HomeEntertainment‘American Pickers’: Mike Wolfe Once Discovered a 1920s Electric Car

‘American Pickers’: Mike Wolfe Once Discovered a 1920s Electric Car

by Josh Lanier
(Photo by Rick Diamond/Getty Images for Ovation)

The idea of the electric car seems like a new invention. But as American Pickers pointed out, these vehicles have been around nearly as long as their gas-powered brethren. Mike Wolfe and Danielle Colby came across one of these early electric cars during a pick two seasons ago.

Mike and Danielle were picking a garage in Pennsylvania when they came across an Auto Red Bug. The car — if you can call it that — has four wheels, two aluminum seats, and a steering wheel. That’s it. The cars were built this way to keep costs low. In 1924, you could buy an Auto Red Bug for $125, while a Model-T cost $265, according to the Lane Motor Museum. But the Model-T came with doors and a hood so it’s a tie in the end. An electric motor attached to a fifth wheel behind the driver’s seat would propel the car.

The Guinness Book of World Records lists the Red Bug as the cheapest car of all time. But the fact that they’re so rare today meant the American Pickers crew would need to shell out a lot to drive it home. The negotiations go back and forth, but Wolfe is eventually able to “bundle” his way to a purchase. He bought a vintage car grill, a Packard Motor Car Company sign, and the electric car for $9,800.

The car cost $4,500 of that amount. American Pickers didn’t say what Wolfe plans to sell it for. A classic car website lists a similar aged Red Bug for $16,900. So, potentially a home run for Wolfe.

According to Classic Car Weekly, the Indian Motor Cycle Company purchased the design rights to the Red Bug in the 1930s, but it’s unclear why the company didn’t do anything with it.

‘American Pickers’ Star Knows His Classic Cars, But He Loves Bikes

Mike Wolfe has said he’s made a lot of money finding and flipping antique cars. And the more unique the better. But his heart is on two wheels not four. He started his career finding and flipping bicycles, and he’s since moved onto motorcycles. He has a giant collection of motorcycles at his Nashville warehouse.

But his first love remains bicycles. The reason goes back to his childhood because he grew up poor and a bike wasn’t an unobtainable

“But when I got on a bicycle I felt really good because of my strength-to-weight ratio,” he said. “I started collecting bicycles when I was young because my mother was a single mother. I grew up with a brother and sister, and my father left when I was two. And she couldn’t afford to buy us a bicycle.”

For the American Picker, bikes represent freedom.

“You can go anywhere you want to, unlike a road bike which limits you to a strip of asphalt,” Mike Wolfe continued. “Mountain bikes have the ability to steer you off well-worn routes allowing you to call the shots for where you ride next.”