"I never did this just for the money," he has told me over and over through the years we've stayed in touch. "I just hate where the country is going. And something like this means you fill the SUV once a month or two. That would be huge. Huge!"
But Pelmear didn't figure on one thing: He -- like all of us -- was living in the early millennial digital-age crack high where information was seen as the magic answer to every problem. In the world where jazzed-up smartphone pictures branded as Instagram sell for a cool $1 billion, who is going to care about a muscle car from what looked like a shade-tree mechanic -- no matter how many miles per gallon it got?
So Pelmear did not find funding. Revenge Verde did not place orders. And his big-block 110 MPG dream sat in his garage -- the side project for much smaller, mostly family-run auto shop.
"I thought it would be the oil business that would run me down. But it's the car industry," he said. "My engine costs just a few thousand more per car to install. But nobody was going to pay for that. So nobody paid for it."
A 30% MPG gain
To Pelmear's credit, he's getting on with what remains. He's back to market with a new, streamlined idea based on his patents.
"I had to make a sellable product," he explained. He's testing the variable firing technology from his patented engine as a $1,400 aftermarket kit. "It takes a two-hour turn to put it in a vehicle. That is reasonable downtime and at a reasonable cost."
He plans to brand it as Skip-Fire and says it should net a 30% increase in mileage for those who install it, making it ideal for fleet vehicles or local delivery trucks.
"For taxis, ice cream trucks, you know, that is a lot of savings," he said.
So far, Pelmear has tested the Skipfire on 60 cars with the goal of shipping a full product in early 2014.
"You'd be shocked by the number of people I've talked to about this," he said as our latest conversation wound to an end. "My plan now is go direct to consumer and cut out all those people."
"It will take off. But it all takes longer than I expect," he said. "We live in crazy days."