‘American Pickers’: Mike Wolfe Once Dropped Thousands on an Electric Car From the 1920s

by Taylor Cunningham

During a season 20 American Pickers episode, Mike Wolfe stumbled upon a rare electric car from eras past that may have given him one of his biggest ROIs yet.

The miniature red vehicle, which looks more like a vintage go-cart than a car, was built somewhere between 1925 and 1926. And without pause, Wolfe gave the seller and viewers the down-low on its creation.

Apparently, the electric car is called a Red Bug. And the model was originally made by a company named Smith in the early 1900s. Upon its first release, it was dubbed the Smith Flier. At that time, it was gas-powered and had a fifth wheel on the back.

But in the 1910s, Smith sold the concept to Briggs & Stratton, and then eventually, it ended up with another company called Automotive Electric Services. And it gave the car its new name and started swapping the gas motor for the electric variety.

The particular car that the American Pickers team found was one of the last to be produced, and one of the few that still remain intact.

“They’re super cool,” Wolfe gushed.

‘American Pickers’ Host Mike Wolfe Snagged the Car in a Bundled Deal

Obviously, Mike knew he had to have the Red Bug. So he decided to bundle the purchase with an antique Packard sign and hope for the best.

When the host began haggling, he started with $9,500. But the deal wasn’t sweet enough for the seller, who wanted an extra $500. But Wolfe didn’t think he could swing $10,000 for those two items alone. So he told the seller he’d throw in an extra $200 if he could also take a rusty car grille that was hanging on the wall as well.

That was good enough for the seller, and Mike became the proud new owner of a 1920s electric Red Bug.

In the end, Mike said that $4,500 of the overall cost went towards the car, which meant that he stood to make a serious profit on the purchase. Because the car is so rare, models have gone for high-dollar at auctions.

While the condition of the vehicle certainly makes a difference in the sale price, Wolfe’s car wasn’t terrible. And aside from that, the American Pickers host owns his own restoration shop. So he can fix up all his purchases in-house and at cost.

And after scouring the internet, you can find models selling at all different price points. But mint condition Red Bugs sell for over $20,000. In fact, one model recently sold through the Classic Promenade auction site for $24,800.