What if you could park horizontally?

Words: Scott Blackburn

Composed to: Little Hurricane - Homewrecker

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Way back in pre-war America, 1938 to be precise, a California lumberman by the name of Brooks Walker hit upon a potentially brilliant idea, and promptly filed a patent for it. His idea, if successfully implemented, could have revolutionised the car world as we now know it. His idea allowed for a car to be parked sideways, saving the driver the usual faff of parallel parking which so many people struggle with.

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It wasn't until after the war that Walker began to throw himself into his invention, building a prototype into his Cadillac. His design featured in a 1952 edition of Life magazine. What he had in mind was a fifth wheel which sat in the space occupied by the boot. When needed this extra wheel was then lowered using hydraulics, jacking up the rear end of the car.

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Once it was down the wheel could be turned one way or another using a chain drive. This allowed the driver to swing the back end of the car independently of the usual drive-train. The fuel tank, which usually sat underneath the boot, was moved to behind the front axle. Using this the car could pull up next to a space, swing its back end round and simply drive backwards into the space, and vice-versa for leaving space. It could also help avoid an Austin Powers type turning situation on driveways or narrow streets.

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Walker told Life that he intended to take his design to the bigwigs in Detroit, with the calculated cost per car for his mechanism being, at the time, $175. This was after he had attracted a considerable amount of media and public attention with his novel design. He demonstrated his invention in the streets of San Francisco and caused such a crowd that the police had to re-route traffic.

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Obviously Brooks Walker's design didn't catch on else none of us would be complaining about parallel parking. The clunky mechanism occupied the entire boot space of Walker's Cady and, as mentioned before, meant that the fuel tank had to be repositioned. It likely weighed a fair bit too which can't have helped with performance or mpg. That being said with electric cars having no need for a fuel tank two boots, one at each end, perhaps someone could revisit Walker's idea as the benefits are obvious.