BOCA RATON — In a city where
Bentleys and Ferraris are not uncommon, the coolest car in
town just might belong to Rick Newman.
unbelievable, the response," Newman said. "I just
get mobbed within 3 seconds."
suggests spending the lunch hour with him in Boca Raton's
fashionable Mizner Park. You take the electronics hobbyist up
on the offer and follow behind as his electric three-wheeler
zips through town like a toy slot car.
his noiseless vehicle in front of Max's Grille.
called a Sparrow, looks like nothing else on the road. It's
shaped like an optical illusion, with a rear that tapers to
nothingness. It is painted off-violet, as if splashed by a
teenager's fingernail polish, with a big eyeball decal on the
the deal?" says Mark Klaman of Boston and Boca Raton, one
of many onlookers. "How much? How do you get one? Is it
repeating the same spiel day after day, Newman travels with
laminated business cards that provide answers to the most
n "Goes up to 80 MPH for up to 50 miles.
n "Recharges from a standard 110 volt home
electrical outlet in 6 hours.
n "Registers & Insures as a motorcycle."
cards don't say is that Newman has not only three Sparrows but
also three Citicar's, the boxy electric vehicles made in the
1970s. He keeps one of each at home in the Old Floresta
neighborhood; the others are on display at museums and science
centers. One of the Sparrows is on display at the South
Florida Science Museum in West Palm Beach.
costs about $18,000 from Myers Motors in Tallmadge, Ohio. A
gold model was featured in an Austin Powers flick.
runs a video and DVD duplication service picked up his first Sparrow and his first Citicar on eBay.
the uses for the Sparrow are limited. Errands, mostly.
Joyriding. Turning heads. The car of the future seats just
Sparrow generates zero emissions. There are no fuel expenses,
and it costs about $1 to "fill the tank," or in this
case, 13 car batteries.
happened to be on eBay shopping for a Rolls Royce three years
ago when he spotted the Citicar for sale. Thus began his love
affair with electric cars. The seller of the Citicar lived a
half-mile away, in Boca Raton. The car was rotted out,
inoperable. Newman paid $1,000 and rebuilt it, adding a
1,000-watt stereo, strobes, lasers and scrolling sign. For a
rear-view mirror, Newman outfitted a video camera that points
backward and beams images onto a small screen near his dash.
to Newman than electric cars. His collection of electronica
includes remote-controlled model helicopters that can climb to
8,000 feet. He collects space suits and other intergalactic
artifacts, mostly from the former Soviet Union. Most of these
are on display in museums and the 19 science centers Newman
has established across the country to introduce children to
the wonders of science and space exploration.
collection of space stuff and battery-powered cars is
documented on his web site: www.hightechscience.org.
indulgence you can afford when your business
grosses more than $1 million a year.
Park, the curiosity seekers come and go, trying to figure out
what it is this thing they are looking at.
cool," says Tom Deremer of Lauderdale-by-the-Sea.
"Amazing. The future is here."
road-worthy?" he says. "I'll tell you, I'd hate to
be in an accident in that."
Cunningham of Boca Raton and New York says the Sparrow is just
"too cool for words."
is what we're hungry for," she adds. "Down with the
Newman's waitress, Erica DiCosmo, can't resist a quick gawk.
so small, it's so cute, it's like a peanut, I love it,"
she says in a spontaneous run-on compliment. "Do you have
a plus-size model for bigger people?"