The Tango. Its dimensions seem to defy the laws of physics: a car that stretches over eight feet long, yet spans just a smidgen over three feet wide. It looks like a rollover waiting to happen. And more: it’s electric. But before auto-aficionados declare this car a top-heavy low-powered weakling, they’d better stick around to hear its co-inventor describe his goal:”We’re trying to make it stand up to be at least as nice as a Ferrari or Lamborghini in every respect.”
This is the vision of Rick Woodbury, who along with his son Bryan, runs Commuter Cars Corp., of Spokane, Wash. Their concept car, the”Tango,” is a sprightly little two-seater billed as the”future of commuting.” With its abbreviated width, Woodbury says the intent is to double the capacity of existing freeways while not sacrificing drivability, safety, or efficiency.
The impetus for the venture stemmed from the traffic nightmares Woodbury experienced firsthand in Southern California, his home for 30 years. Frustrated with the sheer amount of cars on the road, and that most vehicles only had one driver, he became convinced there must be another solution, and mass transit wasn’t an option.
Soon after, Woodbury founded a typesetting company, Integrated Composition Systems, in Lake Tahoe, Calif. In his spare time he developed a love for racing Porsches, and soon began building and modifying their engines.
“I’ve always been pretty handy, I like to build stuff. I’m always working with things,” Woodbury said. After moving to Spokane, a city with the relatively low real estate and labor costs ICS needed to compete with its cut-rate Asian competitors, the duo began work on their narrow car, starting Commuter Cars Corp. The idea of narrow vehicles isn’t new.
“We’ve been thinking about narrow cars for at least 20 years,” Woodbury said.”Bryan had been drawing this narrow car idea ever since he was in 5th grade.”
With Rick’s years of practical car racing knowledge and Bryan’s college degree in physics, the duo had all the smarts it needed to develop the Tango. Funded mainly by the sale of a sailboat they built, they spent eight months and more than $300,000 on their prototype.
Woodbury’s wish that the Tango be compared to a Ferrari or Lamborghini isn’t just hyperbole. It’s built with a safety cage able to withstand a crash at 200 mph, sufficient enough to hold up to stringent racing regulations. It runs from zero to 60 mph in four seconds and has a top speed of 124 mph. And despite its vertical frame, it has the stability of a Porsche, courtesy of the 2,000 pounds worth of rechargeable lead-acid batteries housed underneath its floor.
Right now, having completed the design and construction of the car, Woodbury is focused on recruiting investors.
“The goal is to get investors to put out $25 million or more to get the cars into production where we can sell them for $18,700. That would be for a 10,000 per year production,” he said. And that’s just the start. His ultimate vision is to see the price of the Tango get down to $10,000, something that would require a yearly production of 100,000 units and an investment of $1 to $2 billion.
The partners are relentless in bringing their vision to the world. They built the Tango from scratch, secured its patent and are adamantly protective of their design.
“We don’t care who it is or how much money they give us; we’re not interested in compromising,” says Woodbury.”I don’t care if they offer us a billion dollars, I’m not doing this for money.”
Copyright © 2003. YOUNG MONEY®