Levitt Lucern Custer was an inventor and entrepreneur who had come of age as a contemporary of the Wright Brothers. Custer had worked with the Wrights and was an accomplished balloonist and aviator in his own right. World War I brought him the opportunity to create a mobility solution for the wounded soldiers returning from the front and for the elderly, promising independence and mobility. His answer was the three-wheeled Custer Car that promised "Miles of Smiles for a Penny." The Custer Specialty Company offered cars with first with electric power, and later optional gasoline power. Here are two beautiful examples, one gasoline and the other electric.
In my research I have been able to confirm that the creator of the Autoette was inspired to develop his own design in part due to his dissatisfaction with the complex workings and limitations of the Custer Car, which by the 1930s was the primary vehicle of its type in the United States. Here is a photo of the restored control switches on my Custer Car.
In chasing the origins of the Custer Car I ended up acquiring this one for the collection. The car sat in a collection for several decades with damage to the electrical system until its owner passed away. Then a friend of the collector acquired the car and it sat for another dozen years until that fellow passed away. I acquired the car just a few months ago. Just this past Labor Day weekend, I completed the restoration of the electrical controls and the rewiring of the car. In addition, I was able to take care of some mechanical issues and by Sunday evening take the car for a test drive. Here's a video of the Custer on the road again after many years sitting idle.
More to come soon on the origins of California's micro-electric cars! Thanks for reading.