The world has not exactly beaten a path to Renald McFarland's door, which is why he can no longer afford to be modest about his invention, the Instant Reversible Crash Deflector Autocar. It is, he explains, "the greatest invention since the wheel."
That his door is virtually path-free is a mystery to McFarland, a Layton chiropractor and tireless inventor. Certain about the merits of his revolutionary car, McFarland can't understand why the world, or at least the state of Utah, doesn't want to invest in his dream.Like thousands of struggling inventors, remembered this week on National Inventors Day, he has learned that coming up with a new idea, even one that works, is the easy part. Even if you've got a better mousetrap, you've got to be able to convince someone to buy it.
This is a frustrating bit of reality for McFarland, who estimates that his car would save 50,000 lives a year. He says his design has 11,000 fewer parts than the conventional automobile. He says he has
put half a million dollars into the car's development so far, and now he's eager to find some serious backers, ones who have more vision than Detroit has.
If all this sounds familiar, sort of like the movie "Tucker, The Man and His Dream," the similarity isn't lost on McFarland. Like the zealous but misunderstood Tucker, McFarland sees a conspiracy of sorts among automakers. "It's a big business blockade," he charges. "Otherwise we'd have had a car like this before."
He leafs through the large scrapbook that holds designs for his Instant Reversible Crash Deflector Autocar and pulls out a drawing of the 5-seat model. Then he holds it up next to a picture of a Model-T Ford and says: "If this car isn't different from this car, I'll eat your hat."
No danger there, hat wearers. McFarland's autocar is an eye-shaped flying saucer-like plastic bubble surrounded in the middle by a metal thing that looks, as its inventor says, like the ring of Saturn.
Should the Instant Reversible Crash Deflector Autocar (IRCDA) get hit, says McFarland, it would simply deflect the other car. Meanwhile, since the plastic, bullet-proof capsule is attached to its triangular frame by two umbilical cord safety releases, the capsule can move out of the way of the direct hit.
The form-fitted seats also detach on impact, allowing the passenger to swivel around as if he were on the inside of a ball. The instant reversing feature would mean that the car would "actually claw at black ice," explains McFarland.
The IRCDA has no transmission, no differential, no dashboard, no steering wheel. Steering is accomplished with a joy stick. The car is propelled by a hydrostatic motor on each wheel, driven by a hydrostatic pump.
McFarland has come up with seven different variations of his car, including a station wagon and an off-road all-terrain vehicle. This last one he has actually crash-tested, he says, by driving it into an ice wall over and over again. He emerged unscathed, he says.
He has taken his designs to Utah economic development officials, but has been told that the state's invention development money is earmarked for areas such as computer software, aerospace and medical technology.
"We exist in an environment not geared to automotive development," explains Dr. Lynn Blake, director of business development for the state.
"Ninety percent of all inventions, even those with patents, never prove to be commercially feasible," adds Blake.
Like many inventors, McFarland has been working on his idea for years. He first got the inspiration for the eye-shaped car, in fact, in high school, after a girl he had a crush on was struck by a car and killed. He went right home and fashioned his safer car out of a pair of wooden bookends.
Like many of his colleagues in the Intermountain Society of Inventors and Designers, McFarland has scores of ideas for new products. He is the originator of the See-Through Waffle Iron, the Crib Death Life-Saver Mattress and the Illustrated Series of Health-Care Management.
Unable to interest Utah in producing his ideas, he recently sent his designs to Sweden, in hopes that the government there will be more receptive.
After 17 years of new designs and dashed hopes, McFarland says he is "almost discouraged." And that's not how it's supposed to be, he says: "If you lose courage, you're not going to be an inventor."
INVENTORS MEET MONTHLY
The Intermountain society of Inventors and Designers meets at 7:30 p.m. the first Thursday of every month in room 209 of the Technology Building at Salt Lake Community College, 4600 S. Redwood Road. For more information, call John Winder at 571-2617.