March '18

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52 THE SHOP MARCH 2018 has hundreds in his shop and thousands more in his cabinets—and one in his house. That's a very special one, though "I've seen thousands (of AAA badges), and it's the only one—the only one—that I found that was mis-struck!" The AAA New York badge has the AAA upside down. A LITTLE BATTY Wales loves to do more than collect auto club badges from all over the world, build medi- eval armor and swords and rescue rusted-out fire engines from pastures and bring them new life as one-of-a-kind creations. With a mentor like George Barris, it's no surprise Wales also makes Batmobiles. Not the actual Barris versions seen on television, mind you, but massive versions of his own design. His first one was made from an ancient firetruck. "Barris came over one day, shortly before he died. He handed me this badge and said, 'Here, you are now the only person officially licensed to create Batmobiles,'" Wales recalls. The badge is mounted proudly to the driver's side of the dashboard. Wales has since built a second Batmo- bile. This one is based off of a car—a 1939 Bentley. In the early days of luxury auto- mobile manufacturing, car companies such as Rolls-Royce and Bentley didn't build the bodies to their cars. Instead, they would build the rolling chassis and that would be sent to a coachbuilder, such as Hooper, H.J. Mulliner & Co. or Park Ward. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how you look at the situation), Wales' car didn't originally go to one of those coachbuilders. It was completed with a cheap steel body that was rusted out and, according to Wales, absolute garbage. Much like Anna Thompson Dodge (the widow of Horace Dodge) did when she saw her 1925 Rolls-Royce Phantom ragtop with Hooper coachwork before sending it to Jonckheere in the Netherlands, where it was resurrected as The Round Door Rolls, Wales hated the chintzy body, so he took it off and threw it out. The two cars have something else in common: unique doors. While Dodge's Rolls-Royce, which is currently parked at the entryway to the Petersen Automotive Museum, has, as its name implies, a circular entrance, Wales' Batmobile has a shape that can't really be described. However, it is the only car in the world Wales knows of that has the door formed around the spare tire. Decades of research went into this one- of-a-kind design, and Wales' creativity was rewarded when he received a design award from the ArtCenter College of Design in Pasadena. It's said that 70 percent of all car designs are made by graduates of this school, so it is quite an honor. THE EXTRA SMILE Everything in Wales' shop/home has a story and, if you have the time, he'll gladly tell it to you. And most are fascinating. Many of the items on display, such as a dragon statue that Dan Haggerty gave to 52 THE SHOP MARCH 2018 Wales A TALE OF A Wales' sixth La Bestioni, nicknamed Rusty One, may soon be sold—so he can continue to acquire more unique vehicles. A side hobby is collecting auto club badges.

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