He built his first car

By on January 1, 2014

Below is a story submitted by local resident Helen Reinhold-Gordon, who wrote about her father, Richard Reinhold, and the car he built in 1944, called The Rein Car.

There are many fond memories for Hershey AACA life member Richard A. Reinhold, Sr. as he thinks over a lifetime of being an avid vehicle enthusiast. If it had an engine and it moved he was interested.

Pictured is the Rein Car, a car built by 86-year-old Reinholds resident Richard Reinhold in 1944.

Pictured is the Rein Car, a car built by 86-year-old Reinholds resident Richard Reinhold in 1944.

The 86-year-old driver has many good stories to tell of the last 40 years of restoring antique cars, building a pay loader, a fork lift and a river boat to name a few creations. But the one project he thinks about most is the first car he owned and the first vehicle he built with his own hands. Here is his story of the first and only Rein Car.

Mr. Reinhold’s story begins at the tender age of 14, when he worked at the local Reinholds planing mill. The date was 1941 and it was there that he began dreaming of building his own car. Richard’s job at the mill was to sharpen all the saws and knives for the business. He also helped build the wooden boxes from slats that the company fabricated; the boxes were used for airplane parts to be crated and shipped overseas for the war.

“We worked from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m., half hour off for lunch and one hour for supper, five days a week and Saturday until noon,” Reinhold commented. Because he had access to lots of wooden slates at the mill, he thought of making the car body out of wood instead of metal.

His love for cars began two years earlier at the age of 12. Richard worked on a farm owned by Harvey Gehman where he learned to drive the tractors and trucks the farmer owned.

“By the age of 14, I was driving my Uncle Tom’s 1929 Desoto Sedan on the road every chance I got. Of course Uncle Tom rode along because he had a license,” Reinhold reminisced. On work days, Richard drove a Whizzer Motor Bike to the mill two miles along the railroad tracks from his home. This smaller motorized bike made him prefer a more compact vehicle versus his uncle’s big car. “The one thing I knew I wanted was a smaller car then I saw around and at the time all cars were big like my Uncle’s,” he commented.

The first advantage Mr. Reinhold had to fulfilling his dream was his work shop that he built. In 1940, a farmer down the road from where he lived, tore all the wooden flooring out of his farm house. The farmer agreed to allow an ambitious Reinhold to haul all the used wood boards home. He built his first shop from that lumber on his parent’s property. In this shop, with a hammer, foot rule from his dad and Rich’s own quarter-inch electric drill, he starting making things. He envisioned building his car in this shop.

The second advantage he had in prospects of building a car was the fact that he knew at a very young age how to make money.

Reinhold used a heavy canvas airplane stretch material and a substance called “dope,” to cover and shellac the car. He then sprayed painted the body with four coats of Duck green metallic paint.

Reinhold used a heavy canvas airplane stretch material and a substance called “dope,” to cover and shellac the car. He then sprayed painted the body with four coats of Duck green metallic paint.

“I started making wooden clothes pins, making 150 dozen a weekend,” explained Reinhold. “Clothes pins were hard to get at wartime. I sold the pins to Pomeroy’s Department Store in Reading, Denver Hardware Supply Company and Ephrata Hardware Store. I would make $39 every weekend and that was a lot of money in those days.”

The money he earned at the planing mill and clothes pin sales helped him to buy tools and parts to fulfill his vision.

“I wasn’t really worried about money at the time. I just loved to make things and see how things worked.”

Reinhold’s first real vehicle was a motorcycle with a sidecar he bought when he turned 16. He eventually took the side car body off the frame and made a wooden body with two tail gates to haul lumber. The body was similar to a platform truck body which he used to haul parts to build his car.

Reinhold found a Model A frame and a Model T frame at a local junkyard owned by James Harding. He cut up the two frames and fashioned one frame for the chassis to his car. He used all fine threaded bolts to hold the chassis together instead of welding it because he had no welder at the time. He found a 1937 Ford rear and cut six inches off each side of the rear and fabricated it down 12 inches less than standard width at Ollie Sholmartin’s Garage in Reinholds. Reinhold credits his friend Ollie Jr. with helping him on the chassis.

Tom O’Brien had a machine shop in Reamstown where he cut the rear axles six inches down on a 1937 Ford. This car also came from a junkyard and he narrow gauged the front down 12 inches. He then had Jim Harding weld it for him.

The back springs from this 1937 Ford were removed and The Reading Spring Works cut the springs down to fit this chassis.

“I found a 1937 Ford 60 horsepower engine also from a junkyard. In 1944, I talked to the Ford dealer in Denver called E.T. Line. The owner did a ‘little phone calling’ and was able to order me a brand-new short block for my engine. The last 60 horse power engine was built in 1940. But the Michigan factory still had some left in stock. I was lucky,” he boasted.

He spent a lot of hours until 2 a.m. assembling the chassis with his friend Ollie Jr. and in other spare time, he would build the wooden slatted body in the planning mill. The mill owner, Harry Gring, did not mind young Richard using the mill after regular work hours.

One of the few relaxing things Reinhold did in those days was to go roller skating. One night at the Sinking Spring Roller Skating Rink, he met a 45-year-old man named Bill who happened to be head foreman at the Reading Airport. Reinhold showed the man pictures of the car in progress. After Bill saw the wooden slats that made up the body of the car he asked Rich what he was going to use to cover the body. After Reinhold replied, “I really don’t know,” the man told Reinhold to come down to the airport as he had something to help.

Bill showed Richard a very heavy canvas airplane stretch material that was used to cover the TWA airplane tails at the time. Bill told Richard he would sell the fabric at cost plus a substance called “dope,” a shellac to coat the material. Richard later covered the wooden body with the airplane material and put on 19 separate coats of dope.

“Every time I brushed on the dope the material would stretch when wet and then dry and shrink tight,” he recalls. “Later, I sprayed the body with four coats of Duck green metallic paint.”

Richard used wheels the size of a Metropolitan car to fit the mini wooden vehicle. Bumpers from a 1941 Pontiac were cut down and installed. The center grill section of this 1941 Pontiac was used as were its tail lights. A 1939 Dodge Dash was found and 12 inches was cut out of it to fit the small car. The car also had electric windshield wipers. Richard installed three chrome circles on the outside to dress the car up like a Buick. The gas tank came out of a Crosley and he remembers the headlights were sealed beams. The car had a three speed standard floor shift, the seats came out of a junk yard and the dash was green.

A 60 horse power engine used in the typical style car of the times would have given those rides little power. This pieced together car with its smaller diameter wheel base, 10 inches less in diameter then the standard car, allowed the small car to have a lot of power. Soon after the car was finished, Reinhold and Ollie Jr. drove to The Langhorne Motor Speedway near Philadelphia one Sunday. The car had a good trial run on the track that day.

“My small car could run at 70 mph,” Reinhold gleamed as he remembered. “The car handled like a midget race car.”

When Richard called the notary to have it licensed he was told it had to first be inspected. The notary required a Lancaster County inspector to come out and look at it. Richard took the state policeman for a wild ride and the officer deemed the car road worthy. While the officer was writing the letter of approval for the notary he told Reinhold he needed a name for the car. Reinhold proudly said, “The Rein Car.” So in 1944, the first and only Rein Car was built, licensed and titled.

Reinhold drove the car until 1949. At 19, he realized he needed a pickup truck to start his own contracting business to build houses. He traded the Rein Car for a truck. Reinhold knew of the next four owners of the Rein Car but then he lost track.

“I sure wish I could find that car, even what is left of it. I am now 86 years old, but would still like to restore it,” said Reinhold. “I would love to have one more ride in The Rein Car.”

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