Fig. A: To turn the key, a windshield wiper motor is
mounted under the trunk deck. Power comes from the
dashboard cigarette lighter, via wires that run under the
carpet and out the same hole as the brake light wires.
Fig. B: The key to making a cute little car even cuter.
Fig. C: Friction mount made from a foam bicycle handle
grip makes the key easily removable, and lets you twist
it and stop it without harming the motor.
a drill and a hole saw. He slid in the drain ring,
and fitted the washer and nut on the back. Then
he found some steel tubing in his shop that fit
perfectly into the sink ring, cut a length of that to
be the key’s center tube, and welded it to the flat
To turn the key, we used a spare windshield
wiper motor that I had. These run off a 12VDC
car battery, of course, and they turn slowly with
a lot of torque. To connect the key to the motor
and make it removable, we made a friction mount
out of a foam bicycle handle grip. We welded a
2½"× 1" disk to the shaft of the motor, and welded that to a 5" steel rod that’s the same diameter
as bike handlebars ( 4"). The shaft protrudes from
the middle of the hole in the trunk, and with the
foam grip over it, the key slides over it snugly.
The great thing about the foam connection
is that it lets the motor run freely if the key’s
movement is impaired, like if someone grabs it,
and it also lets you turn the key when the motor is off. This means that little kids can turn
the key before the car starts, and imagine that
they’re helping the car go!
To attach the motor, Paul removed the trunk
deck, laid it upside down, and welded together a
154 Make: Volume 09
framework that would hold it securely and keep it
aligned straight up. He made the framework out
of 1"- and 2"-square tubing, welded to the deck’s
ribbing with minimal damage to the paint, and
tapped screw holes in to serve as motor mounts.
The motor is powered from the car’s cigarette
lighter. To do this, I ran wires under the carpet,
starting in front near the dash, between the seats,
and threading them back into the trunk through
the same hole that the brake light wires run out of.
To connect the wires to power, I cut the fan off
an old cigarette-lighter-powered fan, and ran the
circuit through an old VW bus light switch, which
I mounted next to the car’s gearshift. I positioned
the switch so that when I shift between neutral
and first, my thumb can easily turn the key motor
off and on. That way, when I stop the car, the key
stops, and when the car starts moving, the key
starts up again — bringing smiles to all, or at
least to most.
Sunny Armas lives in San Jose and enjoys bringing smiles
to others. He has helped Paul LeDuc with many other art
projects, including parade floats and metal waterfalls.
Photography by Paul Spinrad