Orville Redenbacher’s Ride: 1931 Ford Popcorn Wagon

By Jeff Bennett

Last week, I regaled you with the description of a Good Humor ice cream truck that was down on its luck, but full of potential.  This week, I have something simpler to help you make a small fortune in the antique truck based vending business.  While it is a little run down, and could use a lot of tender loving care, this 1931 Model AA popcorn wagon could be the start of a lucrative second cash flow for one of our readers.  Found on Craigslist in carnival friendly New Castle, Indiana, this popcorn truck is being sold for a cool $19,000.  While the price is eye popping, let’s take a look to see if this primitive peddler is worth the price of admission.

Back in the day, when people were entertained by far simpler pleasures, circuses, fairs, and carnivals were the biggest attractions to hit small town America.  When people showed up at these events, they did two things: spend money on attractions and rides and spend money on food.  Nothing, except for maybe sausage, peppers, and onions, smells as good as fresh popped popcorn, and it became a favorite food at these events.  To fill this need, a company called Cretors began building dedicated popcorn wagons for circuses, fairs, and carnivals across the country.  These started out as horse drawn wagons, but soon ended up being built on automobile and truck chassis.  Many of the survivors today, beautiful examples of craftsmanship and design, were originally placed on Model A car and Model AA truck chassis.

This one, sadly, is not a Cretors creation.  While the seller doesn’t give us any clues as to the origin of this truck, it wouldn’t be out of line to speculate that it was hand built in the sixties or seventies.  The wood work, while complete and sturdy in design, lacks the grace and styling of a Cretors popcorn wagon.  The cabinet hinges and knobs are standard sixties vintage household hardware, and the whole thing has a homemade air to it.

In the driver’s area, we see the standard Model AA truck steering wheel and a black painted Model AA instrument cluster.  The floor board looks to be vintage Model AA, and doesn’t appear to have rusted through yet.  The seat looks pretty comfy and beefy, and the builder was nice enough to build you a ledge to put your left arm on.

Back where the money is made, things are a bit more utilitarian.  Plywood kitchen type cabinets and vintage formica make up the bulk of this area.  Despite being a popcorn wagon, no popcorn popper is present.  Perhaps it is in one of the cabinets, or it is waiting for you on Amazon.com.  Before you begin, a lot of detail work will need to be completed, from repainting the cabinets to replacing the glass in the back door that appears to be freshly stolen from Aunt B’s house.

Under the hood is the standard Model A engine, complete with exposed plug wires and a battery resting precariously on a shelf above the engine.  Good for about 40 horsepower, this inline four cylinder engine would be fine for propelling this popcorn wagon around the event, but it likely would take you a while to get to a food truck event in the next county.

Underneath, we see that thing’s haven’t changed much since Herbert Hoover was in office.  While rusty, the frame and suspension seem to be solid, and the tires look fair.  Those rods you see activate the mechanical brakes, which are about as effective as you think they might be.  No new fangled hydraulics for this popcorn wagon!

So, it may not be a Cretors popcorn wagon, but it doesn’t have a Cretors price either.  Prices on those run north of $50,000, and they are about as impractical to drive longer distances.  You just look good attempting it.  This one would need some work, and you would be a lot better off towing it to gigs than driving it, but the potential is there.  People love to eat, and the smell of popcorn is one of the best salesmen you will ever work with.  I think the price might be a bit high, but I already have a day job and a second gig that I kinda like.

What do you readers think of this one?

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Comments

  1. DrinkinGasoline

    I would have to turn this into a Taco Truck of sorts, keeping with the period correct theme of the truck. A period correct trailer would be required for support. This AA parked among the usual Step-Vans at the Downtown Food Truck Friday ??
    Eye Catcher…..No Brainer !

    2+
  2. JW

    Cool I like it and it would make some money at local car shows. But living in Missouri with some pretty steep hills that 4 banger and braking system would require flat bedding it to shows outside my small town. The little bit of refurbishing the cosmetics wouldn’t be a big deal to me but his price is a little high IMHO.

    3+
    • Otto Nobedder

      JW Heres the perfect flatbed for it

      0
  3. LAB3

    You’d have to sell a LOT of popcorn to pay for itself but I could see it being used as a trailer of sorts for selling tshirts or other swag with a different paint job. An attention getter for sure!

    4+
  4. Sam

    Swag would be the better way to go. Retrofitting this for for food prep/sales would be expensive to meet health code (we’ve all been to events where the operator’s view of sanitary is dicey…your lower GI tract will be the final judge) unless you re-sell prepacked items.

    This would be a great static piece for a store like Jungle Jim’s in Cincy. $7,500 tops.

    2+
  5. TdF 83

    doesn’t look like an AA to me, looks more like a an A chassis which has been stretched, very funky

    1+
  6. Graywolf

    I see this as a Beer Truck! Keg-“A”-Rator!!

    1+
  7. Steve H

    Pretty interesting vehicle, but way overpriced for the condition it’s in. I agree with TdF, $7500 tops.

    0
  8. Sebtown

    Model A floor boards are wood, wood doesn’t rust. I don’t recognize the frame as being from any Ford of that period.

    1+
  9. Will
    0

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