wouldn’t let anyone have the formula because my brother was such a good friend and a pretty regular customer.
Anyway, the way he explained it you would build one of these electric bar stools and race from one bar to another. Again, this was back when it wasn’t looked down upon to have a couple of drinks on a Saturday night. Or Sunday afternoon, or really just anytime you wanted one. You would start at one bar; usually the bars were located in Shafter California, and have a drink. Then you would turn your stool around and ride to the next bar, have another drink and take off again. Although you could do this with just two bars if you had to there were plenty of bars on the main street of Shafter back in those days. The first guy, or girl, to finish all their drinks and make it back to the beginning was the winner. If, in fact there was a winner. It was all in fun and nobody was hurt. Okay maybe the next day there were a few more headaches than usual but since they drove on the sidewalk and wore no seatbelts it was really pretty harmless.
What you did was build a barstool out of some pretty sturdy steel. (They had to be over built for all the “Gs” you would pull when you turned a corner).Then you would scrounge up and old car battery that would still hold a charge. A lot of folks were suspicious of all these car batteries being available when you could sell the lead in them for some good money but I prefer to think they were excess over the needs of the local farmers Then you would have to visit the local junk yards, (They are called auto recycling establishments now.) and pick up a good starter. These starters are still the same as the one in your car today. They haven’t changed an awful lot in the last few years of technology. You would weld a sprocket off a bicycle on the shaft of the starter and another on the rear axle of your barstool. If you were real smart you would put some sort of switch on it then because when you connected the starter to the battery that stool would take off like a scalded a, well, it would take off really fast. There was no slow gaining speed it was full on as soon as you touched the leads together. I remember the first time I saw one at my brother’s house. He had welded on some plates where you could put your feet. On each of these plates he had installed a little button. It was a starter button from a really old car. Back when you turned the key and then pressed a button to start your car. I asked him what the difference was between the right button and the left button. He said that the right button got the stool started and the left button stopped it. He lied. They both made the stool go. Really fast! Of course it threw me into the dirt. It was love at first crash. I had to have one.
He worked with me in his shop until we had a new one ready to go. I put it into the back of my truck and brought it over to Salinas to see if I could generate some races. Fortunately, or unfortunately, depending on your outlook Salinas wasn’t into drinking and riding suicide machines. So I used it to make runs up and down Main Street, in Salinas, until I had been warned so many times that I thought it prudent to retire the stool to the back room. Then, I moved my store over to Park Row. Now we were talking. There was a big old parking lot right in front of my store. I used to thrill the kids and try to pick up girls by riding on two wheels and pulling wheelies right in front of the store. It was a great time. I finally retired when some moron who couldn’t read pushed the button, in spite of all the signs not to touch plastered all over it, and destroyed one of my showcases. When I moved up to Alaska I asked one of my good buddies to watch over it while I was gone. Of course I have yet to find him or my bar stool. Probably just as well. I don’t think folks are ready for home built technology that makes all these electric cars look like copy cats.
I thought of building one when my boys came along but like a lot of other things that I thought of it never got done. But I have photos and my sweet wife remembers seeing me trying to kill myself when I was younger and more foolish than I am today. However I just thought you would want to know that it doesn’t take billions donated to your campaign contributors to get electric vehicles built. Just go up to any farmer, who have been doing so much with so little for so long they can do anything with nothing and ask them to help. I don’t even think you would have to buy them a drink.