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NAPOLEON - Doug Pelmear will jump into his Mustang tomorrow morning with a buddy and head for Vegas, but this is no ordinary 4,000-mile road trip by two middle-aged guys in a 21-year-old pony car.
Mr. Pelmear's trek is all about the engine under the hood, an invitation to show it off at a prestigious automotive expo, and a "dry run" for next year's $10 million Progressive Automotive X Prize race.
"There's no way to really put a good test to a car unless you go out and prove it," said Mr. Pelmear, president of Horse Power Sales.net Inc. and the man behind the company's entry in next year's cross-country fuel-economy race.
Mr. Pelmear says his "real world" engine can deliver power and torque levels equivalent to today's high-performance engines but with fuel economy nearly double that of a Toyota Prius gasoline-electric hybrid.
The Progressive Automotive X Prize is sponsored by the X Prize Foundation to focus attention on and improve technology for fuel economy.
Private teams compete in two categories - mainstream and concept - and compete against one another in a segmented race that will judge performance, fuel economy, and mar-ketability.
"Most of the cars that are entered [in the X Prize race] are electric-type cars," Mr. Pelmear said. "They can't do a 2,000-mile jaunt [because of range limitations]. This car can outdrive my ability to drive it."
Mr. Pelmear said his engine can produce up to 400 horsepower and can get the equivalent of 100 mpg. Because the vehicle operates with ethanol-based "E-85 Flex Fuel" instead of gasoline, its actual mileage is closer to 85 mpg.
Tomorrow's trip to Las Vegas - Mr. Pelmear said he figures it will take about 40 hours to drive there, with breaks - is primarily because of an invitation he received from the Specialty Equipment Market Association.
The association holds its annual show, which features cutting-edge automotive technology from around the world, next week in Las Vegas, and invited Mr. Pelmear to display his modified 1987 Mustang.
"It's a big honor, especially to a car guy like me," Mr. Pelmear said. "I'm just your typical inventor. I'm a guy that had a dream and wants to see it to reality. I want to see it go down the road and have an impact on people's lives."
Mr. Pelmear is guarded about the secrets of his engine - he has applied for more than three dozen patents - but not so much his methodology.
"It's about using electronics, and having an engine that's very precise. Some of the [tolerances] would be similar to what's used to make airplanes," Mr. Pelmear explained.
Carrie Fox, a spokesman for the Progressive Automotive X Prize, said Mr. Pelmear is among many prospective teams who have sought to roll out their vehicles early. However, none of the other teams, to her knowledge, has attempted to drive as far as Mr. Pelmear.
One of the biggest hurdles for Automotive X Prize participants is the requirement to be prepared to mass-manufacture their designs within a short period after the race. Mr. Pelmear's backers with Rocket Ventures, the venture capital arm of the Regional Growth Partnership, said the Napoleon entrepreneur is in a position to do just that.
"He's got his sources lined up. He's got a parts list. He's got a company that's going to assemble for him. How long it's going to take him to put it all together I can't say, but I don't see anything that would keep him from getting into production," said Mike Brooks, the Rocket Ventures executive that's been working with Mr. Pelmear.
Indeed, Mr. Pelmear said he's received personal calls from Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm seeking to bring his fledgling operation to her state, and Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland is scheduled to be in Napoleon tomorrow to see him off on his road trip.
"We're going to produce this," Mr. Pelmear said of his engine. "It's going to be manufactured."
Contact Larry P. Vellequette at: