When a Car Show Turned Deadly!
I was sorting some of my old hot rod books, when I came across the Pat Ganahl’s excellent ‘Ed “Big Daddy” Roth- His Life, Times, Cars, and Art’. Of all the kooky Roth creations, I had forgot about ‘Rotar’, mainly because Barris actually built another flying car, XPAK 400, at the same time, so I get them confused.
As the story goes, Ron Aguirre was sharing a booth with Ed in Cobo Hall at the Detroit Autorama. Ed was selling shirts and asked Ron to fire up the Rotar for the crowd and let them see it hover from time to time. Ron would rev the (Triumph motorcycle) engines, and Rotar would lift just a bit to please the onlookers. At some point during the day, Ron reached into the open bubbletop, revved the Rotar and one of the rotors broke apart at high RPM.
“All of a sudden, I hear a funny noise: clink, clink, clink-and BANG! There was a lady standing about 10 feet away with one of those purses that look like a woven basket. All of a sudden, that purse shattered. Just shattered. Something hit me on the shoulder. The bubble (top) burst. Then it went up and stuck in the ceiling. Another kid got hit above the eye. That was the worst one. What happened was the crank broke. Then the blades started flying off. There were about a dozen blades.”
I think they stopped people from running their engines at car shows not long after that…