George Inman, Former Club Car CEO – Part 1

We interviewed George Inman in May, 2002, at his home in Augusta for almost threehours. If you have been reading our Newsletters for the last 6 months, you know we have had a series of problems getting this interview published including dropping the mini-tape, Part II, into a cup of coffee. But we recovered from all that, thanks in part to the great technical staff at Imation.

George Inman with a model of an E-Z-GO golf car.

When we got the transcript to George for review, he decided he had better double check the dates, numbers and occurrences to make sure they were correct. That took some time. Now everything has been done and we are pleased to publish Part I of the George Inman interview.

George was a major player in the History of the Golf Car. He went to work for E-Z-GO as a young man, on July 4th, 1961. E-Z-GO was the creation of the brothers, Billy and Beverly Dolan in 1954. George resigned from E-Z-GO some 17 years later along with seven other top E-Z-GO executives, including brother Billy. Why did they resign? They had all bought shares and took over management of a small golf car company called – – Club Car. George became President & CEO of Club Car in 1979 and held that position until 1990. He stayed on a couple of years more as Chairman. With some 30 years in management positions in the two largest golf car companies in the world, George Inman knows a lot about History of the Golf Car.

GolfCarCatalog.Com is pleased to present Part I of this interview: “The E-Z-GO Years”.

An Interview with George Inman

Part 1 – “The E-Z-GO Years”

How did you meet the Dolans?

I met Beverly and Bill because their father and mother were close friends of my father and mother. Beverly is three or four years older than I am and Billy was eight or nine years older, so I did not grow up with them or go to school with them, but I knew of them because of the family relationship.

When I graduated from high school, and got married at the very young age of 18, I was drafted during the Korean War. It so happened that Bev had gone to Fort Jackson, SC, and was in the Army one year prior to my being drafted. I ran into him at Fort Jackson when everyone coming out of basic training was going straight to Korea.

Beverly advised that I should try to sign up for the special training school at Fort Jackson and try to apply for a position as Clerk Typist, since it might help to keep me assigned to the States instead of going to Korea. I tried this tactic but got assigned to radio school and was given orders to go straight to Korea, when I graduated some 16 weeks after entering the service. Fortunately, I got reassigned to Fort Jackson as Cadre before I shipped out and was able to finish two years at Fort Jackson before being discharged.

Beverly was discharged out of the Army about one year after Billy had left the Navy. Prior to Bev getting out of the Army, Billy had been running a bonded warehouse here in Augusta. Billy was involved in golf and a friend of his, Ed Dudley, was the Golf Professional at Augusta National. Billy used to hang out at the Augusta National as well as Augusta Country Club, since he was very much into golf.

Billy Dolan and Ed Dudley in an E-Z-GO Model 100

As the story goes, Ed Dudley made a comment to Billy one day that golf cars were being manufactured on the west coast and sold in the California area to golf courses. Ed Dudley continued, “Somebody could start manufacturing those types of things over here and make a lot of money at it.” Dudley’s remarks tweaked Billy’s interest and he looked into the possibility. When Beverly got out of the service, he too was looking for something to do.

Between the two of them they were talking about it and they decided to go into business and build golf cars. So they went west and bought one of these golf cars and brought it back here to see how to manufacture it. They found a little one-room, dirt floor machine shop on East Boundary, here in Augusta, where they built their first version of an E-Z-GO. A lot of folks in Augusta remember them driving on the street from downtown up to the Augusta Country Club.

One of the early pictures of Bev, that I remember, was of him sitting on one of these early models, I guess, at the Augusta Country Club. This was the beginning of E-Z-GO. But they needed a place to manufacture the cars. They found this fellow named Paul Corley in the next county up who had a machine shop making farm and heavy metal equipment.

His shop had basic press brakes and a few ironworkers and equipment such as that which could be used to manufacture the first golf cars. The Dolans made him a three-way partner if they could use his facilities to manufacture their vehicle. And that’s how the three of them got together.

Thus started E-Z-GO, in about 1954, manufacturing the first model called the “Model 100”. At that time, they were hard to manufacture and more difficult to sell.

