Jerry Woodward's Vortex 2000

Your car has too many wheels. Knock one off already, okay? An intern dropped this 1962 issue of Popular Mechanics on my desk this morning, which has a little feature on a three-wheeled car built by one Jerry Woodward of Provo, Utah. Bravely, he chose to put the single wheel in front. More on that after the article.

So, yeah, the end of the car with just one wheel is the front end. It looks better that way, of course, because cars should be dart-shaped. Even a senator with a nose full of coke and a yield sign through his temporal lobe will tell you that.

The trouble with a single-front-wheel design is braking related dive. See, most cars lack the power to mash you back into your set while accelerating, but almost every car can squeeze the brakes hard enough to throw your weight forward with the equivalent of a few hundred horsepower, if you get what I mean. When that happens in a regular car, the nose of the car squishes down on the front suspension as the weight of the vehicle dives forward with the force of several engines. This is called "brake dive". Think how long your car takes to accelerate from zero to sixty miles per hour. Unless yours is a particularly sporty model, it's probably around nine seconds. Now think about how quickly you sometimes need to get from sixty to a dead stop without wrecking anything or dying. In those situations, three seconds feels like an eternity. You want to stop, post haste. Your brakes are powerful. This from what-when-how.com:
The brakes must be capable of decelerating a vehicle at a faster rate than the engine is able to accelerate it. Normally brakes have to absorb three times the amount of engine horsepower energy in its equivalent form.
If you jam on the brakes in your square car while turning, it will maybe slide straight anyway, regardless of what you're doing with the steering wheel (understeer), or maybe spin around (oversteer). But, if your car has one wheel in the front and two in the back, braking while turning will throw the weight of the car (with lots of force) to one of the front corners of the vehicle, where there are exactly zero wheels. In addition to understeer and oversteer, this introduces a potentially thrilling new driving dynamic called "rolling your car onto its roof". If this happens, you can't always rely on Phil Oakey from the Human League to stroll on by and roll you upright again. (See the video below.)

In The Seventies, personal ATVs had three wheels, with one in front and two in the back. The tallness of ATVs relative to the width of their base made them prone to rolling over on top of you if an unlicensed pilot (You didn't need a license to use one.) made the mistake of braking while turning. This design was abandoned in 1988 in favor of the more common four-wheeled design we see today.

The most notable production vehicle with the pointy-at-the-front three-wheeled design was a British thing called the Reliant Robin, famously made famous on this side of the pond, courtesy of television,  by Jeremy Clarkson as one of the most baffling design decisions in automotive history. Observe...

You can still buy a vehicle with three wheels, but they tend to put the single wheel in the back. This looks less intuitively "right", one may say, but it is much less potentially "head scrapey", as a design.

A T-Rex and a Can-Am Spyder. Motorcycle guys will probably tell you your training wheels are cute.

So, as part of our standard due diligence, the P.A.G! Research and Googling Brigade spent several seconds and literally tens of keystrokes checking up on Jerry Woodward and his Vortex X-2000, the car of The Future. Guess what? He's still around! He owns an auto glass shop in Provo, which features a museum of not only the Vortex, but a number of cars, all built by Jerry himself, with various wheel counts, including five and six wheels, because why not? Right on. There are enough "customz" around consisting of slamming the suspension and sticking on a set of hideous wheels and calling yourself a hot rod builder. Here's Jerry's shop.

As it states in the Pop Mech article, Jerry has done hard turns at 60mph without undue upside-downiness. Why's that? Well, details are unavailable, but casual speculation suggests it may have something to do with the wheelbase of the car being comfortably longer than the Reliant Robin's, and the positioning of the hefty V8 at the back of the car, helping to keep the rears on the ground. Job one, when pencilling out your three-wheeled car design, is geometry and weight distribution. Jerry seems to know what he's doing.



Joke #1 - First she had used the "fake emergency phone call", and then the simple narcolepsy ploy, but now Janine's bad date escape tricks had become surprisingly intricate.

Joke #2 - This was a good find. A nice clean Cadillac. No rust. Gus would get a good price for it in Saudi Arabia. He just had to "clean out" the inside.

Joke #3 - Janine should have known better. One does not simply leave Scientology.

Joke #4 - Darn it, kids! You shouldn't just run off and have sex in the back of a car. Come with me and do it in church, where the Lord can see... oh yeah, and me too.

Joke #5 - The hook finally caught on the bumper. Now the car was as hot as the tow truck. All Gus had to do was wait for the capacitors to charge and throw the switch. He could taste those kids already.

Joke #6 - "Okay, the hook's on. Gimme a second and I'll have that bumper off in a jiffy."

Joke #7 - "Sorry, you're not allowed to park that here. City of Chicago's got laws, you know, and I got a job to do. Your parents can go to the impound lot in the morning to pick up your corpses."

Joke #8 - "Howdy, young lady! You seem to have some kind of fella lodged in your vagina. Just a second. I got a hook for that. Nope. Doggone it. That's the bumper."

Long time listener never-time caller Jim D. gave us joke #9. thanks, Jim! - "That's right, you're in a stolen car. Belongs to me. Rax Quigley. Even got my name on it. I'm Rax Quigley. Shoulda read that before you stole it."

Medium-time listener and frequent zinger Mat Black sent us joke #10. Thanks, Mat! - Deadliest Catch: Season 24...with memories of the now extinct Alaskan King all but a hazy memory; the intrepid fisherman set their focus on Classic Cadillacs and the like.

