I would like to think that if I accidently ran over my little girl that she would live without much harm. As a driver I want to avoid injuring myself and others.
I started thinking about increasing the safety of pedestrians and passengers around 1975 when I had a small1972 Fiat 128 while at the University of Illinois getting a Masters in Mechanical Engineering. I was thinking of attaching an aerodynamic vinyl bra filled with bags of air onto the front of my boxy small Fiat. Soon the government mandated air bags inside vehicles. I doodled in my spare time with safe small car designs for years while working for Exxon’s coal mining company, International Harvester’s Solar gas turbine company, and Caterpillar’s engine division. I once even built a tubular frame for a 3-wheel car around 1980. My designs usually had air bags for body panels. I was usually too busy investing in real estate, building condos, and managing apartments to follow through with my designs. In 2006 I designed and built a roof and windshield for my motorcycle. I applied for a patent in Thailand but did not pursue production. I also added a vinyl covered foam piece to the dash to eliminated headlight glare and for crash protection of the face/head. In 2007 I added side panels of foam/vinyl and a back rest. The back rest was a vinyl bag filled with beach balls for safety if hit from the rear.
Finally in the summer of 2008 while on vacation in San Diego I visited hobby stores and started making a small scale model 3-wheeler using cardboard, foam and toy motorcycles. I decided the millions of tiny air pockets/bags in the foam model could work better than large air bags. I liked my foam shoes and decided there should be foam cars to protect pedestrians and passengers. I researched foam and fiberglass composites used in building airplanes, boats, and racecars. I ordered a few how to books online from Amazon.com and studied them during and after my vacation. In Thailand I then made a 2nd model in 1/10 scale and started gathering parts to build a prototype.
In October 2008 I had another daughter, Lily May Ballard and started putting years of ideas to work building an energy efficient 3 wheel auto to bring safety to motorcycle riders and pedestrians. On October 22, 2008 I moved foam, parts, fiberglass, and a motorcycle to the A & G Technology Factory in Rayong Thailand. I spent a month sweating out the details while gluing, fiber glassing, and designing a basic foam drivable chassis alone.. On November 21, 2009 I drove the bare shell for the first time. I told my brother I would stay under 30 mph but it felt too good and stable so I went up to 60 mph. I soon hired Toa a Thai engineer to help and to do AutoCAD design. The top, windshield, wheel covers, shaping, and controls took time to make the prototype look presentable.
On January 20, 2009, my mother’s 80th birthday, I gave her a ride in the freshly painted Spira.
Lon Ballard is lucky to have broad experience and credentials to bring innovation to designs:
University of Illinois, Engineering, BS and MS. Some of my best memories were winning the building of the strongest balsa wood structure in 2 engineering class competitions where the crush strength was tested.
MBA Operations Management, San Diego State University
Left Caterpillar in 1993 at 40 owning 148 apartments. Then built 76 energy efficient town homes in the Peoria, Illinois area.
Earned licenses in the USA: Illinois Professional Engineer, Illinois Plumber, Electrical Contractor, HVAC Contractor.
In 2004 started investing and living part-time in Thailand.
Owned and fixed up old and foreign sports cars during and after college including: 67 Triumph GT6, 64-1/2 Mustang Convertible, Three – 53 Cadilacs, 55 Olds, 58 T-bird, 69 Austin Mini, 71 & 72 Renault R16 & R12, 2- Fiat 128, 1971 Corolla, 55 & 58 Mercedes 190SL.