May 14, 2012
"In my business I am always looking for something interesting to set myself apart, and this fit two bills," he said, "it attracted me personally and (as a businessman). It's a handful - but I bought it with the specific purpose of using it as an advertising and marketing piece for car insurance."
Konell, 52, grew up in Douglasville and "started from scratch" as an insurance agent in 1984. He and has been working out of Phoenixville for the past 16 years and currently lives in Kimberton.
"I researched, and the cars were made by a company (called) the Allen Herschell Company, out of New York," he said, "and they were, at the turn of the century, one of the largest, if not the largest, carousel makers in the world. In the 40's and 50's they branched off into rides for kids and came up with a series of rides that they would sell to amusement parks."
The 180-pound cars are not motorized, but are pulled by a motor in the middle of the trailer that connects to the cars with metal arms. They measure approximately five feet long by two-and-a-half feet wide, and have decorative steering wheels that kids can turn as the ride goes around.
"It's all self contained with an electrical panel, 240 electric, a 4hp engine, and start and stop buttons. You just plug it in somewhere and turn it on - it's pretty wild." he said, "It's not a dangerous ride. It's made for small children, and it's not going to go fast."
When he first visited Antique Archeology, Konell spoke with the shop's assistant, Danielle, and asked to see the carnival ride. He then went home, began negotiating, and settled on a price tag of $3,000.
"I bought it with the intention of restoring it," he said, "then I plan to bring it to events like First Friday, the Kimberton Fair or other local events. I'll set it up and advertise my business by giving away free rides."
"After I agreed to buy it -I was called and asked " how would you like to be on the show?" Konell said, "So I drove out with a truck that I borrowed and met the producers. They came up with a scenario as to how it should play out and they filmed me for over an hour."
They filmed Konell negotiating the price, buying the ride, and then loading it up and driving it away. He said that the shows stars were very friendly, and act the same way in real life as they do on the show.
"I'm curious to see what the episode looks like, it was pretty interesting - I wasn't anticipating such a level of production, with so many takes, so it gives you an appreciation for what goes on behind the scenes."
Once Konell finished shooting, the trip home was almost 900 miles and took him over 17 hours. While returning, he came across two people who recognized the ride, one of which was a tollbooth operator for the Pennsylvania Turnpike in Morgantown.
"It was about eleven o'clock at night. I pull up and he says 'That looks like the ride from American Pickers' and I say 'It is, keep watching because I'll be on one of the shows in the future.'"
As of now, however, the ride needs a lot of work, and Konell describes it as a winter-time project.
"Hopefully by spring I will have it up and running," he said.
The cars and the trailer need to be sand blasted and repainted, the electric motor and wiring that power the ride need to be fixed, the tires on the cars will likely need replacing, and the trailer must be made road-worthy.
"Right now it seems to be a fairly daunting task, but once I get rolling it should go pretty smoothly." he said, "I do tinker, and I enjoy collecting and refurbishing old items, but I have not done anything this large, so this is a whole new area for me. I've got people who can help me with the logistics of what to do first, second and so on... ... and I'm going to put their company names on the cars as a 'thank you'."
When asked what part of the restoration he was looking most forward to - Looking most forward to having it finished and up and running the most.
"I have some nieces and nephews who fell in love with the thing," he said.
- Story courtesy of The Phoenix, JUSTIN FINNERAN