Lifestyle

San Diego bumper car converter

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bumpercars1Tom Wright is a San Diegan whose hobby tends to hit a few bumps in the road. He finds junked amusement park bumper cars and converts them into works of art, some of which can be driven on the streets, legally. Tom hasn’t taken any formal mechanical or engineering courses, but he certainly has a talent working with engines and tools.

He has turned this talent to taking vintage bumper cars from the 1930-1960 era and making them into vehicles that can be driven around town, in style. As of today, Tom has rebuilt eight old bumper cars, some from as far away as Europe and Coney Island, New York, into mechanical masterpieces.

It all began more than a decade ago, when Tom saw an old, beat-up and abandoned group of bumper cars in the junk heap of the Long Beach Pike amusement park. He was looking for some kind of display to attract customers to his metal-finishing business. After completely disassembling one of the cars, he painted it cherry red, and put the body and interior in his show window.bumpercars2

Soon after, Tom decided to go a little farther, and mounted the refurbished bodies onto a custom-built chassis, with a suspension and powered by a motorcycle engine. Now, one of his bumper cars has $1000+ leather seats, another is a Woodie with mahogany/maple panels, and two others have Harley-Davidson Sportster 1200 engines. Some of the paint jobs cost more than $2000. Tom attempted to put tunes in the bumper cars, but found they vibrated too much, and ruined the electronics in the CD players.

bumpercars3Somehow, he talked a clerk at the DMV into registering his fleet of ex-amusement park rides and he obtained custom license plates for them. They didn’t remain street legal for long, as a supervisor looked into it, and withdrew the registrations. Part of the reason might be that the cars do not have seat belts, headlights, windshields, and, of course, bumpers. Even though they are no longer legal, Tom Wright has created one of the most unique fleets of vehicles around.

Tom has repeatedly turned down all requests to buy his cars, but they may be seen at various auto shows around the San Diego area from time to time.

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