Monday, April 12, 2010

The Envy of the Neighborhood



Part of going to Disneyland is checking out the souvenirs; they vary in cost (and quality) from el cheapo pencils to exorbitantly expensive limited edition collectibles. However, for the big Disneyland collectors, the ultimate souvenir is having a piece of the park itself...namely an attraction vehicle. Daveland reader David W. emailed recently about his acquisition: an Autopia Car! Imagine racing around the neighborhood in that?!? Here’s his story:

Whenever I visited Disneyland's Emporium on Main Street late at night, I marveled at people frantic to buy something. Something that would allow them to take home a piece of the magic they had seen at Disneyland. Often I would see guests buying the biggest plush Mickey they could find. When the Autopia car bodies were auctioned by Disney, I missed out on the opportunity to own one, but, months later, when Phil Sears put some up for sale, I knew what I must do. It took $1295 but was worth every penny. I did not believe that I could engineer and build a complete car under the fiberglass shell—but that’s exactly what I did in only 3 months. A local mover, Steve Hill, picked up the car for me in Anaheim and brought it to me, no charge. It took three months to build the frame and chassis and to get the car “on the road”.

So, what do I have? A souvenir of Disneyland park, four feet wide and ten feet long! It sits outside our bedroom window—the first thing I see each morning.


Here’s David's granddaughter, steering the Autopia body with the aid of a frisbee!



David's wife checking out her husband's acquisition:



Here you can see the shell and the mechanics that David created to make it run:







PREVIOUS AUTOPIA POST UPDATE: Daveland reader Oswald Jackson sent in this additional info about the Police cars:

Walt wanted, to teach “respect for the rules of the road.” If a car was stranded, just as you supposed, the other cast member would retrieve the kid (so the boy in the picture was either: (A) Disrespecting the rules of the Autopia Highway—at which point he would be given a little citation, much like the driver’s licenses Richfield gave out—to remind him of respect for others on the Highway) or (B) His vehicle had broken down and the Cast Member in the background brought him back to the load area. According to Bob Gurr, before the Midget Autopia was put in, sometimes a Cast Member would allow a just-under-the-height-limit child to go out with him and chase down “speeders.” Note that the cars were not on a rail, yet, and kids could literally pass each other, before management realized (when a child figured out a way to wedge himself all the way around, backwards, until he was driving directly into oncoming traffic!) that the cars would have to be rail-bound to prevent head-on collisions.

To read more about David transforming the body into a working Autopia car, visit his website.

See more current and vintage Autopia photos at my regular website.

5 comments:

Tim W. said...

Now that is a souvenir! And when you think about it, it's not all that expensive. Pin collectors spend $7+ pin and have hundreds, if not thousands, of pins. I'm guessing David's family enjoys the car much more than they would a pin collection.

stu29573 said...

Uber Uber Cool!!!!! Fantastic job, David!!! I love the two tone paint job! Money very well spent!

Major Pepperidge said...

I know that I'm envious! Yes, the two-tone is neat, guess they had to add that lower side panel (i.e. make it from scratch)? They did a beautiful job.

Katella Gate said...

What a wonderful thing to own, especially now that it runs. Personally, I am holding out for a Peoplemover train.

Vintage Disneyland Tickets said...

I would die to see one of those Citations they issued for reckless drivers!!! Neat story Dave, thanks for Sharing.