Sunday, April 26, 2009

Guest Blogger: Sam Johnson

Sam Johnson is the father of Dan Johnson, Lightning Hybrids' CEO. He is the inspiration behind the car.

While visiting with my sons Sam and Dan in spring of 2008, I challenged them to design a car capable of 100 mpg that weighed about 1200 pounds. They said they could do this, but they did not have the time or money. A couple of months later, at a Colorado State University engineering display, they were looking at a test car and discussing a hydraulic system.

Later in the year, Dan sold SARobotics, the company he had started in 1992, and Sam was completing the main design on his Stealth Flying Eye. They submitted a plan to me to start an auto company to build diesel-hydraulic cars. When I learned they planned to start Lightning Hybrids and mass produce 3-wheel and 4-wheel vehicles, I decided to move to Loveland from where I was living in Arizona. Within a week Dan and his wife found an apartment for me, and I moved four blocks from the Lightning Hybrids 13,000 square foot warehouse.

For normal people the April 1 date for the car show (merely six months after the company opened its doors) would have been impossible to meet. I may have been to blame because I had taught my children that "THE IMPROBABLE WE DO IMMEDIATELY, THE IMPOSSIBLE TAKES LONGER!”

Dan said they would meet the date and set to work to do so. He hired people who learned to work as small children; to most of them work on a new project is fun. In Jan 2009 the design of cars was finalized. A large 5-axis router was purchased to cut body parts for the carbon fiber molds. Other machines were purchased and Dan and his crew set up the manufacturing facility. The team was made up of a senior design engineer, five engineers, painters, welders -- all 32-years-old and younger -- and four part-time college students, 15 people in all. Body parts were laid-up in a small shop in Boulder, Colorado. Tim Reeser was taking care of logistics and my son Sam and I assisted part time.

We were small crew with one goal -- CAR SHOW ON APRIL 1.

Having worked in heavy industry since 1945 I learned there was one phrase you can not accept: "CAN'T DO " and this crew certainly took that to heart.

On the last day the entire crew worked until 5 A.M. and returned 2 hours later to load up for car show and then worked until 10 that night. Since I was older and smarter I stayed home.

To properly understand these dedicated people you have to understand that they learned these habits early in life. To better describe this I wrote a book called Which Way? U.S. Engineer Education – Fail or Pass. (My first book was The Art and Life of Eloise June Johnson. For copies of either one please leave a comment with a way to reach you.)

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