Those funky little cars to be made by Elio Motors at the former General Motors plant would not be the first enclosed three-wheeled vehicles to roll out in Shreveport. We turned up bit of city history from more than 40 years ago in the KTBS 3 News archives.
On July 7, 1971, in what was billed as "the police car of the future," Shreveport ceremoniously turned the keys on some new three-wheelers that were known as Cushmans, (the name of the manufacturer.) They had one wheel in front and two in back, a hard top, and soft doors -- and no air conditioning.
"The doors were made out of canvas," says retired SPD officer James Self. "You could roll the canvas back, and it had a little tie on it where you could tie the door open. You could get a sufficient air flow that way."
Self says the Cushmans operated much like an old manual shift car, with a gear shift on the steering wheel. But he had to go easy on the gas pedal.
"You didn't want to speed with them wide open like some people, like we did at times. And you had to be careful turning corners too quick," he says.
Their top speed was 45 miles an hour. Self says the Cushmans were used mostly for parking meter patrol. But if crime struck downtown, the Cushman patrol was on the spot for the arrest.
"Shoplifters, even bank robbers because we were in the location where a lot of this took place. And before the cars got down there sometimes we alread had them rounded up," Self says.
But the SPD took those 3-wheelers out of service in the 1980's when the city turned to a private company to enforce the parking meters. That was fine with many on the force. Self says a lot of the guys did not want to ride them because they were not "macho."
Before the Cushmans, Self was part of the team that road 3-wheeled Harley motorcycles. So why did Self later ride the less macho Cushman?
"Working straight days, off on weekends, and we could take them home. So when you added up the benefits, I chose that route," he said.
He says another big benefit of the Cushman was a heater to go with that roof, which made it nicer in the winter.