Workers inside an early E-Z-GO factory

In an effort to create sales, they hooked up with a fellow named George Smith out of Charlotte, who was a soft goods dealer to golf courses. He also had the Titleist golf ball franchise east of the Mississippi.

George began to sell some of the golf cars but in time they began to have some difficulties working together.

You mean Smith and the Dolans?

Smith, the Dolans and Paul Corley, owner of the shop, began to have some differences of opinion. Billy and Beverly decided they could not live with this. They attempted to buy Paul Corley out but he would not sell. Although George Smith did not own any of the company, he had the exclusive rights to sell the golf cars manufactured by E-Z-GO. This presented a problem to the Dolans.

So on the Fourth of July in 1956 or ’57, Billy and Beverly took a truck and some loyal people working for them, loaded up their equipment, and transferred it to a warehouse that they had rented on the Gordon Highway. That is where they put E-Z-GO at that time.

Is that building still standing?

That building is still there. It was an old cotton warehouse.

When did you come to E-Z-GO?

In the late ’50s, prior to my going to E-Z-GO, Billy and Beverly sold a portion of the company to a steel company out of Lynchburg, VA, called Bristol Steel Company of Virginia. As the story goes, they sold 49% of the company and kept 51% controlling interest. A year or so later, in approximately 1959 or 1960, Textron knocked on their door and bought the company. Bristol Steel Company and Billy and Bev made out well on the deal and, in addition, they got work contracts to run E-Z-GO for Textron.

Did they get stock for the purchase?

As I understand, it was an all-stock transaction. All selling parties were very fortunate in that for the next several years Textron stock did extremely well, which made the sale of the company a great financial success for Billy and Bev.

As far as my going to work for E-Z-GO; I had known Beverly for a number of years and I had seen these little trucks around town hauling golf cars to and fro. They fascinated me. I was out of the Army and back in school. I graduated from Georgia Tech in 1958. I went to work for the Savannah River Plant here in Augusta, which was managed by the Dupont Company. They called it the “Bomb Plant’ at the time.

It didn’t take long before I decided I did not want to stay in that environment. As it so happened, Beverly lived several houses up from where my home was. After we settled in Augusta, Beverly used to visit my neighbor quite often because he was Beverly’s insurance agent.

Bev Dolan (left), Jack Triolo (right)

One day I was in the back yard fooling around with a tree house for the kids and Beverly was over next door visiting. He saw me and came over. We got to chatting and I asked him about his golf car business and how it was going. I had never been out to the plant. Then he made a comment that he needed someone like me to help him. He said that he knew I was an engineer and I could help him out with all sorts of things. I said I would love to see the place. It did not take but just a few weeks, then I went to visit and we talked about business.

One Sunday morning, Beverly called and asked me what I was doing. I said I was getting ready to go to church. And he said that he was getting ready to go to Lynchburg to pick someone up and bring them back to Augusta. He asked if I would like to ride along with him. I agreed and we took off to Lynchburg. About half way there, Beverly asked me if I was serious about going to work for him. I said, “Well, what’s the deal?”

He said the first thing he would like me to tackle was the Purchasing Department, which he was having problems with. We discussed my deal and he asked me how quickly I could come to work and I said two weeks. So July 4th, 1961, was when I went to work for E-Z-GO. When I showed up at work that morning, there was only one person there. He was looking after the plant because they could not lock the place up at that time. You have already interviewed this fellow. His name is Frank Reese. Beverly said come to work on the first Monday of July and that happened to be the Fourth of July. Everyone was gone to the lake for a BBQ.

Tell us about the period between 1961 and 1973 when Beverly left E-Z-GO. What was your position at the time?

These years were real interesting and were a maturing time for me. When I went to work for E-Z-GO, they were already in the process of building a new plant. They were building a new 40,000 sq. ft. building out on the south side of town. This was in 1961. Many funny stories are to be told about the 1961-62 timeframe. We moved into the building in January, 1962, on a cold winter day. The building had no lights, no water and no heat. We used garden hoses and number 6 wire from the golf cars to hang lights on. That’s all we had.

