Two of the most significant vehicles added to our Route 66 Electric Vehicle Museum floor were two of Levitt Luzern Custer’s electric vehicles from the personal collection of our Curator, Larry Fisher.
One was the smallest known street licensed electric vehicle ever built called the Custer “Cootie”. The license plate from the 1920s was wider than the body of this car. They could be seen on the streets in Washington DC and Chiccago in the 1920s among the rather huge gas vehicles. The other vehicle is one of his Custer Chair cars. According to Larry we now have the largest collection of Custers in our collection anywhere in the world. We still have one more chair to bring over from his collection which will give us a total of four Custers.
Levitt Luzern Custer, the creator, was good friends with another Dayton Ohio inventor named Orville Wright. Orville and his brother Wilbur shared a passion for flight. Levitt was an avid balloonist. His first patented invention was the Statoscope which determined whether a lighter than air vehicle was ascending or descending. You can read more about Custer here is this in depth article originally published in Volume 42, Number 1, of the 2002 edition of the prestigious Automobile Quarterly. The article was written by the late automotive historian and journalist Beverly Rae Kimes. The Antique Automobile Club of America called her “one of the greatest automotive writers of our time.” Here is an in depth obituary that spells out her many accomplishments: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/05/20/sports/othersports/20kimes.html.
In November of this year, 2016, we received the donation of a 2002 Toyota RAV4 electric. It was donated by Heidi Locke Simon to honor her late husband Greg “Simo” Simon. Heidi and Greg of Mill Valley California actually purchased two of them in 2002, one for each of them. The same year they installed a 4.8kw solar array on their roof for charging and household electricity.
Their daughter Macquarie is now learning to drive and fulfilling Simon’s dream of doing so in an electric car. She has grown up with them as part of her life. The car has over 150,000 miles on the original battery pack of nickel metal hydride batteries. The 2002 is quite rare as they only produced 328 of them. The RAV4 electric is a very important part of EV history.
In July of this year the foundation received a most outstanding gift of the entire Michael Longley Collection from Hurricane Utah. The collection of seven vehicles of significant historical value, not mention monetary value, included a 1959 Henny Killowatt with only 4000 original miles. There are only a handful still left of about 30 sold. A vehicle especially important to Arizona history as well, is the the Arizona State University “Indy Style” Formula Lightning electric race car that won the Solar & Electric 500 in 1994.
Another significant piece of Arizona history is a Mars II electric car. Arizona Public Service,
Arizona’s largest electric utility company, bought one in In 1967 from the manufacturer, Electric Fuel Propulsion, Inc. On September 20th 1967 they left Toledo Ohio on the first cross country trip in an electric automobile arriving at the Deer Valley APS Operations Center on October 6th in Northwest Phoenix.
Also in the collection was an early 1960s Electrodyne Mark II micro car produced in southern California. In addition there is a Comuta Car made in Florida in the early 1980s and an early 1980’s Ford Escort Electra by Jet Industries out of Texas. A real prize is a pristine 1998 General Motors production electric pick up originally purchased by Disney World as a grounds keeping vehicle. This is one of the approximately 60 that were sold, the rest of the production of about 440 vehicles that were leased ended up crushed like the EV1s. This indeed is another rare vehicle and an important part of the entire history of the development of electric cars.
We owe a debt of gratitude to Michael Longley for collecting these rare vehicles and eventually passing them on to our museum and to future generations to enjoy and learn from.
In 1978 Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson produced an album titled Waylon & Willie which was the number 1 album on the country album charts for ten weeks and would spend a total of 126 weeks on the charts. Waylon left us in 2002. Earlier this year we came across his Mercedes 450SL style electric golf cart and made a deal to purchase the cart for our museum. We installed it next to Willie Nelson’s Rolls Royce style cart which is currently on display there. Our “Waylon & Willie” exhibit has been getting a lot of attention. Waylon and Willie are now together again “in spirit” at our Route 66 Electric Vehicle Museum.
The World’s fastest electric car, The Buckeye Bullet 2.5, is currently on loan from the Wally Parks National Hot Rod Association Motorsports Museum in Pomona, CA with permission of the owner, The Ohio State University. This car holds the current F.I.A. World Record and has topped out at over 321 mph.
On Saturday February 28th our latest addition to the museum arrived. It is a circa 1922 Custer Car. The Custer Chair was invented by Levitt Luzern Custer, an entrepreneur and inventor who was a close associate of Orville Wright. According to our archivist Larry Fisher” Custer had worked with the Wrights and was an accomplished balloonist and aviator in his own right.” The car was originally conceived for seniors to get around but eventually became a mobility solution for wounded soldiers returning home from World War I. The Custer Specialty Company offered chairs first with electric power, and later an optional gasoline version. Both models are shown above in the original green. The red circa 1922 below, which was photographed at Mystic Seaport, is the one currently in the museum. We plan to bring it back to the original green with the pin-striping later this year.
On December 20th, 2014 our foundation received a very special Christmas gift from William Dennis of Utah. It came in the form of a very rare circa 1995 Tropica electric sports car. Bill is a long time EV advocate. He is currently finishing up redoing the rear battery box of his 1993 Geo Metro convertible conversion with new cells from a Nissan Leaf. The Tropica from Bill came disassembled but will look like the picture above when it is put back together for display in our Route 66 Electric Vehicle Museum latter in 2015. The gift also included parts from the original crash test car that Renaissance Motors used to pass federal regulations. According to Bill this car was used as a demo model at Renaissance headquarters. The Tropica electric car was produced by Renaissance Cars in Florida in 1995 as a set of 16 first edition models for display in local car dealerships. After these cars went on display, the company was unable to find a second round of financing and when out of business. The company remains were purchased by investors including the actor Don Johnson, who featured the car in his “Nash Bridges” TV show, and moved the company to California, but never actually was able to make any more cars.
Max Grover recently donated his very first electric car to our HEVF Foundation, a 2007 Kurrent (NEV) Neighborhood Electric Vehicle built by The American Electric Vehicle Company (AEVCO). Production numbers are unknown but are assumed to be quite low as the company was only in business one year. Max Grover has been an artist since childhood and has been painting and illustrating in the Northwest since 1985 with exhibits in galleries throughout the Pacific Northwest, Oregon, and California. His images and writing have adorned 10 children’s books, one of which received a Parents’ Choice Award. He operates the Max Grover Gallery in Port Townsend, Washington State, showing his own work and that of other area artists.
Our first aquisition after our opening of the Route 66 Electric Vehicle Museum in Kingman, Arizona in August of 2014 was this 1997 Bombardier, serial number S97000161, donated by Richard, (Skip) Dunn. Skip is the founder and President of GreenWheels Sustainable Transportation which he started in 2005. He is also the current President of the Northern New Mexico chapter of the Electric Auto Assoctiation where he has held that position since 2010. This very historic electric vehicle was the prototype for the 1998 NHTSA Standard for Low-speed vehicles. In the spring of 1996, Bombardier Inc., a Canadian company most famous for their Learjets, asked the United States National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to make a regulatory change to allow the introduction of a new class of 4-wheeled small, lightweight, slow moving, vehicles they termed a Neighborhood Electric Vehicle (NEV). This vehicle was intended for use on roads with a 25 ph speed limit. Because of Bombardier’s lobbying efforts a new class of vehicle was born, the NEV. The US government had gone full circle from when they legislated all the small electric vehicles off the roadways after the formation of the NHTSA in 1970. You can see examples of some of these predecessors of the NEVs from the 1950s and 60s in our museum.