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INVENTOR WITH IDEAS OUT OF THIS WORLD

Friday, March 4, 2005 - 10:42

IT IS a chilly winter's day and I am following the world-renowned inventor and aerospace engineer Leonard G. Cramp across his lawn to his workshop.
"Careful, now," he warns me. "The rabbits have been at the grass, dug it up all over the place." They certainly have. The Cramp estate is an uneven mass of muddy hummocks and as we stumble across this hazardous terrain, I have visions of both of us coming a cropper and me ending up sprawled across the lawn in an unseemly entanglement with the world-renowned inventor.
To avoid such humiliation, what we need is, of course, a Magikar. And if only the big guns of transport marketing would pay attention to the genius of Leonard G. Cramp, every home would have one.
It is possible that you, too, are unaware of Mr Cramp. That is very much your loss, for this is a man who has the wherewithal to transform your entire life. You may not have heard of him but we know that he is a world-renowned inventor because it says so on his website.
Log on and you will be instantly captivated. "The world-renowned inventor and aerospace engineer Leonard G. Cramp welcomes you to his website," it begins. "For the first time Leonard Cramp has decided to reveal to both laymen and specialists some incredible technological secret information — albeit of necessity not shown definitively developed here — but of no less significance to illustrate the inertial bias which exists in the ranks of officialdom and venture capitalists today."
Like many clever men, Mr Cramp has a tendency to overegg the syntax but what he means by all this is that for years he has been inventing brilliant bits of gadgetry which, due to the stupidity of the chaps with the necessary dosh, have never made it beyond the prototype model.
I am thankful to arrive at Mr Cramp's workshop in one piece but as soon as I see what lies inside, I forget all about his lawn. Florence may have had its Leonardo but Yarmouth has its Leonard, a man with genius enough to match anything that Da Vinci ever devised.
Mr Cramp has for years been absorbed in the principle of the hovercraft and is understandably peeved that Sir Christopher Cockerell is the man generally accredited with pioneering its application as a form of modern transport. In his book, The Advanced Time Factor, Mr Cramp is splendidly dismissive of the plodding efforts of Sir Christopher.
"There are very few of us who would refuse the accolade that Cockerell received but many people 'in the trade' feel the magnitude of the award was out of all proportion to the contribution made."
I fear that every time the Queen's honours list comes out, the absence of the name of Leonard G. Cramp must strike like a dagger through the breast of the world-renowned inventor. If she could only see what's in his workshop, she'd be out with the dubbing sword in a trice.
Mr Cramp first socked it to the transport boffins back in 1983 with his design for a hoverplane, which was a hybrid of hovercraft and helicopter. At the time, he envisaged huge hoverplanes transporting cargo pallets over forests, buildings and possibly even rabbitty lawns.
Alas, neither hoverplane nor cargo pallets really got off the ground but Mr Cramp was undeterred. By 1987 he had developed a disc hoverplane, which looked like a flying saucer, and after that there was no stopping him. Cargo pallets were old hat. What everybody needed was a flying hovercraft for their personal use.
"This is the transport of the future," says Mr Cramp, as he shows me the drawings and models of the dinkiest bit of kit you're ever likely to park in your garage. After a number of designs for a runabout hovercraft, he has come up with the Magikar. "It is a magic carpet version and embodies only well-established engineering principles." See what a genius the man is. Those old magic carpets simply didn't have the proper engineering. Just woven together with bits of old wool and flapping tassels and quite unsuitable for rainy days.
Now for the first time produced in accordance with health and safety regulations and with all working parts personally supervised by a world-renowned engineer, the magic carpet has emerged from its makeover looking spectacular.
The Magikar's vertical take-off and landing design means that you don't have to dawdle around while you taxi down your driveway and its foldaway wings enable it to fit easily into your garage.
"It will seat four adults," says Mr Cramp. "It flies, or you can use it on land like a car or on water as a boat." Now, isn't that marvellous? According to the blurb, it will also travel over ploughed fields, which should cut hours off any journey time. No further need to get stuck in motorway traffic jams just get out your Magikar and charge straight across the farmer's fields.
I should simply love to have a Magikar parked outside my house, ready for a spin across The Solent or a trundle over Mr Cramp's lawn. I could don my flying goggles and impress my friends with its 300mph speeds in the air.
"And it's not like the skycar that they've got at NASA," says Mr Cramp. "That thing will be no good at all. My Magikar won't blow up." Well, that's settled. If it can get me back from Tesco's at 300mph without blowing up, I want one.
Unfortunately, the Magikar has so far met the same fate as the rest of Mr Cramp's brilliant inventions. For some reason, he simply cannot get anybody to take him seriously. He's now 85 and although he's still astonishingly spry, it is high time that he received proper recognition of his talents and was able to rest on his laurels.
His wife, Irene, has been his most loyal assistant throughout his long working life and the couple have put not just energy but considerable financial capital into trying to promote his inventions. "We have had so much disappointment that we have become philosophers," says Mr Cramp resignedly. "It would be something if we could get some of the money back with the sale of the book, or if people looked at my website and bought the videos we have made."
Having seen the Magikar, I am outraged that nobody has snapped it up for mass marketing. And yet, while unwilling to cast any aspersion on Leonard G. Cramp, I can't help wondering if his personal profile might not benefit from a makeover.
The first thing I notice that makes me a tiny bit uneasy is a futuristic painting in his workshop, which shows a spacecraft of the type that used to be much favoured by the Eagle comic, bobbing over the craters of the moon in a spookily sci-fi scenario. Mr Cramp painted it himself in 1959 and entered it for the Saunders-Roe horticultural and handicrafts show, where it caused quite a stir among the prize carrots and knitted doilies.
Then there is Mr Cramp's book. It is subtitled A Scientist's encounter with UFOs and although I yield to nobody in my admiration of this world-renowned inventor, I suspect that it might have been better for his cred value with the financial sharks if he had kept these encounters as a matter entirely between him and Mrs Cramp.
As it is, Mr Cramp devotes a major part of his book to his extraordinary experiences. Time and again, precognitive dreams, seances and things that go bump in the night have pursued him and Mr Cramp is eager to give us the benefit of his opinion on all things paranormal.
Apparently, it's nothing to get worked up about. "Among the various UFO occupants visiting our planet there have always been humanoid and even perfectly normal human beings breathing our atmosphere," he writes. "If the planet Earth has been visited by aliens for a considerable time, then it would be strange in the extreme if among them there were not quasi-human pilots, scientists and even some tourists returning to their planet of origin once in a while."
You see what I mean? It's not that I doubt Mr Cramp and I very much wish I had been there in 1961 when he gave a lecture in East Cowes on "Anti-Gravity & Flying Saucers, with Demonstration, Experiments and Slides". But you know what these commercial investors are like. It's all money, money, money with them, with no time for alien tourist visitors or flying saucers.
It is time to rally around the Island's most original inventor. Buy his book. Visit his website and buy his videos (complete with Mrs Cramp doing the voiceover). Demand a Magikar. With those boobies up at the IW highways department making our roads into a complete shambles, it'll soon be the only answer.

 


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