[Commenter jokes will be added to the post.  -Mgmt.]

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What is wrong?

Pages lifted directly from How Do We Know?, a disappointingly sensible and worthwhile children's book from 1945, mostly about animals and the natural world. On the cover, two splendid children can be seen feeding a squirrel rare earth magnets, so that he may survive the winter stuck to the side of a dumpster, and once again caper and frolic, come spring.

After spending 27 pages teaching kids about animals, there comes a horrific two-page quiz. These images are unmolested, and exactly as they appear in the book.

"What is wrong?" "What is wrong?" What's wrong is that they didn't even tell them the names of these monstrosities.


Extra wading pool uses.

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Bigness can be clicked for.


Junior's Errand Cart

Readers, I hope you're sitting down. Please stand up and sit down again to be sure of your sittingness. Now, observe with horror this monstrosity from our past: plans to build a cold-war-era shopping cart, just for a boy! Yes, that's right. Children... CHILDREN!...were allowed out of the house, unaccompanied. Wait. it gets worse. The children were sometimes sent on errands DOWN THE STREET... ON THEIR OWN!... to BUY GROCERIES for their PARENTS! You will also want to shout in all caps when you see the horror. Prepare to witness an atrocity. Here are the stolen plans to construct this most hideous of weapons.

These "parents" (humph!) probably didn't even dip the boys in sunscreen before sending them out into the wastes of suburbia. Oh, the humanity. Citizens, it is because of the abduction and presumed devouring of all our school-age boys in The Sixties that the human race died out and there are no more people left. Irresponsible parenting, child slave labor and lack of round-the-clock protection were directly responsible for our extinction. Now you know why you're extinct. You're welcome.


Metropolitan Life Insurance Company - Nature, It's Gonna Get Ya.

Summer is (more or less) here, Citizens! Get these urgent summer tips in your head, courtesy of MetLife in 1948!

And, just in case you were wondering what to have nightmares about tonight, please fail to enjoy this little song by Blue Wank, which has some background vocals with lots of reverse reverb. It makes a nice chant as you trudge through the undergrowth. "Nature. It's gonna gonna gonna gonna get yaaa..." May it shiver your timbers even more than nature does. Watch out for bugs... and commies.

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Blackhawk Vintage Classic 2015 - Pt. 3

Here's the last page of photos from the Fathers' Day weekend event at Blackhawk farms. More jokes or something tomorrow, with apologies to those who are bored by cars. Hang in there!

That kid there, whose dad apparently takes him racing on the weekends? That's one lucky kid. A) because his family can afford an expensive hobby like this and B) He'll probably have his own car to race in short order. What a life.

This pretty thing had an argument with the tire wall in the previous day's practice runs. The massive tires make promises of huge power and a sausage-shaped body. Too bad it was out of commission. However, the gent in the red jacket insisted it would be back later in the season.

Oooo. A honking big Vee Eight Modurr (see below). Such a glorious noise it must have made.

It must have spun around at some point. The wing is usually pretty hard to mess up.

Race tires are really soft and sticky. Did they get shredded just because they don't like sliding sideways?

A Chevy Corvair. Very much an oddball in the vintage racing scene. Ironically, Ralph Nader's book "Unsafe at Any Speed", criticized the Corvair for its handling in corners. Opinions are divided whether this was just hype. The guy lying on the ground would seem to imply that they can be raced without dying, as he's not dead.

This man's MG was running rich. I didn't want to bug him with questions, but he volunteered the information.

A terrific badge, with some gorgeous deco design and beautiful enamel. Brooklands was the first purpose-built motorsport track, now derelict. It was featured in an episode of James May's Toy Stories, in which he built a Scalextric slot car track around the full length of the historic race course. Available on Hulu. Definite recommendo.

Worlds collide. That tent is covered with biking sponsors prominent in the offroad bicycling industry. I remember them from my time racing mountain bikes in the 90s. Apparently, Answer now owns all those brands you see there. Hayes makes disc brakes, Manitou was a suspension products company, and SunRingle made really good hubs and wheels. Maybe somebody used to race mountain bikes but has since graduated to vintage racing?

Possibly one of my favorite tracking shots from the race. Reason number one, the car is successfully in sharp focus, despite the required slow shutter speed (60 milliseconds). About 80% of my tracking shots are throwaways due to the challenge of following the car perfectly with the camera while using a slower shutter speed, to get the blurred background. Reason number two, I always liked the way turquoise and orange make each other pop when they're in the same picture. The tire wall was actually wrapped in blue plastic, as you can see in the other photos. But because in this photo, that was the only blue in the picture, it was a simple matter to selectively rotate the hue of the blue tire wall over to turquoise, without effecting anything else, or need for masking.

here, you can see some of the limitations of the 1980s-era lens I'm using. It has some serious chromatic aberration. See the purple fringe at the edge of the leading driver's helmet? That's some of the color spectrum not being properly focused onto the sensor. CA will generally show up where white meets black, or other areas of high contrast. That's okay. It's a hell of a long lens for ninety dollars.

Not the greatest feat of tracking the lead car on my part. It's blurry, but I still like the way the cars framed up.
EMERGENCY UPDATE: Arthur Reginald NoJagsInMyPants_2 (Mrs.) Retired was saddened by the presence of only one E-type Jag. Let no one say we do not respond to reader requests. Fixed! Ding!