I drive right past Disneyland every day on the way home from work. I guess we who live nearby sort of take the Magic Kingdom for granted. Like football games and the county fair. And, consequently, we tend to take some of the attractions within the park for granted, too. A few weeks ago my brother (he’s a Disneyland “regular”) invited Anna and me to go to the Magic Kingdom with him. It was the first time we had been since a new attraction, called “America Sings," had been opened. It depicts, in audio-animatronics, our country’s heritage in song. But what really caught my attention were a couple of half-scale old automobiles (one was a 29 Ford roadster) and a “chopper” motorcycle which were part of the “sets.” What intrigued me was the detail of the working models, and the fact that they were obviously hand-built.
Then on the way out of the park we were passed by a chugging, fringe-topped old-time auto, which along with another like it, a couple of double-decker buses, and a neat brass-radiatored fire engine, carry passengers daily up and down Disneyland’s turn-of-the-century Main Street. For the first time I realized that these vehicles, too, must be one-off specials, built by the Disney crew to perform reliably week after week, day and night, and yet appear old and rickety.
Since I had just done a story on making Model T fenders from sheet metal, I figured it might make a neat follow-up to find out just how Disneyland constructed their old-time autos. A few phone calls later, I was put in touch with the “right" person. And what he had to tell me was a real surprise – I mean, you’d figure that a place like Disneyland, which has life-like plastic characters and creatures, a futuristic monorail, disappearing ghosts, audio-animatronics, and such things, must have used special materials and equipment to build these replica antique vehicles, right? Absolutely not. In fact, these cars were put together just about the same way any home-built street rod is. With parts right out of the junk yard. Would you believe one of them even has a dropped tube axle that was bought from Bell Auto Parts back in the early fifties?