At the time, we were building the Model 300 car. E-Z-GO’s Model 300 was really a good golf car at the time. To my knowledge, we only built one fleet of the Model 300 in the new factory before we ceased building them. There were 60 cars that went to the Nassau Car Company in New York. They were navy blue. At that point we shut the factory down and continued to work on the infamous Model 400, which was in the process of being designed as the next E-Z-GO model.

Through the Textron connection, Billy and Bev and a Textron Vice President in charge of E-Z-GO had connections with General Motors and Delco Corporation who made motors, controllers, electrical control and differentials. They had made a mockup of this new model they called the Model 400. The Model 400 was planned to have the revolutionary rear swing axle design. It was like the Volkswagen type suspension and the electrical system was from the General Motors/Delco group. It was deemed “terribly efficient”. It used dual voltages to get various speeds. This was in the works when I went to work at E-Z-GO. Beverly took me in his back room and showed me this new model. It was a cardboard mockup at the time. They had not yet built one.

During the six months before we moved to the new factory, we were looking to build one of the Model 400-A’s that would run and work. With the PGA show coming up in January/February, we had planned to build about 20 of them to take to the show. Working day and night over several weeks, we finally got four or five of them made. This was in 1962. We went to the show with them. We had a new trailer but it did not have any way to get the cars up in it. It was just a new trailer with E-Z-GO on the side. We had to actually hand-load and unload the cars.

Was this the Model 400?

This was the Model 400-A. In everyone’s opinion, years later, this was probably the worst golf car that E-Z-GO had ever made. It was a nightmare! There were many tales about that car. We built the Model 400-A over the next few months through about June. The first of these cars went to the Sea Island Club, unfortunately, and were delivered around Masters time. The cars had not been there but about 24 hours when we got a call that they were having trouble with the cars on the golf course.

How many of these vehicles did you manufacture?

During the several months that we made the 400-A, if my memory serves me, we made over a thousand of them. We ceased building the Model 400-A in June, and by then had made some corrections to the Model 400-A, and switched to the Model 400-B. The Model 400-B was a great improvement over the Model 400-A but was still a vehicle that needed a lot of cleaning up.

We have heard that if E-Z-GO had stayed with the Model 400-A, they probably would have gone under?

Like all new products, the 400 had its share of problems. Fortunately, we had enough foresight to make the basic corrections necessary to make the 400-B a viable operating product. During the transition from the Model 400-A to the Model 400-B we had to pull a lot of tricks out of the hat to keep a lot of customers happy. However, we were able to pull it off.

The E-Z-GO Model X440

Where did the name “Electramatic” come from?

The name “Electramatic” was given to the Model 400-A. Electramatic referred to the electrical system that was a dual voltage system tried out on some government mail vehicles. Although not too sophisticated at all, the electrical system was complicated, with 13 solenoids and many wires that made it very difficult to work on in the field. The Electramatic name, to my knowledge, stayed with the Model 400 until the 400-H was discontinued several years later. After the 400-A, we manufactured the 400-B, the 400-C, and then 400-H. Each vehicle had improvements over the preceding model. As the 400-H was introduced in 1964, we knew we had to go back to something more basic and similar to what we had in the Model 300 in order to recapture our reputation product-wise.

With that we took it upon ourselves to design a brand new car with the help of Dom Saporito, who was the designer that helped with the Model 400. We went back to the suspension, electrical and drive systems that worked with the Model 300. This vehicle was called the X-440 and was manufactured in a three-wheel version at that time. For a short period we manufactured the X-440 as well as the 400-H since we did not know how much trouble we were going to have during the transitional period.

Did the models 400-B, C and H turn out to be pretty good golf cars after the modifications?

The 400B, C and H were each better than the other and kept us in the market place. The X-440 was a great car and helped put us on the road to success.

Who made the differentials for the Model 400-A?

The Dana Corporation made the differentials and axles. As I said earlier, the suspension for the 400 was similar to a Volkswagen idea, which was a good idea but was tough to make work on a golf car. As I look back on it, all of the problems that surfaced in the basic Model 400 design were caused by bad advice as well as a lack of sophistication in design and the ability to recognize the outcome of some of the things that we put together and sold.

