Driven By Elvis: 1952 Dodgem Bumper Car

Elvis has left the building! And he’s headed for the Memphis Fairgrounds so he can take a few laps in this 1952 Dodgem bumper car, or so the story goes. While not a typical Barn Finds subject, it is interesting nevertheless and worthy of further discussion. This celebrity indoor racer is located in Sarasota, Florida and is available, here on eBay for a classified ad price of $8,500.

Bumper cars were at one time all the amusement park rage and modern versions still exist. If you note, this particular example is a “Dodgem” brand because that’s what you were supposed to do, race around a track and “dodge” other contestants. But bumping ended up being part of the action, and as I recall, most of the fun.  The Dodgem brand, a product of the Stoehrer Brothers,  was one of two primary bumper car manufacturers, the other being Auto-Skooter and their heyday reigned from the ’20s into the ’60s. As previously mentioned, newer examples can still be found today but the ride operators seem to be a bit more chippy about deliberately banging into one another. And as was generally the case, bumper cars were electrically powered via a charged overhead metal grid that covered the operating arena and a smooth, steel deck floor that served as the ground. Power to the car was via a pantograph type pickup pole, with a conductor, that was vertically attached to the rear of the car and then dragged across the overhead grid.

The story goes that this particular car operated at the Memphis Fairgrounds and was then taken out of service in 1976 when Libertyland amusement park was built at the fairgrounds’ location. Elvis would come by after hours for a skoot and he chose this number 20 car because it was fleet of foot. He even engraved his initials into the paintwork as if claiming a permanent easement. Where this car has been all of these years is unknown.

Number 20 still presents itself pretty well, the seller states that it is original and unrestored. He also has a Letter Of Authentication to verify its provenance. As to whether this example would still operate, given the proper setting, is unknown – the pantograph pick-up is unattached and the seller doesn’t state whether or not it is available.

The interior is simple and spartan, just as I recall. Being long-legged, ingress and egress was always a challenge though there is ample room once onboard. In later years, bumper cars came equipped with a fabric or vinyl loop, attached to the base of the pantograph, that the driver would pull over their head and place under their arms, a minimalist safety harness of sorts. This Dodgem appears to have been operating before that safety change came about. Also, note the old-school style NASCAR steering wheel crash pad – a definite necessity without the safety loop.

The seller states, “this will make a centerpiece to any collection“. I suppose people do, and will, collect a bit of everything so why not bumper cars right? It’s a new one for me but if that’s your thing this is a notable example. I guess the question is how much of a value enhancer is due to the “King’s” provenance?

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  1. Ray L.

    Yeah, so what. I want the toilet he left this world on. Some things are just not worth too much in my opinion. The man has been dead for 43 years, many people alive today have no idea who he even was. The market for this dies with the Boomers, be careful how much you pay for it or anything else of age. If it moves your soul and just have to have it, pay what you will, but do not pretend it is a viable investment.

    Like 25
    • Mark

      Well Ray thankfully that’s just your opinion eh

      Like 23
      • Ray L.

        Just out of curiosity, what part do you not agree with?

        Like 5
      • wizzy

        Sorry Mark. Ray is dead on correct. As an Appraiser I see this all the time with Memorabilia and so-called Collectibles. Dime on a dollar when you go to sell your “investment”. Good luck.

        Like 5
    • JamieB1966 Member

      Good point. I recall a while back seeing some Howdy Doody collectible going for big bucks. But what’s that worth today? I’m 55 and should theoretically have some disposable income for such frivolities, but HD means nothing to me–and I don’t think my kids would even get a Howdy Doody cultural reference. Same with cars. I want the cars of my youth–the 1960s Pontiacs my father drove, or the 70s-80s era cars I lusted after. Cars from the 1930s and 1940s are seeing a dwindling buyer pool–and models from the 1950s are next. I can appreciate them as works of art when I see them at a car show, but I have no burning desire to own one. Give me a 1957 Chevy and I would turn around and sell it to buy a ’66 Toronado, ’71 boattail Riv, and a ’70 Cutlass Rallye 350!

      Like 2
  2. Jeff

    Buyer Beware….
    Notice in the pictures the steering wheels do not have the big crash pad, I doubt “Elvis” ever stepped foot in this one…

    Like 16
  3. Jeff

    Image of actual bumper car went Elvis drove it, checkout the steering wheel.

    Like 15
    • Mike

      They could of added the pad for safety at a later date.

