Dwarf Cars, Legend Racers? Only in Arizona

The Sherriff is in town and parked at the Dwarf Car Museum.
The Sheriff is in town and parked at the Dwarf Car Museum.

This winter Charlotte and I were amazed to discover Dwarf Cars and Legend Racers in our travels of the Arizona deserts. We were leaving the Phoenix area and planning on finding some BLM (Bureau of Land Management) land on which to spend the night. For those of you who are not aware the USA has millions of acres primarily in the west that are government owned on which they allow free camping. In most areas the maximum stay is 14 days, no services, pack in pack out. We thank the American people for sharing their land with us.

Back to our discovery, we stopped for lunch at a state park somewhere in the Maricopa County and the young lady camp host told us while in the area we had to see Ernie’s Dwarf Car Museum which she said was nearby. With our truck camper home is always where we park it, so we figured it did not matter where we stopped for the night we would take the time and check it out. Good thing we looked it up and set our GPS which should be called MSD (Marriage Saving Device as Char had the lawyer on speed dial during our entire trip). Following the GPS down roads we would never have taken and side roads we were surprised to find what we would call an incredible discovery right out in the desert.

A great find in the desert the Dwarf Car Museum.
A great find in the desert the Dwarf Car Museum.

The Dwarf Car Museum nothing fancy just a wooden structure and a workshop, inside we met Ernie, a down to earth very humble man, a creator of automobile masterpieces.  We were told even while in grade school Ernie was building automobiles out of wooden crates. Years later he got more serious and created his first Dwarf car, a Chevy 2 door sedan made out of 9 old refrigerators. The “Grampa Dwarf” was manufactured in 1968. Ernie had collected pieces for 3 years to build that first car which included an 18 hp. Wisconsin engine.  That original car is still running and driving today as all his creations are running and street legal in Arizona. If I’m not mistaken I think all are built to ¾ scale right down to the trim and upholstery.

Ernie Adams beside one of his master piece 3/4 scale cars. "Im going to drive this one to town tonight", he said after starting it up.
Ernie Adams beside one of his masterpiece 3/4 scale cars a 1940 Mercury sedan. “Im going to drive this one to town tonight”, he said after starting it up.

After attending sidecar motorcycle races in Phoenix Ernie felt they were too slow on the corners and adding a fourth wheel would speed up the race. He went to work in his shop to produce a four wheel version adding a body to it that was identified with the cars of that era. He felt it would add to the excitement as well as the speed to the racing. In 1979 the first Dwarf Racer rolled out; now known in the racing world as the Legends. The first race in Prescott, Arizona in 1983 featured 12 of Ernie’s cars and the small racers are still popular today. Ernie said he did not want to get into the manufacturing business so sold his 12 designs to a company that continues to manufacture them today using fiberglass bodies.

Myself and my friend pose with one of Ernie's Dwarf Racers now know as the Legends.
Myself and my friend pose with one of Ernie’s Dwarf Racers now known as the Legends.

The metal shaping skills Ernie had learned building the racers he then went on to master and apply to what he wanted as a masterpiece as he felt his first “Grampa Dwarf” was a little crude. He wanted to produce right down to the detail trim and interior a running replica of a 1932 Chev 2 door sedan. Approximately 3 years later it became what would become one of many masterpieces as you can see by the photographs.

Can I take it home, the 1932 Chev 2 door sedan his first built after the Dwarf Racers.
Can I take it home Charlotte likes this one, the 1932 Chev 2 door sedan his first built after the Dwarf Racers.
One could spend all day in here.
One could spend all day in here.
"Little Betty" the dtail is increadable and there is a story behind this one.
“Little Bitty” the detail is incredible and there is a story behind this one.
Charlotte likes them all you cpould get at least six into a full size garage.
Charlotte likes them all you could get at least six into a full size garage. A 49 Mercury sedan that wants a V8.
How about a 1942 Ford convertable?
How about a 1942 Ford convertible?
1934 Ford coupe.
1934 Ford coupe.
1954 Chev Bel Air a tight squeeze for me. Perfect in every detail including the whitewall tires.
1954 Chev Bel Air a tight squeeze for me. Perfect in every detail including the whitewall tires the rims are after market.
Looks like the 29 Ford Hillbilly to me.
Looks like the 29 Ford Hillbilly to me.

