Street Legal Bumper Cars
By James Grahame
Retro Thing reader Jack Szwergold recently sent us a link to photos of what appeared to be street legal bumper cars. After a bit of sleuthing, we tracked them down to San Diego. It turns out that they are indeed built around vintage bumper car bodies, although with a custom frame, leather interior and motorcycle engine. There are at least eight of these little beasties on the road, all owned by the same family.
Lusse Auto Scooters in St. George, Utah reports that they've sold several vintage Auto Scooter bumper cars "to this really cool guy in San Diego. He had the knack to retrofit these with 750cc Kawasaki motors and make them street legal."
The tiny vehicles began to attract serious attention in mid 2006. After numerous queries from readers, the San Diego Weekly Reader revealed, "The whole thing started a few decades ago, when the Long Beach Pike
amusement park closed. A car collector bought one of the park's bumper
cars, planning to renovate it into a conversation piece for his family
room. That idea went the way of most expensive, elaborate, guy-type
brainstorms. The car just sat in his collection, collecting dust. But
along comes our particular North County tinkerer. The bumper car
reminded him of his growing-up days on the ride at the Pike. He spent
many happy hours bashing into friends and strangers there, maybe in
that exact car! Of course, there's no use fighting nostalgia. He takes
the bumper car off the collector's hands, intending to turn it into a
conversation piece for his family room.
Here's where we separate the ordinary thinkers from the visionaries. The collector was just a collector; but the tinkerer was a true car nut and decided the bumper car had to be reworked into a self-powered fun ride for the grandkids. Fifty thousand dollars later, he had his car and the kids had the coolest grandpa on the block. It was so much fun he made seven more from cars originally used at amusement parks in Petaluma, Coney Island, Atlanta, Detroit, Germany, and Austria. They're powered by Yamaha and Kawasaki engines; the original Harleys shook the cars too badly and had to be replaced."
MR38's Street Legal Bumper Cars on flickr