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Inventor Built The World’s Most Famous Red Shoe
Jason Barnett has earned a living for more than 20 years by creating and building his wild ideas. Some of his creations are giant yard art from plane parts and furniture from old vehicles, but his real claim to fame is building the iconic Ronald McDonald Big Red Shoe Car.
That project began when a friend told him the company was looking for bids to produce and build a vehicle in the shape of Ronald’s red clown shoe. Bidders were supposed to present ideas the next day in Houston, so Barnett says he quickly sketched his idea on a napkin. Then he spent the next 12 hrs. building a rough model on top of a PT Cruiser remote control car.
“I worked all night and finished at 5 am, then delivered it 4 hrs. later in Houston and handed it off to my friend Bill,” Barnett says. “When the board meeting was assembled, Bill opened the door and drove the remote-controlled shoe prototype into the room. The rest is history. Within minutes, my phone was ringing, and the board wanted to meet me.”
Barnett says he and the company worked two months on design details and about a year later he received a check to start the real work. Originally, he’d planned to mount the body on a 2003 Chevy pickup with a V-8 engine. He removed most of the truck’s body, then formed the shoe shape out of large foam blocks to fit on the chassis. His mockup measured 8 ft. wide in the front, 4 ft. wide in the back, and was nearly 23 ft. long.
“It was a tough job to get everything carved out. After, I coated it with drywall mud to create a smooth surface. Then, I applied latex paint so the fiberglass could adhere.”
During construction, he made design improvements such as having the entire nose of the shoe open forward to access the engine. The driver and passenger seats are accessed through “suicide” doors that open from the front to the back.
Throughout construction, which took nearly two years, Barnett would drive the shoe vehicle around and test it for squeaks and rattles. “Kids would freak out whenever I drove by, so I knew the idea was going to be a success,” Barnett says.
Initially, he’d planned on doing the whole project himself but soon realized that wasn’t possible. Friends and family volunteered their help, spending many hours and long nights bringing the car to life. Barnett even had to take a part-time job because he’d drastically underbid the actual cost of producing it.
“I hadn’t built something this large before and really underestimated the time, but the project was definitely worth the effort,” he says. His famous Ronald McDonald’s Big Red Shoe Car has been in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade.
Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Jason Barnett, Alvin, Texas (cjasonbarnett@gmail.com; Facebook: Artist Jason Barnett).

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2023 - Volume #47, Issue #1