Step Away From the Vehicle!

Photo by Peter Terren

Peter Terren’s corner of rural, western Australia doesn’t have much of a problem with car theft. But that hasn’t stopped him from building a deterrent that packs a real wallop. Visually, at least. Terren welded a long aluminum tube to a home-built 5-kilowatt tesla coil, combined it with an old aircraft control motor, and mounted the whole thing atop a Hyundai. Sparks jump from the tip of the tube to the ground as it swings around the car about once every 10 seconds. (This photograph is a long exposure showing more than one rotation.)

Terren is a physician, but like a moth to a flame he is as attracted to lasers and anything having to do with high voltage. ”Flame” is the operative word here. The following parts of this tesla coil have caught fire at one time or another: the tape supporting the rotating rod, the rod’s wooden counterweight, and the nickel-cadmium battery pack driving the motor that swings the rod.

His family tolerates Terren’s high-voltage habits. That’s his son Michael in the driver’s seat in the photo, and his other son Chris plays a potential robber in a video featuring the tricked-out car. But his wife does complain a bit about all the thunderclaps coming from the shed and the way the tesla coils interfere with TV reception. Once he gets a break from his doctor gig, Terren is thinking of mounting a tesla coil over a pool and photographing it. If he doesn’t electrocute himself, you’ll find the documentation at his website,

Related Stories