My Car Quest

September 16, 2021

Jerry Wiegert: A Man Who Tried…

by Wallace Wyss –

I remember when I was moving from Michigan to California in the late ’60s, a girlfriend said “Ya oughta look up a guy I know from Bad Axe, named Jerry Wiegert. He was gonna go to California and build his own car.”

I’m writing this because now we’re 50 or more years down the road and I hear Gerald Alden “Jerry” Wiegert, born July 12, 1944, died on January 15, 2021.

Jerry Wiegert

Jerry Wiegert – photo by Autoweek

He was a proud graduate of the Art Center College of Design, one of the few graduates who designed and built his own production car. I don’t remember if I looked up Jerry right when I first arrived out on the Coast but I sure as hell noticed him at the Los Angeles Auto show. He had a lifesize prototype (or maybe it just was a painted clay with blacked out windows). He was wearing a fighter pilot’s suit and there was a shapely Miss Vector to show you, yes, indeed this was an American exotic if there ever was such a thing.

Ferrari should be nervous, right ? Especially with speeds of 175 mph mentioned. The car kept showing up at various car shows, each time a different color, each time changed in detail. There was talk of turbocharging and supercharging. Whatever technology was new, he tried to figure out how to work it into the car.

Vector

He got some prototypes running and I remember he took one to a European show and some car magazine challenged him to run it against some European “supercar” at an airport runway. The Vector caught fire. Jerry sluffed it off as sabotage, inferring that the Germans wanted an American challenger to European cars to lose. It was him against the auto world.

Vector

But he eventually got it into limited production, between 1989 and 1993, but only after selling the firm to an Indonesian cartel run by the son of a dictator who had also bought Lamborghini. The production version had a Lamborghini engine, which made you wonder why is a Lamborghini-engined American car needed if there is still Lamborghini? Maybe for the extreme wedge-with-curves styling?

Only a few were made, under 25 I think. At one point, I went down to his combination shop and headquarters in San Pedro, near the Los Angeles dock area, and it was like visiting the Bat Cave, this project and that strewn about, not just cars but some little boat–the Aquajet–that could have beat the Jet Ski if he had gotten backing sooner.

Vector

The Indonesians left (actually their money evaporated when the dictator father of one of them left office) but Jerry fought and retained control of the Vector rights and every time I saw him there was always a future Vector being planned. Each year, at the LA Auto Show, long after he was showing his cars there, I would run into him, he dressed less flamboyantly tahn in the early days, and ask “what happening?” and he’d immediately get a conspiratorial look, and whisper soto voice, that he couldn’t tell me the details yet but there was an investor…’nuf said. Mum’s the word. Capitsch?

I was proud as punch for him a couple years back when I heard he sold two WX-3 prototypes, one of them an open car, at an Arizona auction. The auction company was RM Sotheby’s and the price together surpassed one million dollars. I was proud for him because he had persevered all these years and was now a millionaire.

And now comes word he has died in mid-January. I know, with newer automakers like Elon Musk in the headlines, who is an automaker almost as his side job (he owns rocket maker Space X) Jerry Wiegert’s automotive accomplishments will amount to little more than a footnote in American auto history–but, damn it, to us car enthusiasts, he was a giant because, right from the beginning, he stuck to his guns.

Godspeed, Jer.

Let us know what you think in the Comments.

Wallace Wyss

THE AUTHOR: Wallace Wyss is the author of 18 car books. He is co-host of the Autotalk show broadcast weekly out of KUCR-FM Riverside.
 
 
 

Vector photos by Richard Bartholomew.

Vector

Summary
Jerry Wiegert: A Man Who Tried...
Article Name
Jerry Wiegert: A Man Who Tried...
Description
Gerald Alden "Jerry" Wiegert, designer and builder of the Vector, has died.
Author

Comments

  1. vectorfiles says

    Jerry did NOT sell the Vector Aeromotive Company. It was a hostile takeover by the Indonesian/Malaysian Megatech/V’Power corp.

  2. Wallace Wyss says

    I looked it up Wikipedia says: :A hostile takeover is the acquisition of one company (called the target company) by another (called the acquirer) that is accomplished by going directly to the company’s shareholders or fighting to replace management to get the acquisition approved.”

    One can prevent that by the founder keeping the majority of the stock I just read a biography of Elon Musk, also a carmaker, and he came perilously close to losing his company but one needs investors to move forward. Ironically Musk borrowed enough to keep Tesla afloat by borrowing money from his other company Space X to keep going but Jerry’s Aquajet was never a moneymaker so he didn’t have that option.

    Thanks for peak into the cruel side of the business world.

  3. Robert Feldman says

    In 1980 I worked at a Chevrolet dealership in NJ. The owner went to California to visit with Jerry Wiegert to discuss an East Coast distributorship for Vector cars. He came back with the brochure and color cutaway pictured below. Since this was 1980 and way before digital photos, Jerry photocopied numerous photos that he also provided. (including shapely “Miss Vector”) If anyone has an interest in this hard to find literature you can contact me at (732) 770-8508

  4. Robert Feldman says

    Color Cutaway

  5. Robert Feldman says

    Photos

  6. Wallace Wyss says

    I left out of the story that, during development he had a Mangusta and I suspected that’s how he could drive the Mangusta on the road, maybe by switching license plates and most cops wouldn’t know a Mangusta from a hole in the ground. But Brian, a friend of mine who was an unpaid intern in the early days, remembers a running Vector existing at the same time as Jerry had a runnng Mangusta.

  7. Bob Wachtel says

    this guy really had balls. He deserved more recognition and investments from some smart & honest businessmen & women. he could have been much more successful if he had this extra financial help.I’ve always admired people like him & Carroll Shelby & Jim Hall & Bill Thomas & Max Balchowsky.

Speak Your Mind

*