New York-based Guyanese become inventors
… introduce car jack and lug wrench to revolutionise tyre-changing
reporting by Gary Tim in the U.S.
Guyana Chronicle
July 21, 2002

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SURELY, there is no denying the truth in the old adage “necessity is the mother of all inventions”. Though many of those inventions have positively impacted on the quality of our existence in today’s technology saturated world, their introduction has been more out of curious encounters rather than necessity.

Imagine what communication and commuting would have been, if Alexander Graham Bell hadn’t come along with the telephone, or the other inventors who introduced the printing press and the automobile. In the case of the automobiles, mankind has witnessed a plethora of modifications and additions over time that, surely, there are very few practicable ones remaining.

One of these ‘remaining few’ has to be a system to eliminate the arduous task of changing wheels. Indeed, such a solution has shifted into high gear on its way to being introduced to the world, thanks to two New York-based Guyanese inventors.

Samuel Hoppie and Edgar Henry have maintained the perfect balance as two businessmen and life-long ‘sidekicks’ intent on making the world a better place. They have come up with the Hydraulic Car Jack and Lug Wrench, a do-it-yourself support mechanism that will provide easier and more convenient methods of jacking vehicles for general maintenance or when emergency services are needed.

In an exclusive interview with the Chronicle, Hoppie said he “gave some thoughts to the invention almost three years ago.” He said that just like any other motorist, whether maintenance oriented or not, he has had experiences where changing tyres was extremely strenuous, time-consuming and in bad weather.

Henry readily agreed, adding: “When something like that happens as you’re going somewhere special for a certain time, or when wearing your ‘Sunday-best’ you may become extremely frustrated and stressed-out.”

Having its genesis with those adverse experiences propelled the two middle-aged men, who both reside in Far Rockaway, New York, to take their idea further.

“One day, I awoke from a peaceful slumber and said ‘hey’ let me call up my buddy about the need for some progress on this particular concept,” recalled Hoppie, a New York City building inspector, who was, at the time, harbouring ideas for several other ‘inventions’, besides the jack and wrench system.

He said both himself and Henry, the Chairman and CEO of ENG Caribbean Vision Centre on Flatbush Avenue, Brooklyn, “felt a little uncertain at first, given their average knowledge of automobile designing and other technical ramifications that are inherent.”

“Eventually, we said ‘look we got something here’, and that’s how we developed the courage to develop our idea,” Hoppie posited.

Exuding modesty while being interviewed in Henry’s Flatbush Avenue office, the two Guyanese inventors related the stage-by-stage experiences that were associated with developing their idea. They managed to retain the services of the major U.S. firm Advent Product Development, Inc. of South Carolina to secure a patent for their invention, after first taking their “story to Advent’s people at the local (New York) level.”

Almost every aspect of developing the idea was attended to thoroughly through the combined efforts of the two Guyanese and Advent, including designing of the mechanisms, legal attention for safeguarding intellectual property rights, and securing the necessary federal approvals while trying to get the invention on the market.

Speaking to this newspaper, Media Director at Advent Product Development, Donna Hardiman, said that after the inventors contacted the company, a review process was conducted where among other things, the confidential format was scrutinised prior to a decision being made on the marketability of the product.

“Some ideas that people come up with are really far out, but this is not one of those; this is a very good type of product,” Hardiman confirmed. She referred to the tragic death of entertainer Bill Cosby’s son a few years ago and said, “there are possibilities that if he had had something like this as opposed to having to get out and spend all that time on changing tyres, he might’ve still been here, you never know.” “I really think that a product of this nature should have been out a long time ago.”

Now the two Guyanese are working with Advent to find a manufacturer who would make and sell the invention.

“The U.S. Patent office has issued us with a patent for the device, and it was done through Advent,” said Henry. “We will not be making and selling the product ourselves. That would be up to a manufacturer that likes the idea, buys it a licence and take it from there. There are two distinct markets for the product. One is the add-on market where people can have it installed on their vehicles, while the other would be for the people buying a new vehicle with the product as an option off the assembly line.

