Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Karlin Lane and Country Classics antique malls in Bolivar, Mo., are worth pulling off to check out if you like cars

1948 Playboy
While many Kansas Citians think Bolivar, Mo., is a place that you have to pass through to get somewhere else, I’ve always considered the little southern Missouri town as a destination point. And if you like cars, there’s good reason for that.

For one, it is the home of Bolivar Speedway (formerly known as I-44 Speedway). It’s a great 3/8-mile paved track that hosts weekly Late Model and Modified events throughout the summer. It was one of the home tracks of Larry Phillips, one of the most accomplished NASCAR short track drivers in history, and drivers like Jamie McMurray also cut their teeth on the high-banked oval.

Bolivar is also the location for the Country Classics and Karlin Lane antique malls, which are pretty car-centric in their own rights. The two stores are located right next to each other, just off Highway 13.

1954 Kaiser Darrin
Now, I did visit these places a few years ago, and in addition to the antiques, there was a very impressive old car display at Karlin Lane. Unfortunately, most of the collection was sold off by VanDerbrink Auctions in July of 2009. Still, there are a couple of cars, and a big stash of memorabilia, to hold a car-lovers interest.

One of the cars still in the Country Classics showroom was a little, red ’48 Playboy. Not to be confused with the magazine, this was a small car with a 40-hp four-cylinder engine and a retractable steel top. Only 97 of the diminutive two-seaters were built, so seeing one is certainly a rare occurrence today.

1955 Chevy Bel Air
They also had a ’54 Kaiser Darrin. Only 435 of these were made, but you tend to see them quite a bit more often than the Playboy. The Kaiser Darrin was a real sports car, meant to compete with the Corvette. Penned by renowned designer Howard “Dutch” Darrin, this car has the distinction of being the first production fiberglass sports car in the world, just edging out the introduction of the Corvette. Kaiser Darrins were powered by a 90-hp, 161-c.i. inline six.

Over at Country Classics, the massive showroom that once housed dozens of cars now only held two. Both the ’55 Chevy Bel Air Coupe and the ’70 Shelby Mustang had been treated to impressive restorations, and they looked right at home in the front window of the mall’s showroom.

Among the normal antique mall fare, there were car-related items scattered throughout the two malls. Prices seemed to be, well, pretty high overall ($800 for an average-condition ’70 Chevelle dealer promo with no box??), but it was fun to window shop all the same.

Maybe the most interesting aspect of this setup was the décor surrounding the antique malls. Old gas pumps and petroleum signs were everywhere. It was quite a sight from the highway, and even better up close.

So there you go. If you like old, unusual cars, models, signs, and memorabilia, it might be worth pulling off the highway to check out the Country Classics and Karlin Lane antique malls as you pass through Bolivar, Mo.

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