It's a true story. We were all high school class of 1972.
73 de Jim, N2EY
Daisy and the Dynamotor
This really happened.
Do not do this. We did it, and we got away with it, but we were very very
lucky. You might not be so lucky.
Back about 1970 I bought a WW2 surplus DM-34 dynamotor from a mail order
place in Ohio.  $2.95, used but working. I don't know why I bought it
back then; I had no immediate use for it at the time.
Rarely has so little money resulted in so much mischief.
I was in high school then, and one of my friends had a car. That is, he had
access to a car - his mom's car. 2 door 1962 Chevy Bel Air, with 6 cylinder
engine and 2 speed Powerglide slushpot transmission, probably the least cool car
of the era. We didn't care as long as Brian could get the car and we could
afford to put gas in it. The car's name was Daisy.
We were the bunch that did unusual things, like making 8mm silent movies of
ourselves doing odd stuff, leaving enigmatic messages ("The Masked Frog Is
Coming June 12") and chalked cartoons (inspired by the box that "Hungry Hungry
Hippos" came in) on the blackboards of unused classrooms.
We were the ones who wrote an article for the high school newspaper that so
incensed the administration that for the only time in the school's 50+ year
history, they actually burned a whole edition, after it had been printed.
I still wonder what we might have accomplished with modern technology.
Brian's dad worked for The Telephone Company, and occasionally came up with
odd bits of hardware. In those days there were no cell phones and all phone
equipment usually belonged to The Telephone Company, so anything telephone
related was somewhat mysterious to average folk.
Brian had a telephone receiver and ringer hooked up in Daisy, so that on a
summer afternoon, when we'd be sitting at a red light in bumper to bumper
traffic, the ringer would ring, Brian would pick up the receiver, hold it to his
ear, say a few words, then lean out the window with the receiver in hand
and shout to the car in the next lane: "It's for you!"
One day Brian showed me something his dad had brought home: the control
head for an RCA Carfone VHF radio. The Company was replacing them in the 'phone
company trucks, and he saved one from the dumpster. No radio, just the control
box, microphone, speaker, and some cables.
From my junkbox I built an intercom system. The essential part of the
system was the dynamotor, which converted Daisy's 12 volt power to the 220
volts needed to run the vacuum tube in the intercom system.
Why not use transistors? There were none in my junkbox, but plenty of old
tubes. Nothing was bought for the intercom system, we didn't have money for such things.
The control head was mounted under Daisy's dashboard, with the amplifier
for the intercom system and the dynamotor in the trunk. We ran power and
communication wires, put lights, a piece of plywood and some old cushions
in the trunk, and we were set to go.
The person in the trunk wore headphones and had a small push-to-talk
microphone. The control head in the car looked all the world like it controlled
a real radio - after all, it was a real control head. The speaker, pilot lights
and volume control worked too.
The "radio" (as we called it) sounded good enough to be understandable but
not so good that it gave away what it really was. We made up some plausible
land-mobile callsigns and a cover story about UHF "private radio" or some such.
We rehearsed some basic radio procedure, and being a natural actor, Brian picked
up on it quickly. The whole thing sounded very convincing, particularly in 1971.
How many other 1962 Chevrolet Bel Airs ever had front-seat-to-trunk
intercoms? Was there ever a more unique use for a dynamotor?
For our first trip, Brian drove and I got in the trunk. We picked up the
rest of the gang one by one - John, Bob, Lurch, - and one by one they asked what
the control head was. Brian convinced each of them of the cover story that it
was a special sort of radio that permitted them to communicate with me at home,
and proved it to them by letting them talk with me over the "radio".
They were all completely fooled. Hook, line and sinker. They really thought
Brian and I were on the air, when actually I was only a few feet away in the
trunk. So good was the deception that no one, absolutely no one, ever had any
doubt it was a mobile radio setup until they were shown the trunk.
Brian eventually pulled up in front of my house and everybody else piled
out to go up to the front door. I can still see their faces when Brian popped
the trunk lid and I got out.
Of course once the shock wore off, they all wanted to ride in the trunk and
see who else they could fool. Which was everyone we knew.
But we weren't done with it at that.
One of the characteristics of trunk-riding was that you had absolutely no
idea where you actually were. Usually the folks in the car would give you a
running commentary, but you had no proof the commentary was accurate.
Trunk riding was mostly a winter activity because it got too hot back
there in the summer. Winter nights were the best.
We rigged up a cutoff switch under the dash that would kill all the power
to the trunk. We'd then take an unsuspecting victim for a ride, telling him we
were getting on a highway when actually we were in the empty parking lot of a
closed store.
Brian would accelerate Daisy across the parking lot, aiming for a patch of
ice or snow. Someone else in the car would be giving a commentary to the
trunk-rider that was suddenly broken by "LOOK OUT FOR THE TRUCK!!"
Brian would spin the wheel, Daisy would hit the patch of ice or snow,
slide, bounce, sway, and bump. Tires would screech and we'd throw old soda
bottles out the window to make the sound of breaking glass. There would be a
thud as the car came to a stop, the engine would die, and those of us in
the car would play dead, making no sound at all.
At the same time, all power to the trunk would be cut off. The lights in
the trunk would go out, the tube's glow would fade and the trunkrider would hear
the dynamotor slow to a stop.
There would be dead silence for ten, twenty, maybe thirty seconds. Then the
victim in the dark, silent trunk would start to get nervous and begin shouting
and pounding on the inside of the trunk lid. We'd let the victim out -
eventually - and see pure fear turn to pure rage in a matter of seconds when he
realized he'd been duped - again.
But it was only a little while later that the victim would be asking who we
could pull the trick on next.
We did all of this, and much much more, stone cold sober and without any
sort of chemical impairment.
Daisy went to the crusher decades ago, with the control head in place under
the dash. I still have the dynamotor - it still works, too. The dynamotor has
had other adventures since then, such as helping to score several hundred Field
Day points over the years. But those are other stories.
We all now have responsible jobs, families, etc. One of us is a college
professor of classical languages, another a senior diesel mechanic, another
works in finance, another a doctorate in chemistry working in pharmaceuticals,
still another a teacher.
I became an electrical engineer.
The old 8mm movies have been transferred to DVD. No, you can't see them.
We still keep in touch. Everyone of us remembers what a dynamotor is.
73 de Jim, N2EY