George Chastain and the ATM Machine
Roger Chastain and the Mercury Capri Kit
Ron Chasteen and the Stolen Snowmobile Carburetor
On June 4, 1973, the patent for the ATM was granted to Don Wetzel, Tom Barnes and George Chastain. Don Wetzel was standing in line at a bank in Dallas when the idea of an ATM came to him. He took the idea to his company and they began developing the machine. Two engineers were assigned to the project--George Chastain, an electrical engineer and Tom Barnes, a mechanical engineer. The first proto-type proved frustrating, and George Chastain, the engineer in charge, commented that "this darn thing wouldn't even make a good boat anchor."
A group of bankers wanted to see the model before it was working well. In a September 21, 1995 interview with Dr. David K. Allison, Curator of the National Museum of American History, Wetzel tells the story:
When I got to the office early Monday morning, it was not working...I told George Chastain that I would have them come into the conference room and I'd give them a little history of Docutel, a little history about the idea, the concept, automatic tellers, and so on. And then we'd go and get a demonstration. I left the door ajar a little bit and I said, "George, periodically you walk up and down that aisle and if the machine is down, do this [he points his thumb down], if it's up, then I'll know to break it off and we'll go in." Well, I started out, I went through the course of our history and George came by about twice and gave me the old "down" signal. So I went around again; same thing again. Did this for about an hour and a half. Finally this executive vice president says, "I know more about Docutel now than you do. This machine isn't working, right?" I said, "That's right, it's not working." He said, "That's OK, let us look at it anyhow." I said, "OK."
Roger Chastain Associates of 2180 Temple Street, Long Beach California was primarily known for its "Shadow" line of rear window louvers for various automobiles, but developed a series of three conversions for the 1976-77 Capri II. S/1, S/2, and S/3 simply stands for Shadow Stage 1, Shadow Stage 2, and Shadow Stage 3. The S/1 just had stripes; the S/2 had the stripes and louvers plus a front air dam and ducktail rear spoiler; the S/3 had all the features of the S/2, plus a special set of fiberglass fender flares. The Chastain S-3 was featured on the cover of the July 1976 issue of Hot Rod magazine. The September 1976 and April 1977 issues of Road & Track also had short articles on the S/3.
Road Test magazine tested a Chastain S/3 in its March 1977 issue, which was reprinted in the High Performance Capris Gold Portfolio 1969-1987. They stated that the Chastain S/3 was the loudest visual statement of any mass produced car they could think of, and that other than a full custom nothing would turn heads like the S/3. In fact, they speculated visual impact was too loud for some potential owners, but predicted perfect satisfaction from others.
The initial Chastain conversion packages were cosmetic only, so that Road & Track could call it "one of the foremost image cars today.". There were plans for a suspension package to go along with the cosmetic package, but insurance concerns killed the roll-out of the package, though a few early vehicles were produced. They sported Koni shock absorbers, rear trailing links, compression struts in the front, and heavy duty anti-roll bars. The front springs were one inch shorter and the rear had one-inch lowering blocks. Road Test reported improved handling around corners and the shortest stopping they had ever seen--from 60 mph in 130 feet-straight and true.
The S/3 package weighed about 200 pounds and cost about $3500 with installation according to one source. Another broke it down into an installed price of $1950, with the suspension parts and installation being an additional $1500. Do-it-yourselfers could purchase the non-suspension parts for $1300.
In 1980 Roger Chastain Associates gained attention with a Viper kit for Toyotas. The kit included a front air dam, rear wing and hood scoop, decorative striping, styled wheels, fog lamps, Targa bands, and the famed Chastain rear window louvers. This kit really dressed up the modest, economical Toyota.
Ron Chasteen had created other inventions. In 1987, when his snowmobile customers complained that they were stalling, Ron realized that the snowmobiles were calibrated to work at a certain temperature and altitude, but did not function at other temperatures and altitudes, because the carburetor technology was unable to handle such changes. So Ron invented the first successful computerized fuel-injection system for snowmobiles.
He and an investor brought it to Polaris, whose engineers were impressed. They told Ron that on a scale of 1 to 10, he had hit a 12. Calling it the greatest advance they'd ever seen in the snowmobile industry, Polaris agreed to accept Chasteen's ideas in confidence and asked him not to show his invention to anyone else. But two days after the original meeting, the Polaris Vice President of Engineering flew to Japan to meet with Fuji and shared Ron Chasteen's information. After eight months, Polaris told him they had shelved the project, but two years later, Polaris produced a new fuel-injected two-stroke snowmobile with an engine manufactured by Fuji. Their ad copied, almost verbatim, the bullet points Ron had listed in his original proposal.
Ron sued the two companies, and after ten years won a $95 million settlement, one of the largest ever awarded to an individual inventor.