Conceptually speaking, the invention is a four-pronged jack device that is integrated into a vehicle’s body and frame and, designed to provide a switch activated car jack system for all vehicles. The four jacks would extend downwards from their connected positions on the respective axles that are in close proximity to each wheel. Each individual unit contains a high pressure cylinder and piston, and is connected to a central control box that would also be configured with appropriate hydraulic and operational control. The central control box unit is connected to a secondary control panel that is located on the dashboard of the vehicle and contains a switch for each jack unit.

The lug wrench completes the effectiveness of the invention through its capacity to provide a strong and easy method of removing lug nuts from wheels. They will be operational on standard 12V DC current supplied through the battery of the vehicle. The control panel would include all required electrical circuitry and a power source lead that acquires the necessary voltage from the battery. This lead would provide a direct connection to the battery in order to operate the jacks without the vehicle in the ‘ON’ position.

Since it requires no new technology, production would be fairly straightforward, making the invention an economically viable option to the buying public of new vehicles. The Hydraulic Car Jack and Lug Wrench could make a difference in brand loyalty “by ‘tugging’ the purchaser towards a vehicle and its maker with this option available” reported an Advent Product news release prepared by Hardiman.

According to Hoppie, the Hydraulic Car Jack and Lug Wrench will definitely appeal to owners and operators of motor vehicles including those with vans and trucks.” The product is also geared toward providing benefits to do-it-yourselfers and OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturers) by enabling an additional option to potential purchasers of new vehicles.

Hoppie assured that with the combination device, there will be a revolution in the time to change tyres.

“The average motorist will experience a big reduction to a fraction of the period currently spent on such an activity.”

“It would eliminate the need to go under the vehicle to put a jack, then turn the jack handle to raise the chassis off the ground. Just as important, you wouldn’t have to expend so much energy in removing the lug nuts from the wheel. People who have a flat after taking their vehicle to the workshop where the nuts were screwed by a high-powered wrench know what it takes to remove a flat. Our jack and wrench have been designed to solve all of this.”

A quick glance at the artist impression done in an almost isometric angle, gives the jacks a resemblance to ‘stabilisers’ that downwardly protrude from the undercarriage of heavy-duty construction machines, especially lift cranes. “You may have noticed that resemblance, but our jack device will look more sophisticated while being extremely functional,” Henry quickly quipped.

He carefully noted that vehicle owners would be able to utilise the device for other purposes, since the four jacks can be activated simultaneously.

“You can use it for routine maintenance such as oil-change or replacing a muffler and many other things that require elevating the vehicle from the street, the garage floor or wherever.”

In invited comments, both Hoppie and Hardiman lauded the cordial manner in which interaction between the two parties took place. Henry added that “the high levels of regard and respect all of us have shown each other while conducting business has definitely encouraged our efforts in this entire process”. “As a result, we definitely see our relationship enhancing here onwards, and the doors being opened for the ordinary man shaking off his timidity, and coming forward with potentially impressive product ideas to make the world a better place”.

Additionally, a sampling of male and female motorists in the New York area, when told of the invention, collectively indicated their intention of acquiring an already outfitted vehicle or one of the systems as an add-on as soon as they roll out of the assembly line. Speaking to the media, Heather Abmayr, a German-born Marketing Executive and part-time model, summed up the thinking of the others by saying: “I’ve got a recently acquired expensive car that I would gladly trade-in to keep-up with the technology, so bring it on.”

The Hydraulic Car Jack and Lug Wrench may even be referred to as the Hophen hydraulic jack and the Samgar lug wrench to pay titling homage to the two inventors. Hoppie said he envisages the device being a standard part of new vehicles. His views were well supported by Hardiman whose company is in the process of assisting to attract a manufacturer for the device.

When the first vehicle outfitted with the device - the Hydraulic Car Jack and Lug Wrench - would have rolled out of the assembly line, or the workshop, Hoppie and Henry, who both hail from Beterverwagting, East Coast Demerara, will go down as Guyana’s first major inventors. And, motorists the world over would, of necessity, be afforded another invention worthy of emulation.