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Friday, September 14, 2012

Column: Shorelines

Pedal power

This 1940s Pursuit Pedal Plane is valued at about $3,500.

Denise Allen Membreno | Special to Laker Weekly

This 1940s Pursuit Pedal Plane is valued at about $3,500.

Cars are Al Woods' business. He has been selling them for more than 35 years.

Another type of vehicle caught his eye several decades ago. This one he purchased for his children at the time they were toddlers. The pedal car looks better now than when he bought it, even after providing his children with hours of fun.

"They were both little enough that one could fit in the front and one in the back," said Woods, who owns ALARS, INC., a used car business in Bedford County.

"When they got too old for it, I restored it and saw how nice it looked. And I started looking for other toys and parts."

The vehicle was actually a pedal station wagon Woods picked up at a flea market in Pennsylvania. From that came a collection of countless antique toys in various states of restoration. They line the walls of his business. They are in his garage and in his home.

Collecting antique pedal cars has become a hobby for many, and businesses have cropped up to provide collectors with any part they need to restore toy cars, planes, tractors and other model vehicles. You can find wheels, tires, hubcaps, ladders, bells, windshields and even decals.

"It's just like restoring a big car, just on a smaller scale," explained Woods. "You have to do sandblasting, the body work, prime and paint."

Each piece is clear-coated and then painted with the same paint used to paint large vehicles. A gallon of paint can cost anywhere from $175 to more than $800, according to Woods.

If some of the original paint remains, the color can be scanned and the original hue can be recreated.

Woods' favorite pedal vehicles are his airplanes. He loves planes and has taken flying lessons. Vintage antique planes are harder to find than the cars.

"Kids tore them up faster because they had the wings. Kids could stand on them," said Woods.

In the ALARS office hangs a 1940s Pursuit Pedal Plane. It is one of the only pedal vehicles Woods has bought fully restored. He purchased it for $1,800 many years ago. The last time he checked, it was worth $3,500.

Television shows such as The History Channel's "American Pickers" have made what was old new again."From what I see on 'American Pickers,' I'll never be able to buy a car for what they buy them for," said Woods.

"I think a lot of that is TV hype. I actually went to their store in Nashville, Tenn., and I bought a windup toy in the box, and they wouldn't come off the price. I tried to get them to give me a free T-shirt and pay full price, but they wouldn't bundle."

If you look on eBay, you can find unrestored pedal cars for $125 to $500. If you are interested in buying a reproduction pedal car for your toddler, a new one will set you back at least $350.

Reproductions look very much like the originals. The differences are hard for a layman to spot. According to Woods, the chrome is different, and if you look inside, you can spot the Made in China stamp.

There used to be pedal car shows, but the Internet has changed the collectibles business, according to Woods.

"Before the Internet, you had to go to a show or go to a seller. And now, you get online, and there are people all over the world with parts on sale. You just choose the lowest price."

Woods said he has no intention of selling his collectibles any time soon. He has not restored one in a while because his business has kept him busy.

The last restoration project Woods did was more of an adaptation. The inspiration was his 18-month-old grandson.

"I took a late reproduction car and put stroller handles on it and then added steering and lights for him," said Woods. "So now it is a stroller."

A collectible that is sure to become a family treasure.