The Futurist Femme D’auto
In 1970, Miss Purity was a car with present-day environmental attributes. In the annals of automotive history, it can easily be argued that Miss Purity was a lady out, and likely ahead, of her time.
She was a car built by engineering\students at the University of Toronto
in 1970 that ran on propane and electricity. Miss Purity was an environmentally conscious vehicle in an era when the environment was low on the social mindset.
Over 40 years later, the vehicle rests at the Tottenham home of classic car enthusiast Ron Passer.
What’s left of the team that built her in the first place, as well as other volunteers, will be endeavoring to return Miss Purity to initial splendor and Motoring will be there to monitor their progress.
Ironically, she was fashioned from the chassis of a 1970 Chevelle, the forerunner of the Malibu and a monster that guzzled gas and spewed power from engines that ranged from 396 to 450 cubic inches.
While the Chevelle may have epitomized the big-boned muscle era, Miss Purity was a beacon for the fuel-scrimping, ecological technology age of the new millennium.
Douglas Venn was one of the U of T team that put Miss Purity together to compete in the Clean Air Car Race, that criss-crossed the continent in August, 1970.
“We drove 10,000 miles and got home in one piece,” recalled Venn. “That was a miracle in itself.”
More of a rally than an actual race, the idea behind Clean Car was to see which of the entrants could score the lowest emission count.
Entrants were issued penalty points for how much “grams of pollutant” per kilogram of fuel consumed during the race.
The electric vehicles were assessed pollutant penalties based on the average pollution emitted by a thermal power station in the U.S., at the time, when generating the amount of power required to recharge the car’s batteries.
Miss Purity, with its DeLorean-like gull wing doors and sleek fiberglass body, was among the more attractive of the 47 entries that included steam-powered vehicles, gasoline/electric hybrids, converted internal combustion engines and propane/electric hybrids like Miss Purity.
“There was one steam driven car that was fantastic,” said Venn, “but it broke down. Another started, but packed it up three miles down the road.”
What the U of T team constructed was a car with a 302 V-8 engine. It utilized a propane-fuelled I/C engine drive, but could also operate on 12-volt, 96 amp-hour, lead-acid batteries.
The body was polyester and fiberglass with aluminum flooring and firewall. The forebody could pivot upwards to provide engine access, and a specially-designed dash and panel contained the necessary switches, meters and indicator lights.
Fast forward to 2013, where the novel technology of Miss Purity has been vastly improved and is pretty well standard equipment on most late model vehicles.
“We’re starting to see the fruits of earlier works,” said Venn. “Changeovers require a certain amount of time.”
Like, time for the manufacturers to see if there’s money to be made in alternative-fuel vehicles.
“I suppose one could be cynical about it,” he rationalized, “but a lot of factors have to be looked at, before one embarks on something different.”
Still, Venn is enthusiastic about the future, seeing upcoming eras of automotive technology with unrestricted potential.
To stress his point, he hearkened back to 1978, when Hewlitt Packard released the revolutionary, but relatively bulky, scientific calculator that could be bought for around $500.
“Today,” he pointed out, “these calculators are incidentals on your cell phone.
“The technology we will see in ten years will, in no way, be what we see today. I’ve got great hope.”
Written by Dan Pelton