People’s amazement and fascination with the Dwarf Cars kept Ernie motivated to keep on building I think I counted eight and I don’t think he may be done yet. I asked if they were running, Ernie walked over to the Dwarf 1940 Mercury sedan and started it up giving it a couple of good revs a big grin on his face, “I’m going to drive this one to town tonight”. Ernie now uses import engines in the cars he said before showing me his shop and a large 4×8 sheet of metal that someday will become another masterpiece, a work in progress in a regular shop with simple tools, not big fancy equipment or robots to do the work.

Ernie at home in his work shop where he is happiest. No robot assembly line in here truley hand made in Arizona.
Ernie at home in his work shop where he is happiest. No robot assembly line in here truly handmade in Arizona.
Myself with Ernie the builder of Dwarf Cars and the original Dwarf Racers.
Myself with Ernie the builder of Dwarf Cars and the original Dwarf Racers.
Well presented the museum is definately worth checking out. the hours of labour and love put into this by Ernie and his family shows.
Well presented the museum is definitely worth checking out. The hours of labour and love put into this by Ernie and his family shows.
It's just not all cars either.
It’s just not all cars either.
Something for the motorbike collector.
Something for the motorbike collector.
Some may say I'm wrong but I believe this is the original Ford V8 flathead.
Some may say I’m wrong but I believe this is the original Ford V8 flathead.

The collection of cars includes of course the “Grampa Dwarf” a 1928 Chevy 2 door, 1939 Chevy 2 door sedan, 1942 Ford convertible, 1929 Ford Hillbilly, 1949 Mercury, 1934 Ford sedan, 1940 Mercury sedan and a 1954 Chev Bel Air. I actually just touched on a bit of the history and the museum you really must if at all possible see it in person to believe it. For those who cannot I hope I have shared a bit and you can find out more at www.dwarfcarmuseum.com  The museum is located 52954 West Halfmoon Rd. Maricopa, Arizona 85139.

Even Dwarf Cars sometimes need maintenance, just like the big ones.
Even Dwarf Cars sometimes need maintenance, just like the big ones.

The day Charlotte and I visited it was quite busy with people but we were impressed with the way Ernie took the time with us all to answer questions and of course to pose for photographs. With the help of his family members they were very hospitable, just down home people proud of the pleasure they give to others with the presentation of the “Dwarf Cars”.

Thankful to have our truck camper if we were towing 40 feet behind us we probably would have not have taken the time to visit what I consider one of the “Wonders of Arizona”.  Did we find a resting spot, yes somewhere in the desert between there and Yuma. Arizona a few miles from the Mexican border. We happened to take a trail to another quiet spot and enjoyed a restful evening on top of a hill overlooking the vast desert, home for the night.

Home for the night somewhere down a dirt road.
Home for the night somewhere down a dirt road.
The back yard,  the best so far that is until our next stop.
The back yard, the best so far that is until our next stop.

Thank you to the new subscribers and those interested this job pays nothing so it’s your interest that makes it worthwhile. I must admit though as I’m running so far behind on my posts from last winter it’s nice to revisit some of our notes and images for myself and Charlotte as she checks to make sure I got things spelled right. Subscribers get notice by email when I finally get something hammered out and 100’s of photos edited to post.

More to come on our experience in truck camper off grid living and the great people we met in the desert and how our experience changed us and our impression of the desert.

Safe travels this summer we really hope to meet some of you down the road.

Gerry and Charlotte, ”Practicing Nomads”.

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