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Published: Tuesday, 10/18/2011

Old vehicles fuel happy memories for collector

Massachusetts lawyer fills up 2 warehouses


HUDSON, Mass. — Charles Gould, a lawyer whose collection of more than 100 vintage cars, motorcycles, and scooters fills two warehouses here, recounted a memorable brush with law enforcement.

“I have a speeding ticket for 78 miles per hour,” he began.

That opening line would not have held much promise, except that the subject of his story was a 1916 Mercer Six Passenger Touring, a big, elegant car with maroon doors and a black folding top.

On the day he received the speeding ticket, Mr. Gould recalled, he was in an informal competition of his own, returning from a trip to Mount Sunapee in New Hampshire.

“I was racing a 1913 Locomobile and a 1912 Pierce-Arrow,” he said, describing two vehicles that may technically qualify as horseless carriages. “And they were beating me,” he continued. “We came over a hill and there was a Vermont state trooper. He saw our readings before he saw the cars, and he just couldn’t believe what they were. He pointed at us to stop, and we all stood on our brakes.”

The brakes on the Mercer are made of wood, he said, and they’re only on the rear wheels, which are also wood.

“We came to a stop about four miles down the road,” he said, taking some license to emphasize the car’s primitive stopping ability.

By far, the Mercer is the oldest car in his collection. He has several dozen microcars.

“At first, I thought there were just Isettas,” he said, referring to the minuscule BMW made after World War II. “Then I thought there were Isettas and Messerschmitts. Then I thought there were Isettas, Messerschmitts, and Goggomobils. Then I did a little more research, and everywhere I turned, there was another manufacturer.

“It became like the holy grail to chase them all down,” he said.

Perfectly sized to go with them is a scale-model camper-trailer, a salesman’s demonstration model of a 1969 Evers Caravan.

“I bought my first car when I was 9 years old,” he said.

It was a 1954 Chevrolet Bel Air, purchased for $20 or so at a junkyard down the street from his childhood home in Lancaster, Mass. Towing it home cost $10 more.

“I hung around the junkyard and got to know the owner,” he said. “He took me under his wing as a sort of apprentice.”

He fixed up the Chevy on his own. Parts and mechanical guidance were free at the junkyard, he said. He eventually sold the car for a small profit.

At 15, Mr. Gould obtained an auto dealer’s license by exploiting a loophole (the application didn’t ask for a date of birth, he said). A year or so later, he bought a gas station that had gone out of business.

“My father co-signed the mortgage for me,” he said. “It had two lifts, which was great. And I was at an age where I was just cultivating my independence. I set up an apartment in a back room. ...I have too many stories and memories.”

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