““When I made the film The Invention of Lying, they gave me a private jet for getting back and forth between New York and London. I thought, ‘I will never use it’ but I ended up using it every weekend. You turn up, right, and the airport is completely empty. I mean, there’s just someone at the desk and then the pilot, who says, ‘Are you ready to go?’ and you say, ‘Don’t you want to see my passport?’ and he goes, ‘Oh yeah, I suppose I’d better.’” ”
A Lear without wings
It doesn't have wings and doesn't fly, but it's definitely a Lear, as its sleek lines and innovative design suggest. The Lear204, a 20-foot electric boat, will carry 11 passengers 50 miles on a fully charged set of batteries at a cost of about $2. What's more, it comes by the Lear name honestly: Shanda Lear-Baylor, the eldest daughter of Learjet creator Bill Lear, developed the fiberglass craft with her husband, Terry Baylor.
Lear-Baylor said she doesn't consider a boat such an odd thing for a daughter of Bill Lear to design. "Remember, my dad also invented the car radio and the eight-track cassette," she said. "[He] always said if you want to make money, find out what people need and give it to them."
For Lear-Baylor, the Lear204 project began about 10 years ago, when she met Terry, who at the time was experimenting with the idea of an electric boat. After spending $4.5 million in investment capital and going through several years of testing and refinement, the Lear204 is now ready to be sold, she said.
The boat's 5-mph cruise speed will hardly leave the ghost of Bill Lear breathless, but it's not being targeted to those with a need for speed. Florida, the initial target market, has more than 700 miles of restricted waterways "and not one electric boat," Lear-Baylor said, adding that much of the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway and thousands of small lakes have speed restrictions of four to six knots.
Starting at $40,000, the Lear204 features power steering, a small lavatory and a JBL sound system that includes a CD player, a 600-watt subwoofer and an iPod jack. Add a soft top, fixed hardtop or retractable hardtop and the price jumps $10,000. But, Lear-Baylor pointed out, with its sink and toilet it qualifies as a second home, allowing the owner to deduct the interest on the loan.