What was your position during this particular period of time?

As I said earlier, I started off in the Purchasing Department. I then got involved in the design along with Billy, Bev and Dick Lemon, who was then a sales manager. Dick was also an engineer.

What role did Frank Reese have at this time?

Frank was a welder when I first got to know him at E-Z-GO. He was welding floorboards on the Model 300. Frank was a practical guy. I tried to put an R & D Department together and he would end up running that for a number of years. Frank was a great idea man. He worked hard for you and he was loyal. He would do anything you asked him to do within his capability.

Frank Reese

What was Billy doing during this period of time?

Billy was in and out doing a little bit of everything. Billy was at his best in the selling game. However, he also had some great ideas on the product design. Some of the controversy that you might have heard between Beverly and Billy was the nature of them arguing about how to sell and how to manufacture. Both had good ideas but sometimes they clashed. Of course, they were blood brothers and would come to each other’s rescue if things got serious.

Billy was out on the road selling a lot at this time. When he would come back he would always have a lot of good ideas that he had picked up from the field and from customers. Many of his ideas were heard, but many of them did not suit Beverly. And, here again, as I said earlier, interesting arguments took place over these issues.

This was in 1965?

Yes.

Wasn’t he out there selling cars for E-Z-GO?

As I said earlier, Billy’s real expertise was selling. In fact, since 1954 when they started the company, Billy had traveled all over the country pulling a golf car on a trailer behind his old Buick, trying to sell golf cars to anyone interested in them. Billy probably made more contacts in the golf industry during those early years than anyone else. There was hardly anyone in the golf business who did not know Billy. Billy got to know all of these people because he traveled personally pushing and selling golf cars. This was his game and that is what he spent his time doing.

During that time, Beverly was primarily at the factory trying to run the business.

So Billy was out there in the field talking to the pros and actually using the golf cars?

Yes, he was out there talking to these people. He knew what a golf car had to do and how it had to perform.

Was Beverly the golfer that Billy was?

Before he had some health problems, Billy was probably the better golfer. Beverly had not played a lot of golf to my knowledge. After I started to work at E-Z-GO he began to play more golf and he became a pretty good golfer. He played in the low 90’s and eventually played in the low 80’s, maybe even in the high 70’s. I think that he saw it was part of the business and he had his eye on being a member of August National long before he actually became a member. So he got interested in the game and worked at it. But in reality, Billy was a better golfer before he had his health problems. Billy was just a natural at it.

Billy Dolan in a Model 200

So generally Beverly was always in the office and Billy was always out on the road?

In the early days, this was probably correct but Beverly also spent a lot of time out in the field, meeting and getting to know people. In their own ways they were totally different but very likeable people who made friends easily. At the time, we were operating under a division of Textron named Homelite, who made chainsaws. Beverly got to know a lot of the Homelite management and the Textron management during this period. As the future would show, I think that this was a good move by Beverly in that it helped him as he moved up the ladder in the corporation, responsibility-wise.

During that period of time were you selling as many golf cars as you could manufacture?

For a period of time during the year, we were busy four to five months. But during the balance of the year we were operating thin. During 1966, we decided we needed another product to sell so we designed and manufactured a truck similar to the Cushman Truckster, called the GT-7. After the GT-7 we designed and manufactured an electric and gasoline version of a single-seater commercial personnel vehicle with a flip-down seat that would carry two people, if required, in a factory. These were called “Economizers”.

At the time, Homelite was building a riding lawnmower that needed to be redesigned. Bev worked out a deal with Homelite that allowed us to redesign the lawnmower and build it for them under the Homelite name. We built three different models of the lawnmower but it was not very profitable for us. I think that we were selling to Homelite at our direct manufacturing cost. At least it gave us something to do and kept us busy during the slow part of the season.

Around 1969 or 1970, we came to the conclusion that all of these extra products we were making were not doing us any good but rather, making the load heavier and preventing us from doing a good job with the golf cars.