      Like 9
  4. Ike Onick

    If the 1975 Edition King could have wedged his rotund bad self into to that rolling photo op, I would consider purchasing

    Like 3
  5. Howard A Member

    I agree with Ray, big deal. I suppose his toilet seats are worth a fortune too. Don’t get me wrong, Elvis was the KING of rock and roll, but the amusement park ride he allegedly drove,,,every minute one is born. Besides, too many bad memories. I never rode these because the bullies would gang up on me in a corner, and I just went over to the generator trailer and watched the Detroit motor wailing away,,

    Like 12
  6. Stangalang

    People complain about items that are associated with past superstars and cultural icons all the time..the thing is someone will want said items badly and will buy them. Just wait a few years and see what happens with Eddie Van Halen’s memorabilia. RIP bro

    Like 10
    • Ike Onick

      Good point, but cultural icons are only of interest to members of the icon’s generation. Do you think the BF demographic (70-something and grouchy) wants EVH stuff? They want a comfortable chair and some nice slippers.

      Like 7
      • Barney

        Hay weight a minute. I’m 71 and own three hot rods. I would love to have this thing but I’d put it on a custom Tube chassis with a Honda motor installed. Watch what you say about us baby boomers

        Like 7
  7. Jon

    Graceland should buy it and put it on display. Its part of the Elvis story.

    Like 12
  8. Greg Millard Member

    Old bumper cars, were for many of us, our first time behind the wheel of any powered vehicle – I remember them fondly. I have seen money worse spent, in fact ………

    Like 5
  9. Don

    I have an old Studebaker that was in the same city that Elvis was near once, anyone interested……….lol

    Like 9
  10. Jeff

    In 1968 my Uncles friends cousin drove a Taxi Cab that Elvis passed gas in. The back seat is in great condition and smells factory fresh, what do you guys think its worth today?

    Like 12
    • Stan Marks

      If the aroma, of Elvis’s fart still loomed, I might be interested. Of course, his fart has to be authenticated. LOL!

      On 2nd thought, his toilet should be worth more, provided it wasn’t cleaned.

      Like 5
    • Dave Mazz

      Jeff, Stan Marks is right!! Unless your uncle’s taxi-buddy’s cab, and Elvis’ hind end are “smell matching”, that Studebaker really isn’t worth much!!. -) -) :

      Like 1
      • Stan Marks


  11. Chio Laugal

    I don’t see the number 20 on any of the pictures with the King!

    Like 4
    • Stan Marks

      Chio, Looks like the #20 was added later. Doesn’t look original.

      • John b

        Thats probably the case. But if Elvis always wanted the 20 car how would he know which is the 20 car when there was no 20 on it?

  12. Troy s

    If I could have any piece of memorabilia from a musician it would be the red Gibson SG guitar Tony iommi used decades ago in Black Sabbath, ha ha ha, he’s not dead however.
    I dont know, Elvis fans are a real dedicated lot about this stuff, even finger nail clippings…..that’s weird but also true! The fans, the real ones who remember him are still out there and even some younger ones who weren’t quite yet conceived. It’s an institution.
    At the of the day it’s just a stupid bumper car with a ’67 Ford steering wheel, sorry as usual.

    Like 2
    • Stan Marks

      In ’57, I was 13. I remember wearing a button that said, “I Hate Elvis”. I wasn’t a fan & didn’t appreciate his music, till after he left the building.

      Like 3
      • Troy s

        Yeah, Stan, my folks weren’t really into him but they had some friends who were huge Elvis fans….one of the lady’s called up my mother crying hysterically, figured one of the men had been hurt or killed at work,,,nope, Elvis is Dead!
        My mom was like,,, well, uh, I’m sorry.
        If it had been Mick Jagger, well, the tears would’ve flowed!

        Like 1
  13. Jeff

    No doubt the Bumper Car is very kewl, what do you guys think about putting a Tesla motor and battery in and drive the heck out of it?

    Like 6
    • Stan Marks

      Hate to tell you, Jeff…..
      Tesla’s have no motors. They have batteries.

      Like 2
      • Jesse Mortensen Staff

        What are you talking about Stan? Teslas most definitely have electric motors.

        Like 9
  14. Steve Grajek

    Where would you put it?

  15. Stan Marks

    Jesse, I thought you were talking about gas motors. Sorry for the confusion…..
    Hey. I’m old. WTF do I know? LOL!!!!!

    Like 2
    • 72ChevelleSS

      A “motor” is electric, an “engine” is fuel…

  16. DON

    How do we know it wasn’t Eddie Parker who scratched his initials in the paint ?

    Like 2
  17. SDJames

    I’m going to scratch “EP” and create a COA for every pre ’77 piece I find from now on… ;)

    Like 2
  18. Jon Rappuhn

    As an old Elvis fan (still) the alleged provenance on this isn’t worth anything to me, however 30-40 years ago this would have been a fun addition to my shop-garage-man cave, but even back then anything more than a couple hundred bucks would be too much.

    Like 2
  19. Jeff

    Just For Giggles, Here Is The List Of Notable People With The Initials E.P.

    Like 3
  20. Bobby

    Is I just me or does it look like EX or an E with two hockey sticks?

    • Bobby

      I met to say, is it just me or does the initials look like EX or an E with two hockey sticks?

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