Divorce can do funny things to a guy. Vernell Sellars, for instance, split up with his second wife, Sammy, in 1985, and he has been a driven man ever since—although he has been pulled in two directions, you might say.
Sellars’ neighbors in Herrin, Ill., first noticed that Vernell was spinning his wheels strangely during the Annual Herrin Fest Parade last May. Sellars came tooling down Park Avenue in a black, 16-foot-long vehicle fabricated from the front ends of two Honda Civics. Sellars was in one driver’s seat; Julie Ridgway, a 22-year-old student at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale, was in the other. The two drivers put the car (or cars, if you will) through figure eights and donuts and even made it scuttle sideways like a crab. The Herrin folk were amazed. Mayor Ed Quaglia was moved to say, “Only Vernell would come up with something like this. You know, he runs a garage and often his hands are all dirty with grease, but he’s really very smart—clever, is what I’d say—and very different.”
Indeed. While Sellars’ idea for the car might bring to mind Dr. Dolittle’s Pushmi-Pullyu creature, his reasons for building it were purely personal. “I wanted to do something to let people know that Vernell was still alive,” he says. “My ex-wife was going around saying I could never make it without her. Well, I wanted to do something special to show that wasn’t true.”
So Sellars made it without her—out of the remains of two Hondas that had been rear-ended. He paid $887 for the cars, then turned them over to Dan Watkins, his lead body man. It took Watkins (with help from Sellars) about 60 hours to cut the back ends off the cars, reattach the fronts and do some serious reconnecting. The new creation has two engines, one under each hood, with a fuel tank between the two seats. A gold stripe and gold-and-silver molding decorate the black exterior, and each hood bears a plastic sign that says “Vernell’s.” Vernell has other ideas, all along the same lines. He wants to devise a tandem bicycle that can be steered from either end. He envisions an automobile that comes apart in the middle. “People think I’m crazy,” says Sellars. “They say, ‘Vernell, you must be up in the middle of the night thinking about this stuff,’ and I am.” Maybe, just maybe, Vernell could adapt his vision to the field of genetic engineering. Perhaps he could produce an animal with a horse’s head at one end and a steer’s head at the other. And what would he call this creature? Why, the Vernell Equine-Ox, of course.