Back when three-wheeled cars were the future of automobiles, Jerry Woodward was a cutting edge vehicle designer.
But that time is long past. He now proudly displays his work as trophies next to Ace and Jerry’s Auto Glass under the sign “Museum of National Award Vehicles,” located just south of the Covey Center for the Arts on Center street.
The museum houses eye-catching cars that would be at home in 1965, which makes it a remarkable place to visit in 2012.
Sounds of Woodward’s sons working in the 50-year-old family auto shop can be heard upon entering. Woodward greets visitors, ready to impart his long history of custom designed vehicles, complete with successes and disappointments.
Woodward’s automobile experience began when he built his first car at age 15. In his car museum, which is about the size of a two-car garage, rest four of the zaniest vehicles Provo has ever seen. One, called the Scorpion, has four front wheels and one back wheel that steers, allowing it to turn on a dime.
“I had quite an imagination,” he says. “I liked things that were different.”
The six-wheeled Army Ant, which is parked out front of the museum, looks like a military attack vehicle, but on a smaller scale. The driver, who enters throw the windshield doors, is fully encased when driving.
On the museum’s walls proudly hang ancient magazine spreads featuring Woodward’s vehicles’ fame. One model, the Vortex X-2000, Woodward’s famous three-wheeled car, took six years and 6,000 hours to build.
But was his work ever recognized? One time, Woodward said, a Ford employee approached the Vortex at a car show and asked about it. Woodward had built the vehicle with tail lights that extended across the entire back of the bumper, a revolutionary idea. Built with Christmas light reflectors, half of the entire bumper would light up when you put on a signal.
“When he got around to the back, when I turned on the lights, he said ‘boy do I like this,'” Woodward said.
Following the encounter, in 1965, the Ford Thunderbird emerged with full-length tail lights.
Now full length tail lights are common. But Woodward had never taken the time to take out a patent, being too focused on building cars.
His history seems full of similar instances, like his twin headlight design that later appeared on PeterBuilt trucks.
Woodward doesn’t seem to mind too much that he wasn’t recognized for his innovative ideas. He doesn’t let his love of vehicles doesn’t overshadow the importance of human beings.
“The most awesome vehicle ever created is the human body. Take care of it,” proclaims one sign, among many posted all around the museum.
Jerry himself is the most interesting part of the museum. His cars are a part of himself. His history of opportunities, inspirations and aspirations give visitors amazing perspective into another era of time — teaching visitors that not every great innovator is written about in history books.