As far as home-built cars go, this model is one of the more novel designs in our archives. Dr. Calvin B. Bridges, a biologist from California, designed his car for lightness and speed. Weighing just 700 pounds, his vehicle was powered by a motorcycle engine and was expected to run 60 miles per hour. A gallon of gasoline could power it through 50 to 70 miles of travel. Like the Velodye, Bridges' car reduced wind resistance to a minimum, while its light frame, which was made of welded chrome-molybdenum steel tubes, would help the vehicle attain more mileage than one would expect from a car of its size. Popular Science
As lovers of science and innovation, few things delight us more than tinkering around with spare parts. In our 138 years of publication, we’ve showcased scores of similar-minded inventors who could turn scrap heaps into motorcycles, robots, and four-wheelers. These people aren’t just hobbyists, they’re visionaries capable of imagining great machinery from what others had deemed broken and useless.
While people have created a great number of things from scratch, cars stand out as the prime project for professional engineers and bored tinkerers alike. We don’t blame them – who wouldn’t enjoy taking their invention for a celebratory spin upon completion? Join us as we take a look at some of the more curious vehicles assembled in garages over the past hundred years, and decide for yourself whether they’re clever or the work of a crackpot.
We begin in the spring of 1920, where a Pennsylvanian farm owner known simply as Mr. Geissinger has assembled a tractor from a stationary gasoline engine. In those days, stationary engines were used to run power tools and mechanisms like circular saws and pumps. An unlikely candidate for powering a car, sure, but its maker came up with enough scrap materials to convert it into a tractor. Granted, it doesn’t look much like a tractor at all, but we won’t spoil you — take a look inside to see how Mr. Geissinger’s work turned out.
Then you have your series of go-kart-like vehicles, your bicycle-automobile hybrids, and even a couple of cage-like cars. All of the cars we cover in this gallery were made for personal use, and out of amusement, but all of them reflect how mainstream vehicles have developed over the years. A “motorized Ark” built in 1927 might resemble a modern-day funeral limousine, but during that period, it was a novel camping trailer equipped with a toilet, a stove and a shower. Converting the chassis of a truck into a camping trailer is one thing, but to install a hotel room’s worth of amenities speaks for the dedication its creator had to his craft.
Elsewhere, you’ll find that most home-based automakers weren’t professional engineers or mechanics, but teenagers and artists pursuing a practical diversion. Not all of us carry a lot of automobile know-how, but with a little ingenuity, research, and an enviable hodgepodge of scrap items, you’ll be hosting joyrides in your washing machine-jeep hybrid in no time.
Click through our gallery to see how past hobbyists made their “midget autos,” egg-shaped cars, kitchen-equipped Fords and more.