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Gerald Wiegert and the Vector

We are accustomed to thinking about artistic creativity in Venice in terms of painting, poetry, and music, but it’s no surprise that an astonishingly original automobile was nurtured in the heart of Venice. The super-exotic Vector is what you might call a "cult" car, coveted by an intensely loyal band of fanatical cognoscenti throughout the world.

Gerald Wiegert moved his business and his home to Venice in the late 1970s, seeing it as an interesting and intriguing place. "I liked it a lot. I still like it," says the inventor today. At first he lived in an apartment very near the shore, with an ocean view. In 1980, he bought what had originally been a canal-side house on Cabrillo. He recalls Hama Sushi, Aardvark, and of course the beach, as particular attractions, and also enjoyed proximity to the clubs of Venice, Santa Monica, the Marina, and Hollywood. Eventually the house was given up when he moved out of Venice in the 90s to be closer to Wilmington, where the facility had moved to greatly expanded quarters. (Nowadays, his home has a view of Catalina.)

Equipped with a degree in Transportation and Product Design from the Art Center College of Design, as well as other impressive credentials, Wiegert established Vector Aeromotive on West Washington Boulevard (now Abbot Kinney) near Venice Blvd. in the late 1970s. The Vector W2 was built in an old structure that had originally been a firehouse.

Roaming the Web, I found a reminiscence by an artist who calls herself "ossobuco" in a discussion group on the site Able2Know. She speaks of living upstairs from where Wiegert and his colleagues built the super-car. "I only saw him drive the Vector … at a stately pace, but I could hear what it might do, rrrrmmmmmmmmmmmm." The artist describes the upstairs of the old Eagles lodge building as having seven broken windows when she and a colleague made it over into a studio/gallery. "Among the charms of the place was the stack of marble squares and other items from an old Spanish church put in the back lot by the owner of the building. And the Comeback Inn a few doors down, where the Canaligators used to play on some Sunday afternoons."

Wiegert recalls some run-ins with members of the V13 gang, whose clubhouse was across the street, and it was necessary to confront them and spell out what would happen if the annoyance continued. There was also a lone gunman who came in the door one night with robbery as his objective. Later the shop moved along West Washington to a location near Westminster.

Outwardly, there were few clues that momentous and revolutionary things went on inside - it was a low profile operation, except when media attention descended. In the early 1980s Marc Madow recalls being assigned by the German magazine Auto Motor und Sport, to photograph the Vector. He found the ambiance of the shop/design studio reminiscent of a carrozzeria, or old-fashioned coachbuilder, where vehicle bodies were individually handcrafted, as for some high-end automobiles they still are.

At a time when other American automakers looked to Europe for styling hints, Wiegert was the most innovative designer on the scene. The technique of making an automobile with the same care to infinitesimal detail as a violin was borrowed from Europe, but the core of Wiegert’s creative vision was strictly American. Living in a country with the world’s most prominent aerospace industry, he was the first to see that cross-pollination was needed, that practices which were standard in the building of aircraft needed to be brought down to the ground and put on wheels. The thing America indisputably had more of than anyone else was air supremacy, and that advanced aerospace technology could and should be adapted for the street.

Although the Vector had appeared on the cover of Motor Trend in 1970, the ordinary person on the street wasn’t used to the sight. When the prototype was out and around, it caught people’s attention. The Vector appeared at car shows, and pictures of it on caps and t-shirts whetted the interest of everyone who saw them.

When asked about the rumor that he used to drive the Vector home and park it on Cabrillo Street overnight, Wiegert said he was never concerned about its being taken. "The car had a very intimidating kind of presence….You wouldn’t think about stealing a military tactical fighter from an air show, even if all the lights were out."

When the construction facility moved to Wilmington, Madow visited again. The original Vector had been flashy-looking, with sharp styling, he says, but "it was pretty exciting, to see the car and the designs for even more exotic models." Continuing research and refinement ultimately led to the development of the Vector W8 Twin Turbo. Along the way, Wiegert also worked on the Jet Ski, 4-wheel all-terrain vehicle, and Airstream Motorhome and invented and designed the Jetbike. He has also been a consultant on numerous projects for many companies including the U.S. Government.

 

Measuring 24" x 17", this student work by Gerald Wiegert left the collection of Professor Richard Collier in 1995 and was later offered for sale by an art dealer.

 

Vector W2 as it was in Venice days, 1979

 

Another Vector W2 of that era
 

 

Jerry Wiegert was a purist from an engineering standpoint, and a guy with foresight. A lot of independent thinking went into the Vector, and it probably outperformed many other well-known sports cars.
.....................................Marc Madow

 

Follow this link for the whole story of the Vector

 

 

 

 

© 2004 - 2012 Pat Hartman
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