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In honor of Earth Day, we jump back to Earth Day 1980 to tell the story of the Electro-Harmonix wind-powered umbrella truck.

Shortly following the oil crisis of the late 1970s, EHX founder Mike Matthews wanted to draw attention to the increasing need for alternative energy. As a result, he managed to tap into what you might now call one of the world’s first sources of alternative alternative energy.

Here’s how it worked: the truck (pictured above and below) drove around the streets of New York City. The resulting wind was enough to spin an umbrella-rigged turbine. The turbine then generated electricity to power a sound room in the truck’s bed.

The inside of the truck was actually a small demo space where guitar players could try out the latest Electro-Harmonix gear (that’s Mike in the white shirt). The truck drove around the city, randomly picked people up, let them play, and dropped them off. The electricity for the demo space was provided by the wind-powered generator, and the wind was provided by (damn you, First Law of Thermodynamics!) a colossal diesel engine.

The truck was designed by early Electro-Harmonix engineer Bob Myer, who also helped design one of the company’s first products, the LPB-1. The picture above shows the truck mid-construction at Bob’s home.

Update: Bob just emailed to tell us: “For our Earth Day I resurected the Electro-Harmonix wind power generator. It still works. I mounted it on a trailer and added lights and a meter to show the power being generated. I can tow it with my pick up to demonstrate.” (picture below!)

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