Bev hired Charlie Goodwin as Chief Financial Officer in 1969 and shortly thereafter, in 1970 or ’71 Bev went to the Harvard Senior Management 14-week program for trai
ning. I think Bev had gotten somewhat tired of struggling with the golf car business and all of the other products that we were trying to push. He was anxious to find another avenue for his career.

When Bev went to Harvard, he said to me, “George, you are the senior officer. You, Sam Mays (our sales manager), and Charlie Goodwin keep things going straight.” This is what we tried to do. When he came back from Harvard, he was a transformed person. He had seen the route that he wanted to take in his working career. He had seen, apparently, what others had done in their careers and he wanted to be just as successful, if not more so.

Very shortly thereafter, Textron bought the Polaris snowmobile company and Jacobson lawnmower company. When they bought Jacobson, they found out very shortly that it was in bad condition and Textron shut it down for a number of months while they changed all the management and restructured the company. As I remember, it stayed shut down for about six months.

It was about this time that Textron had planned to put E-Z-GO, Jacobson and Polaris together as a larger division of Textron. Since Jacobson was in trouble and shut down, they simply combined Polaris and E-Z-GO and left Jacobson out. That is when Bev went to Minneapolis to run the new Polaris/E-Z-GO Division. This was somewhere around 1973.

Were you designated a President when Bev went to Minneapolis?

No. Bev just said that I was in charge, as I remember. He said, “George you three guys run the company and keep things going. Call me if you need me. You know where I am. I have a lot to do at Polaris to turn things around there.” And, again, that is what we tried to do.

What was Billy doing at this time?

During the middle 60’s Billy had become interested in some other business ventures while at the same time keeping a mild interest in E-Z-GO. We didn’t see much of Billy during the latter part of the 60’s but when Bev went to Minneapolis, Billy began to show a greater interest and became more involved. He began to come in and chat and ask what was going on. All of a sudden his interest was hyped up.

He was a real likeable guy but he was eight or nine years older than I am and I really did not know him that well at all. I enjoyed Billy; he was really a nice guy. About this time Melex started into the business and began to turn the golf car market upside down with a low cost product that was a copy of an E-Z-GO manufactured in Poland and brought to this country.

Do you think the Melex was the demise of the Cushman golf cars?

Early Melex 3 & 4 Wheeled Golf Cars

To a large extent, yes. What Melex did was go out and secure the Cushman distribution system. Cushman at that time had a major independent distribution system. E-Z-GO was set up for factory direct sales. Melex went to the Cushman distribution system and told them, “Look, you are trying to sell Cushman golf cars for $1200 and I can get you a Melex for $600. You can make twice as much money as you can with the Cushman.” This all happened very rapidly and in a very short period of time. Melex was a copy of the E-Z-GO and it was a pretty good car. It was a $600 car to the clubs and we were trying to get $1200 for our E-Z-GOs.

Didn’t this hurt you?

Yes, that is when we decided we needed a new golf car. We needed a whole new design. We needed something to stop this Melex thing. So we got Dom Saporito back to Augusta and began the design of a new golf car.

Was this about 1974?

About that time. Billy got Dom Saporito to come down and build us a styrofoam model of a new golf car. Billy had a lot of input into this. This is what Billy really liked to do and he was good at it. Bev had approved of Billy getting into the R&D of a new car but he did not give him a lot of control of the finances or any of the consequences. Bev gave Billy a little rope. Everyone knew that Bev made the final decisions.

Textron had a Board of Directors meeting at E-Z-GO during this period of time. Billy and Dom had finished the full-scale model of this car and it was a beauty. After the Board meeting, we unwrapped the car to not only the Board but to Bev, who had not seen it. Everyone was impressed except Bev.

Bev let it be known that we were not going to make ANY changes in the current golf car that we were manufacturing. He felt like we were doing a great job in the market with what we had. He said he wanted the styrofoam model of the new car destroyed and there would be no more conversations about a new vehicle. All of us in Augusta were disappointed but we did as instructed and destroyed that design.

Was that the DS model?

No, it was not. The whole project was scrapped as Bev had dictated.

When did some of the E-Z-GO management start to think about leaving E-Z-GO?

