Four years ago, Bellevue resident David Joner asked his son Cody, who was 10 at the time, what he wanted to do for their annual summer project.
"Build a car," Cody replied. Not a model or a go-cart, but a real, full-size car.
In the next few months, the result of David and Cody's summer project will begin rolling onto auto dealership floors across the United States.
The vehicle is called the EMC3 Commuter: a three-wheeled, front-wheel-drive, two-passenger convertible. EMC is an acronym for the company the Joner family created: ECO Motor Company. And the "3" denotes the three-wheeled configuration of this most unusual car.
Having two wheels in front and one in back allows the body to flare into an aerodynamic teardrop shape. Powered by a 3-cylinder, 52-horsepower gas engine, the car boasts fuel economy in the range of 60-plus miles per gallon.
- Cost: $13,995 for the five-speed manual-transmission model, $14,995 for the automatic. Standard equipment includes air conditioning, electric windows and an AM/FM/MP3 player.
- For sale: The car will be available at Doug's Lynnwood Mazda (or its Everett location). The Joners plan to sell the car at 400 car dealerships in the United States.
- Web site: ecomotorcompany.com
When David and Cody started working on the project, they dismantled old cars to see how they were put together, sliced up and welded steel, and created drawings of concept vehicles. They received lots of advice from Cody's grandfather, Bruno, a Boeing engineer for 40 years who helped design the first helicopters in the 1950s.
By summer's end, they had built a full-size model. The car's unusual shape and configuration were spawned by a desire to achieve superior aerodynamics and thus better fuel efficiency.
"A lot of people came by to look at it," says David, who used to manage car dealerships. "They stood back and said, 'You've got something here.' " That's when the Joners decided to form a company and take the vehicle into production.
After calculating that the car would be too expensive to build in the U.S., they selected a Chinese auto manufacturer. David says he has 50 employees working at the factory to ensure high quality standards.
The EMC3 is designed to be a second car. "If you have to run to the store to get groceries, there's a huge space in back for storing groceries," says Linda, Cody's mother and marketing specialist for the company. "I mean, how many times do people just run out to get a gallon of milk? Just the savings in that alone is huge."
The car is also designed for those who want to reduce their carbon footprint. "[People] see the car as another avenue to save money and to help the environment," Linda says. "It's a win-win for everybody."
Despite the long hours, significant investment (all of which came from the family and friends), and stress of bringing a vehicle to market in an uncertain economy, the Joners have turned their summer project into an adventure that has brought the family closer together, Linda says.
Cody, now 14, says he wants to study engineering and business in college -- either that or "own the company," he says, smiling at his dad.
"They've actually been able to see their dreams come alive," Linda says. "How many kids have the opportunity to build a car with their father?"