The Viz Vizor

4 Apr

Back in the 1980s, Douglas did some work with or for the motor-racing industry. It’s well before my time, and I don’t know much about it, except that there was a photo of a racing car on his workshop wall that looked real rather than from a magazine, and he talked regularly about Bernie Ecclestone. Mum confirmed this later; oh yes, she said, he and Bernie regularly spoke on the phone in the early 1990s, although try as I might I cannot find a phone number for him now. I think Douglas worked for the Spirit Racing company, although maybe others as well, and he was probably involved in motorbike racing too, according to his step-son’s memories. Sunday afternoons in our house were dominated by the sounds of Formula One on the TV, motor-racing buzzing and roaring throughout the house, and the excited squeak of Murray Walker punctuated by comments from our sofa as Douglas reacted to crashes and close shaves. When he wasn’t watching the telly, he was outside tinkering with the lawnmower and the strimmer, or washing our fleet of ageing cars; hobbies that remained important to him all through his life.

This week’s invention comes from that world of motor racing, although this particular one it is not really to do with car engineering directly. Douglas was thinking about the promotions that come with the pageantry of the race, women in catsuits throwing gifts at the crowd. Always one for a bold statement or with a vision of how things look, he thought about branding and what could be branded, what might actually be useful when it comes to watching a motor race, and came up with this:

Viz Vizor fig 2

It’s a sun visor. What’s so special about that? Well, here’s the full design:

Viz vizor final pics

It’s a visor that, rather than being one fixed piece, can be flipped down to cover your eyes like sunglasses, the perfect item for watching a race out in the open air. (I like the model’s hooked nose!) It’s also lightweight, relatively cheap and easy to produce, and can be branded any way you would like. Douglas, in his prototype, for example, did one with a Land Rover logo:

Vizor landrover logo

This idea knocked around in Douglas’s head for years. It’s certainly something I remember from when I was working in his workshop in the mid-1990s, but if you notice the date on the drawings, they are from 2011-2012. These were real crunch years for Douglas, as his Parkinson’s worsened, and they were the years that he really tried to sell ideas he was particularly fond of and thought might really work; the last chance saloon. The Viz Vizor idea got dusted off and sent out to anyone he thought might be interested, including Land Rover, accompanied by letters such as this:

Vizor letter to Landmark

This is a fairly typical Douglas letter, and will have followed a conversation or two on the phone to the mysterious Manuella, once he had worked out whom, within the company, would be the person to send his ideas to. He types the way he writes by hand (with flair but with poor grammar!) and rather than just describing the Viz Vizor, it’s a typo – the second paragraph ‘tired little sigh’ etc refers to the aero-flag that I described in the last post. The idea never went further than this, he never made any, beyond a prototype or two, and no company bought or made them or gave them out at races. Maybe the world of motor-racing had moved on by the time Douglas sent the idea out, maybe what worked in the 1980s just wasn’t relevant in 2012.

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