Oddball three-wheeler was the creation of a 17-year-old back in 1931

You’d be excused if you clicked to watch this video of Jay Leno’s Garage and wondered to yourself what a Shotwell is. Well, you’re not the only one. I raised an eyebrow too because I had never heard of an automaker named Shotwell, let alone seen a car that looked like this. My confusion was confirmed when I went and watched the episode as Leno explains the history behind the peculiar three-wheeler. Turns out, this 1931 Shotwell is a complete one-off. It was built way back in 1931 by a then 17-year-old named Bob Shotwell.

According to Leno’s story, Shotwell built the car on his father’s suggestion that if he wanted a car for himself, he needed to go build one. I’m sure a lot of other fathers have made that “suggestion” over the years, but you’d be hard-pressed to find a son who actually took dad’s advice and built their own car. But that’s exactly what Shotwell did and to his credit, he did an incredible job at it considering that this was in 1931. Yep, that was 85 years ago. Shotwell even created a design that was definitely ahead of its time, using a three-wheeler configuration that even to this day, isn’t considered a traditional setup for a car. He even decided to use a 77-cubic-inch Indian motorcycle engine that, if anything, proved to be a reliable source of power for his creation. If those details aren’t impressive enough, this one definitely is. Shuttle apparently drove the car for more than 150,000 miles. 150,000! He even used it on a 6,000-mile round-trip journey to the Northwestern part of the U.S. That’s just incredible.

Sadly, Shotwell’s ownership of his pride and joy ended in 1999 when he decided that the car needed a new owner that would give it the love and affection he showed it in all the years that he used it. By our count, Shotwell was 85 years old when he let go of his three-wheeler and he even had a specific person in mind on who he wanted to pass the car to on the condition that it wouldn’t be destroyed: Jay Leno. True to his word, Leno not only kept the car safe, but he also worked on it to make sure that the car would still be able to run properly.

Leno took it out for a spin in the latter part of the episode, and while it ran pretty well for the most part, it did have a small episode that could be expected for a car like this. Still, none of this takes away from how impressed we are that Jay Shotwell managed to build this car 85 years ago and had it with him until he was 85 years old. That in itself is a story to last a lifetime.


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