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Reflections

'I have all this stuff on the patio, so I had to close the patio.'

July 22, 1986|PERRY C. RIDDLE

Bob McCullagh of Northridge has collected a lot of things, and many of them were cars. In the 1950s he bought, fixed up and sold 15 Model A Fords to buy a 1937 supercharged Cord. He still has the Cord, but the car he loves to drive and talk about is a bright-blue, stripped-down Model A Ford coupe.

I'm a pool man. I only work three days a week now, but I used to work six days a week cleaning pools, and on weekends I collected things. You hear about leads, you go to flea markets or the giant swap meet in Pomona. Over the years, I've collected about everything that's collectible that I like. A lot of it goes back to what I remember from when I was younger.

I've got a big closet and boxes and boxes and boxes. I collected toy soldiers, model cars, pinball machines. I keep them written down in a big book, and I keep updating the prices. If I go to the big swimming pool in the sky, I want my wife to have a record of all the prices of things I've collected. She might sell a model car for five dollars, and it might be worth $250.

I picked up a pinball machine like I grew up with in the '40s, when the only places that had them were the pool halls. And in Santa Monica if your mother knew you went to the pool hall, being a good Catholic boy you'd committed the worst sin in the world. I've got all kinds of arcade games and penny scales. One's six feet tall, and one's three feet tall. I have all this stuff on my patio, so I had to close the patio. Then I've got a gas pump from the '40s. It just sits there in my backyard. Everyone who collects cars ought to have his own gas pump.

My first car, when I was growing up in 1942, was a 1919 Model A roadster. The first thing you did was take the fenders off and throw them away, to your mother and father's dismay. I had the original 21-inch wheels on the back and 16s on the front and a regular, stock four-cylinder engine. You could get a Winfield carburetor that would give you a little more boost. You just put that on and drove the heck out of it and raced everybody you could race.

We used to drag from 26th Street in Santa Monica to Bundy. At that time, if you got up to 80 miles an hour, you were really screaming. If you stayed there long enough, the police would come. When I got my first car, my father said, "One ticket for speeding and you go back to the bicycle." I was very fortunate. I never got a ticket for speeding.

When I was a kid, I didn't have enough money to refurbish a car. If you had a paper route, you just had enough money to get the car. I cut lawns for 25 cents an hour to get gas to run my car. If I was out of gas, I would walk the lawn mower to whatever house and cut the front and back lawn for 25 cents. Gas was about 12 cents, so you could get two gallons.

When I first started my restorations, I took all the paint off by hand, which took weeks and months to do. My biggest project was restoring a 1931 Model A convertible sedan. It took me five years. I completely disassembled it. I asked my wife, "Do you mind if I put the fenders in the living room for a week or so?" So the front and rear fenders, the bumper and the hood were in the living room for about nine months while I worked on the rest of the car in the garage. To this day she won't let me forget that. She knows it's my hobby, so she goes along with it, although she had to keep vacuuming around it, and I'd say, "Boy, don't you dare scratch those fenders."

Mainly I drive this 1930 Model A coupe for the satisfaction I get from driving something I had many years ago. Plus all the people my age who come up and reminisce about the car. It's beat-up looking and no fenders, not all this other fancy stuff like the fiberglass bodies and Chevy engines. This is a 1946 Ford flathead V-8 engine. You'll drive down the street and hear someone yell, "Flathead forever!" because they recognize this engine. My car doesn't have new fancy shocks and suspension. With this one you ride rough. When you hit a bump, it pitches you up like it did when I was 16 years old.

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