Wright Brothers Day: How They Were Inspired by the Conversion Van
(Parts of this account may or may not be exaggerated)
The Wright Brothers are well-known for being the first to fly in a manned contraption. But little is known of how this really came about. Another inventor, Henry Ford, began production of his Model A car in 1903, just at the time old Orville and Wilbur were looking for a place in history. Their fly swatter patent never really took off, and the modified boat propeller invention proved to have the wrong design. Many prototypes simply flipped the boats over because of the gigantic propeller.
While walking through the streets in Kitty Kat, a suburb of Kitty Hawk, Wilbur was almost run down by a Model A. Orville’s heroics helped to safe his brother’s life. While trying to swat a Killer Bee with his swatter, he tripped over a fallen trash bin that had tipped over from the weight of a defective propeller ‘someone’ had thrown away. He fell into Wilbur, pushing him out of the reach of the ‘Killer A’ car. A lawsuit followed when the brothers sued the driver. The case was dismissed though, because the defendant had sold Exhibit ‘A’, and Exhibit ‘Bee’ flew away.
Orville told Wilbur that HE bought the Model A from the driver, and tried to convince Wilbur he could build an extension onto the car. He would put in a stove, a bed, some insect repellent (since that was the only thing that DID work), and they could go camping, fishing, whatever! Wilbur told Orville he was going to start his own project. He was going to take that giant propeller and put it on the front of a boat instead of the back.
Orville laughed, saying it would never fly, and started work on his camper. He called a Conversion Van company to get some ideas and found they would be no help. They told him of plush carpeting, overhead lighting, air conditioning, televisions, bezels and other such nonsensical devices. The fold-out, fold-down cup holders didn’t make any sense at all as didn’t the digital stereo head-phones and the fan sofa control module. Now he liked the idea of the in-dash compass, but getting it digitized seemed a bit much. The man told Orville to check out the website — well, it was just too cold for spiders to be out.
Old Orville thought the salesman was getting too personal when he mentioned body kit components, but his dander really flared when the man tried to sell him an air dam billet grille. Orville hung up on him while muttering something about ‘not being talked ugly to like that’.
Wilbur had finished work on his project, but really didn’t trust his own workmanship, so he talked Orville into test driving it for him. Wilbur cranked up the giant propeller while Orville laid on his stomach, trying to hold on for dear life as the thing took off. And boy did it take off!
The Wrights decided then and there, that building a boat that flies would make them more money than trying to make sense of putting fancy, luxurious accessories into a Model A.