It’s a cool looking car with those big electric motors on the front wheels . . . “Always Alive” in the translation of its name. Built in 1900 by Ferdinand Porsche, the car utilizes a small petrol engine to generate power the the electric motor driven front wheels. There’s a Porsche video here.
I’m a fan from childhood since my father worked for Porsche and raced the on the SCCA circuit. But there is something slightly incongruous about the maker of fast sports cars having this vehicle in the family line. My dream job would be to have been involved in the reproduction process. There is a lot of information about the Semper Vivus and even a driving impression online since the unveiling eariler this year.
I had fun doing a presentation for the Curiosity Club at Core77′s HandeEyeSupply store here in Portland. Tobias and Will are producing an always interesting series of talks by local makers, thinkers and tinkerers. They have included presentations by Joey Roth, Nathan Bergey, Amber Case and Aaron Parecki and many others. It is an informal event that is always informative and thought provoking. I highly recommend it for anyone in Portland on the event evenings.
There is a video of the presentation for those with the patience to persist. I am going to put together an annotated version of the Keynote presentation I used that I can post so the mystery projection on the wall from the video can be seen.
It was known to all of my friends where I was raised at the outskirts of San Antonio, Texas.
That whine . . . six horizontally opposed cylinders (“boxer” the Germans call it) moving back and forth at exceedingly high rates of acceleration. Intake, compression, ignition, exhaust over and over again all in the service of motivating a sculpture on four wheels to move in a single direction at high velocity.
A friend’s older brother drove the American dream machine – a Dodge Super Bee. A classic V-8 sound emanating from a car whose running gear hadn’t changed much in 20 or more years. The other kids thought it was pretty cool.
And of course there was the occasional sound of a passing vintage British sports car or the week-day ritual of our neighbor – “Clark Kent” I thought to myself – who came home from work in a Corvette wearing his nice business suit only to emerge from his garage a half-hour later on his Harley Sportster wearing his Banditos vest and tattered blue jeans. In those days the Harley sound was unmistakeable. “Thumpa-da-thumpa-da . . .”
But to a kid accustomed to the game of identifying military aircraft flying overhead by the sound they made there was no sound quite so sweet as that made by a brand new 1967 Porsche 911S (“driven as it as meant to be” as my father would say) as it screamed past our flag football game returning my father home from work. The circle of friends in the sports car world he inhabited while working for Porsche Cars Southwest helped introduced me to the idea that art and engineering were next of kin.
So it was natural for me to find fascination in the world of automatons. There were countless examples in the odd museums and wacky collections we visited. Whirring gears, creaking mechanisms – crude but mesmerizing attempts to mimic the natural movements of living creatures. That fascination for the connection between technology and art, mechanics and aesthetics – heck, even science and silliness has informed my interests ever since.
So when I first stumbled upon the interesting story of the pile of brass gears, cams and assorted mechanical body parts “dumped on the steps” of the Franklin Institute in 1928 and only recently appreciated for what they were I had to know more. So now the Institute has put together a more detailed account of the adventure on their website.
"Draughtsman-Writer" by Henri Maillardet
The Draughtsman-Writer belongs to the golden age of automatons when technology was at stage where the talented individual could master an extraordinary level of facility with it’s disparate bits and pieces. DR’s given talent is writing and drawing. And perhaps the most intriguing part was the discovery that it can identify it own maker. The text it writes in an arc at the bottom of the work below reads “Ecrit par L’Automate de Maillardet” or “Written by the Automaton of Maillardet.”
The automaton identifies its maker
There are videos (1) and (2) on the website that show the amazing facility of this creation. In one of the videos the Draughtsman-Writer creates the rendering of a sailing ship below.
At 6′ 5″ inches tall, my interest in things small might seem inexplicable, but the fact remains – small things are cool. And there is not much cooler than a Peel P50. Check out the links at left and @ the image of the Peel P50 above for some great shots of this great little vintage wonder.
Isetta plus teardrop
When I was a bit shorter my father worked for Porsche Cars Southwest in San Antonio, Texas, the southwest regional distributor for Porsche (“por sha, not porsh” as he used to say.) I grew up around interesting cars and car people.
So when my young eyes first glimped a BMW Iseta, I knew that it was just about the coolest thing a car could be – small. Of course, the next logical step is to add a teardrop trailer – another growing interest of mine. An even smaller one can be seen here on the Tales and Trails website.
The park - in the middle of Naito Parkway!
One wet Portland afternoon Lisa and I set off on one our periodic architecture tours in the downtown area. I decided it was time to visit Portland’s smallest park.
Mill Ends Park
It was a perfect, rainy Portland afternoon, the kind that makes color sublime and car tires hiss. Mill Ends Park, created as a home for leprechauns, appears with different vegetative scenery in every picture you will find of it.
Portland being a center of the once booming lumber industry, the term Mill’s End refers to the pieces left over in the process of converting tress to lumber. The story of the park’s creation is an interesting bit of Portland history and worth investigating at the Portland Parks and Recreation site.