See the 1,250-pound Leata, a car for the future that’s now an Idaho artifact

There’s a cool little car that’s one of just 22 Leata sedans made in Post Falls  in 1975 and 1976 as an economy car. It’s part of the Idaho Historical Museum’s  “Essential Idaho: 150 Things that Make Idaho Unique” which opens Tuesday to mark the 150th anniversary of Idaho Territory.


The car didn’t make it into my Sunday story about the exhibit, but it’s installed in the lobby of the museum and well worth a look. Apple green, it’s made of fiberglass, gets 50 miles per gallon, is 10-feet-8-inches long, 56 inches high and 58 inches wide. The vehicle is part of the story of “Idaho’s Goat Trail,” U.S. 95, which runs 538 miles through Idaho, from Oregon in the south to British Columbia.

“It’s the cutest thing I’ve ever seen,” said Museum Director Jody Hawley Ochoa. “I’d buy one now if I could.”

But the Leata isn’t a likely purchase and not only because they are in such short supply.

Ochoa’s husband, Ricardo, is the director of Idaho Public TV’s “Idaho Reports” and “Dialogue.” He also collects Saabs and there are now four in the family, one for dad and one for each of their two children. (I suspect the fourth one is for parts.)

Don Steinbaugh designed the Leata and named it for his wife. It cost $3,850 new, has a jump seat in the back and the spare tire mounted on back. The car in the museum’s collection bears a Washington State University student parking permit, for 1977-78.

Dan Popkey came to Idaho in 1984 to work as a police reporter. Since 1987, he has covered politics and has reported on 25 sessions of the Legislature. Dan has a bachelor's in political science from Santa Clara University and a master's in journalism from Columbia University. He was a Congressional Fellow of the American Political Science Association and a Journalism Fellow at the University of Michigan. A former page in the U.S. House of Representatives, he graduated Capitol Page High School in 1976. In 2007, he led the Statesman’s coverage of the Sen. Larry Craig sex scandal, which was one of three Pulitzer Prize finalists in breaking news. In 2003, he won the Ted M. Natt First Amendment award from the Pacific Northwest Newspaper Association for coverage of University Place, the University of Idaho’s troubled real estate development in Boise. Dan helped start the community reading project "Big Read." He has two children in college and lives on the Boise Bench with an old gray cat.

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