Looking back on it, after the new car project was scrapped, several of us became concerned about what was happening at E-Z-GO and the Textron family. It appeared to us that some of us would lose our jobs and some of us would be moved to other cities and things were not going to be as they had been for the last 12-14 years.

Many times over lunch Sam, Charlie, Billy and I would discuss some of the problems we felt we were having and what we could do to influence the situation.

Who said, “Let’s go to Club Car or let’s start our own golf car company?”

Actually, five of us did. Billy, myself, Charlie, Sam and Dick Lemon decided to find something else to do. We were all relatively young, with families and financial obligations. Each of us had a great desire to enhance our career possibilities. However, with the changes I mentioned earlier, that we saw within Textron, we felt that we could not do it at E-Z-GO.

Since the golf car industry was the major part of our working lives, we came to the conclusion that we should start our own company and take advantage of the experience that each of us had compiled over 10-15 years. We quickly came to the realization that to start a new company from the beginning took more money than we had or could raise. Eventually we decided to find a golf car company that was in trouble and could be bought at a discount price.

We looked at all of the companies that were available that could possibly be bought including Pargo, Melex, Legend, Westinghouse, etc. None of them fit the bill. We could not find anything to get excited about. One day we were having lunch and Sam Mays said we have a golf car company here in Augusta that would be great if we could get it. It would be dynamite. We looked at him and said, “You mean Club Car owned my Johns Manville? It’s not for sale. They’ll never sell it.”

Sam said, “You don’t know that and you’ll never know unless you ask.” Billy was with us and said that he knew the Johns Manville guy who came to town and worked with Bill Stevens to buy the Stevens Golf Car Company for Johns Manville. Billy had played in a golf tournament with him a few years back. He remembered giving him a hard time about the “sorry old golf car company” Manville had purchased.

Bill Stevens

“I remember the guy.” Billy said, “I have his card somewhere”. We told him to call the guy and ask him if Johns Manville would be interested in selling. The long and short of the story was we got in touch will Johns Manville and they showed interest in selling. We met with some of their people over a weekend, found out the company could be bought and started out on a two to three year period of time trying to put a pro forma together and find the financing to buy the company.

You recently interviewed Bev about his golf car career and I had to chuckle when I read where he said that he did not like us leaving during the “middle of the night,” but he also commented that if he had been in the same boat he would have done the same thing. In fact, he has done it before when he moved the equipment out of Paul Corley’s shop in 1956 or 1957.

So, in a very unsophisticated way, we put together a handwritten pro forma and talked to anyone and everyone that we knew who might possibly have the capability to help us finance such a purchase. But we had no success.

Do you remember how much Johns Manville wanted for the company?

I don’t really remember the numbers but they were willing to sell it with very little cash down and finance it themselves over a period of five years. This was just exactly what we needed so it was a prime target for us. We talked to people that were potentially interested but when they found out that we were working for E-Z-GO Textron and trying to buy Club Car from Johns Manville, they said, “No, we don’t think we want to get into the middle of that. Thank you, goodbye.”

We were going to ask this question a little later on, but maybe it is a good time to ask it now. This plan to leave E-Z-GO went on for several years from 1975 – 1978 and there were at least seven or eight people involved. In addition to that you went to all of these people trying to get financing. How in the world did you keep it a secret all this time?

The funny thing about it is, we didn’t. This is where it gets to be an amusing story. We were doing nothing illegal and we were doing nothing wrong. We were working hard and E-Z-GO was doing great. They had a dominant place in the marketplace at the time and were in great shape. We took or stole nothing from E-Z-GO. We wanted to do our own thing.

As you can imagine with that many people involved, it was hard to keep someone from talking too much, perhaps over a drink or two. It wouldn’t take much for it to get out. I don’t know how much Bev knew about what we were attempting but some of the top management of the Polaris/E-Z-GO Division knew about it. In fact, we were questioned about the progress of our project. Our answer to them was honest when we answered, “Not so well, we can’t find the money to do it.” Even at that, we kept plugging along anywhere we could.

