If there's a man you don't want to bet against, it's Garfield Wood. With a frankly—by modern standards, at least—awesome life, even in 1967, the twilight of his career, Garfield Wood still knew how to create something new.
He was named after both a U.S. President and Vice President; in this case, James Garfield and Chester Arthur. Born in Minnesota, he quickly (and I'm skipping a lot of interesting stuff), invented the hydraulic lift, built some of the fastest and most innovative speed boats, set numerous water speed records, and was one of five in his time to bring honour upon the city of Detroit. So said the U.S. government, at least.
How baller was Wood? He had his own 230-acre island in Miami, where he continued to experiment and invent. Why there isn't a Hollywood movie about him, I'll never know.
Anyway, 1967 is when the magazine Popular Mechanics visited Wood at his home in Florida, for what was to be his last major innovation: an electric car. The magazine said,
"…the blob of land is Fisher Island, the carefully guarded hideaway estate of multimillionaire inventive genius Gar Wood, who at one time was the world’s greatest speedboat racer. His island has been the scene of strange goings-on that have piqued the curiosity of South Floridians for nearly three decades. The 87-year-old Wood, who live alone on the 230-acre island – except for a crops of servants and the daytime assistance of three mechanical engineers – holds more US patents than any other living American."
His special electronic controller was at the heart of the machine, permitting much smoother starts than other electric cars at the time. The other guts of his machine, constructed with a sturdy-looking frame, would be covered by fibreglass. Pictured here is the early prototype…and the only picture. The magazine laid out the specifications:
"The auto, he reveals, is 9 feet, 10 inches in length and weighs 204 kg (450 lbs), not including the batteries, which weigh 29 kg (65 lbs) apiece. Those batteries are eight 12-volt lead-acid conventional storage batteries connected in series. They may be recharged from an ordinary house current at a cost of about 20 cents. The car has a top speed of 83 km/h (52 mph) and is powered by two specially designed 90 volt 2-hp d.c. motors."
Sounds impressive, and inexpensive, at less than $1,500—something that would have come in handy during the '70s oil crisis. If only Wood would have lived long enough to be able to offer his alternative to gasoline. Stomach cancer killed him in 1971.
This is the only information on the car…well, most of it, anyway.