In Electric Car Memoriam: Actor Leslie Nielsen (1926–2010)
Hollywood marked the passing of actor Leslie Nielsen at age 84, but it was his contributions to the electric car world and ZAP that we remember most.
Famous for his later roles in the “Airplane” and “Naked Gun” comedies, Leslie Nielsen was indeed an early electric car advocate, long before they became popular and before billions in funding were given to those who fought electric cars. He owned two different electric cars converted by Solar Electric Engineering (now Enova Systems).
Long-time electric car advocate Gary Starr developed a friendship with Nielsen, and when Starr founded ZAP in 1994, Nielsen became one of the very first shareholders and customers.
He helped promote electric cars by driving a Destiny 2000 from Solar Electric, built specially for the 1991 film Naked Gun 2-1/2. Directed by David Zucker, the comedy depicted a cabal of power elite led by actor Robert Goulet trying to prevent the public from knowing about the benefits of the electric car. In the 1994 sequel “Naked Gun 33-1/3: The Final Insult,” it’s interesting to note that Nielsen backs his electric car over OJ Simpson.
Nielsen will be remembered most for the range of his acting talent. Few actors were able to successfully transition from dramatic roles to comedy, but Nielsen “made it look easy,” according to CNN.
He loved to joke around whenever he visited ZAP and usually had his favorite rubber chicken or whoopee cushion on-hand. Perhaps some of Nielsen’s fun-loving personality rubbed off on ZAP because the famous rubber chicken made an appearance this year to lighten the mood during several anxious moments leading up to the Progressive Insurance Automotive X PRIZE.
Thank you, Leslie for making us laugh and for doing your part for the electric car movement!