Finally, one of our friends hooked us up with a little venture capital company in Nashville, Tennessee, and a guy named Jack Massey who had put together the Hospital Corporation of America, Kentucky Fried Chicken, Wendy’s as well as other companies on the New York Stock Exchange. Obviously they were very successful. We sent them one of our pro forma, they showed interest and asked that we visit with them.

A couple of us went up one weekend to visit and discuss the deal. We came away with varied conditions on how to put the program together. Several months later we were successful in lining up a working capital line with one of the regional southern banks and that, along with the cash equity requirements Mr. Massey wanted from us, we were able to put the deal together. At that time, there was Billy, Sam, Charlie, Dick Lemon and myself who were involved. We had several other people that we knew would come in at the last minute but knew nothing of the deal. Once we put it together we were going to invite them in with an equity participation.

Were these “others” people that you had to have?

No, but they were people that we would like to have. We knew that we would have a group large enough to take on the task of running the company from every aspect. Mr. Massey was a very fair and sharp businessman. Once he checked us out with our business experience in the golf car industry and found out that we were going to work for modest salaries as well as put in our own money as equity, he said, “That sounds like a good deal to me. I’ll put a group together and we’ll go!”

The eight of us that originally went in put in 20% of the equity and Mr. Massey gave us 30% of the stock.

What were you thinking at the time? Did you think you were nuts?

No, at the time all of us understood what was starting to happen under the E-Z-GO/Textron umbrella and we knew that if we were going to do well for ourselves, we were going to have to leave the company and try something new. At our ages it was time to make a move or just shut up and take what was handed to you.

Did Randy Strozier put in equity?

Yes, Randy and two others were brought in at the last minute. All three participated in an equity portion of the deal.

Did all of you get stock for the equity you put in?

Yes, as I said earlier, we put in 20% of the equity and we got 30% of the stock.

Did you split that stock equally among the eight original investors?

No, the stock was divided in accordance with how much each had invested in equity.

And Massey had the other 70% and financed that himself?

No, the other 70% was owned by a group that was put together by Mr. Massey. This was a highly successful group of people with high net worth who could easily put up whatever was required.

Dave Thomas’ money came from Wendy’s?

Dave Thomas, founder of Wendy’s, was one of the original investors in Club Car

Of course, everyone knows of the success of Dave Thomas and Wendy’s. As it turned out, Dave Thomas’ broker was one of the people at the final meeting regarding putting equity into the company. So yes, Dave was involved as an original stockholder. As it turned out, several years later when we were trying to buy back some of the stock from the outside stockholders, Dave Thomas was the first one we asked to consider selling the stock back to us. We met with him and made an offer that he felt was very fair. In fact, he said to me, “You guys have worked hard and done well. You need to own your own company and I am willing to take your offer”. His stock was the first we bought back and we retired that stock at that time.

Did the outside investors as major stockholders exert any control over the company? Were they down there trying to tell you how to run your golf car company?

Obviously as majority owners of the stock they had control of the company. But in no way did they delve into the actual operation of the company or did they tell us what to do on a day-to-day basis. They said we made an inv
estment and go try to make it work.

Let’s go back for a moment to the actual time of the split. We are fortunate enough to be in possession of a copy of the letter of resignation from E-Z-GO.

It was quite a letter – like a declaration of independence!

George Inman recalls his departure from E-Z-GO

Yes it was. How did it come to pass that the letter was written? Who wrote it? Why did you all sign the same letter? And did you hand them to Fritz Meyers [President of Polaris/E-Z-GO at the time] or did you leave them on your desks?

We had the help of a young lawyer in Augusta. He was one of the sharpest and best lawyers in Augusta and he worked with us as we talked to Johns Manville as we put the deal together. When it came to writing the letter of resignation, he helped us do that too.

We wanted to be sure that we said everything that needed to be said and that we said it in unison, so we all signed the same letter. We did this because we figured we were going to have problems with Textron after resigning. We felt that they were going to come after us and try to shut us down. So we all read the letter and looked at it several times, approved it, and then signed it.

This is kind of an amusing story

Read the second part of this interview, “The Club Car Years”, to learn what this amusing story was…

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