Keith and Eileen Carpenter's Fascination
You know the adage “Be careful what you wish for?”
Keith and Eileen Carpenter of Parker, Colo., know it well. One Sunday morning in 1975 or 1976, they were driving down West Colfax Avenue in Denver when they spotted an airplane-shaped car sitting on the lot of Vern Hagestad’s Volkswagen dealership. The Carpenters whipped a U-turn and went back to check out the weird black and gold “car” called the Fascination.
“Boy, I’d like to own that someday,” Keith said to Eileen. Little did he know that one day they would own three of the five Fascinations ever built.
About 10 years later, the Carpenters were sharing their weekly Sunday breakfast with a friend who said he bought a very unusual car at a storage auction. He took them to see it, and there, on a trailer, was the same black and gold car they had seen 10 years earlier. It was basically intact, but the long tails, although still with the car, had been sawed off because they were too long for the storage facility. The windshield was also cracked.
Their friend put the car back into storage, and the Carpenters bought it when he succumbed to cancer 20 years ago.
In-depth research by the Carpenters unearthed much of the Fascination’s history. It was the brainchild of Paul M. Lewis, a Colorado man who, in the 1930s, designed a three-wheeled Airomobile. The Airomobile was not successful, but he kept his idea alive. In the late 1960s he built the Fascination and started the Highway Aircraft Corp. in Sidney, Neb. Five vehicles were built before the company collapsed.
The Carpenters’ black and gold Fascination is car No. 1, the original prototype that was built in Denver. It originally had airplane propellers in the rear, but one failed during a demonstration. Propellers were abandoned and a Volkswagen engine was installed.
A year ago the Carpenters bought the red and white car No. 2 that you see here. It is powered by a four-cylinder Renault engine under the back window. Cars No. 3 and 4 also had Renault engines.
Car No. 5, which the Carpenters also own, has never been fully finished. It has a V-6 engine and the transaxle from an Oldsmobile Toronado.
So what do the Carpenters do with the Fascination? Car No. 1 is being restored, but Car No. 2 has been on the auto-show circuit this year. They have taken it to the Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance in Jacksonville, Fla., Keels and Wheels in Houston, and the Meadowbrook Concours in suburban Detroit.
Do they drive it? “No,” Eileen Carpenter said, “it’s a trailer queen. We don’t drive it because it simply creates too much havoc the way people gawk and pay attention to it.”
|The prototype was planned with a propeller, but an engine drives the rear wheels. At Amelia Island Concours d'Elegance, below.|