Grandma's Electric Shopper!

Sometime in the 1950s, Grandma bought herself an "Electric Shopper".  The model was manufactured from 1952 to 1962 by the Electric Car Company out of Long Beach, CA.   It's impressive 1.5 horsepower engine was capable of a teeth-rattling 18 miles-per-hour. 

According to Uncle Jack, Grandma got a lot of use out of it during her years in Indio, CA, and Dad remembers her using it while she lived in apartments in Costa Mesa.  Brother Mike remembers numerous rides with Grandma in her "Shopper". 

Sometime in the late 60s, or early 70s, the Shopper was moved to the garage of our family house on College Drive.  My memories are of sitting on the bench seat with Tuttie, pretending we were off on an errand somewhere.  On a sunny day in 1978, Dad rolled the Shopper out onto the driveway, painted it orange, placed flower decals all around the exterior, and attached a small pot of plastic flowers to the car(decades before Volkswagon introduced the same feature in their new Beetle!).  He charged the Shopper's batteries, and we spent the afternoon trading turns enjoying rides around the neighborhood.

Sometime after Jack purchased the condo for he and Grandma on Fairview Road, the Shopper took up residence in their garage.  The last time the Shopper was registered with the DMV was 1978.

Thirty years have passed.  Grandma died in January of 1986.  For a few years now, I've been telling Uncle Jack that, one day,  I was going to pick up the Shopper, take it home, and restore it to its original glory.  Well, that day has finally come...

August 23, 2008 

Julie and I enlisted her father, Dave, to help us pick up the Shopper.  Dave has a custom trailer that he uses to cart around his 1925 Chrysler to various car shows, and we knew it would make our task much, much easier.  We arrived at Jack's place at 10am, and he led me back to the garage, where I got my first glimpse of the Shopper in 30 years...

At first, I thought, wow, it's in terrible shape.  But after closer inspection, it became apparent that it just has a massive amount of dust covering its every nook and cranny.  Dave inflated 2 of the Shopper's 3 tires, but the third couldn't be inflated, which explains the tilted appearance the Shopper has in some of these photos.

That one un-inflated tire made it a bit difficult to push, but we were all feeling especially manish that day.  




As usual, William wanted to get in on the action...

He made a full inspection before allowing us to push the Shopper up onto the Trailer.

Jack's neighbors were fascinated by the Shopper, and several stopped to talk.  This gentleman explained that a friend of his has something similar that he often uses as a conveyance to many of the neighborhood Costa Mesa watering holes.

I found that story funny.


The Shopper now securely fastened to the trailer, William celebrated by eating his shoe.

A brief pause to appreciate a cool painting on Jack's living room wall...

We drove straight from Jack's place to a battery store, where we learned that 4 6-volt batteries could be had for $129 each(yikes!).  All the dark areas you see on the upholstery are dust, and will come off easily.  The upholstery is actually in good shape, with no tears.

The heavily corroded batteries.

I celebrated with a Diet Coke.  We left the Shopper at the battery store overnight, and will pick it up tomorrow morning.  Of course, we don't have a charger for the batteries, but we'll have batteries!



Today the Electric Shopper got its first bath since 1978.  The dust was piled pretty high.  Here are some before and after shots...




Here's Will ready to blast off.  I must've sat in that seat with my hand on that tiller a million times when I was a kid, and now here's my kid doing the same thing!





Well, with new batteries and tires, it was time to give the Shopper its first spin in 30 years.  We knew the wiring was good, as the horn, headlight, and tail lights all worked just fine.  But we had no idea if the motor was operational.  Luckily, it worked like a charm, and I tentatively drove it down the alley...