Indian Four powered home-built three wheeler automobile the Shotwell

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Well-Known Member
Staff member
Mar 25, 2011
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Miami Florida
Part of Jay Leno's garage, it was built by a teenager [in the 1930's!] who designed it and built it himself, and who kept it until he was in his 80's. He offered it free to Jay Leno if Jay promised he wouldn't strip it of its Indian powerplant. Jay accepted the car, and spent years going through it to make it reliable. It had already racked-up 150,000 miles from the builder/owner. That speaks to the design and effort which went into the build, as cars in the 1930's would usually be worn-out and ready to be scrapped before 50,000 miles.

From the article:

Bob Shotwell went on to a career as a pilot for Northwest Airlines, retiring in 1975. He married and raised two children--and his little coupe was always an important part of the family's life.

But at age 82, he was afraid that the car would end up being torn apart by motorcycle guys for its precious Indian engine. He didn't want that to happen. So, he said he'd give me Philbert as long as I promised that I wouldn't break it up.

I liked the idea that the car had been in one family all these years, and that Bob and his brother had driven it all over. He sent me a picture of him standing next to the car (above left). That clinched it.I sent an Intercity Lines transporter to Minnesota to get it. The coupe had been sitting outside for years. When the transport driver saw it, he was delighted. "This is the only car we've ever shipped where we don't have to check off all the damage," he told me. "I just checked Damaged." After the three-wheeler arrived at my garage, I examined it. I was simply dumbfounded. It's a classic hot rod, cleverly built by a young guy with innate engineering ability, made of whatever parts were available to him.

About Bob Shotwell's method of design and construction:

He took a front end from a Model A Ford, cut it down a little bit and used the hubs from a '32 Ford. But at the little coupe's heart is the Indian four-cylinder engine with its integral three-speed transmission driving the single rear wheel via a chain. There's no Reverse. And there were two little electric blowers for cooling everything in the engine compartment.

Bob made a frame with chromemoly steel tubing and angle iron. He hammered the body panels by hand out of flat stock steel at his father's radiator repair shop. He even designed a pair of little outrigger rear wheels, probably taken from shopping carts, to keep Philbert the Puddle-Jumper [the car's nickname] from flipping if the rear tire blew. Bob took two years to build the car and he spent about $300 on the project.


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