This antique automobilia dealer sells cool classic model cars so he can collect his own.
When it comes to model cars, we can’t think of anybody more enthusiastic and knowledgeable than Mark Lewis of Charlton, Massachusetts. One exception might be our friend Steve Magnante. Steve is the automotive journalist and TV host who first told us about Mark through his Elapsed Times magazine article on vintage model kits, recently posted on this website. Mark is a model car kit collector and dealer. He’s also the man behind Lew’s Collectibles and displays and sells vintage model car kits and practically every other type of small automotive-related items. We told you a little bit about him and showed you numerous collectibles from his enormous inventory in Parts 1 Part 2 of this story recently.
“Years ago, after I had moved to Massachusetts, I joined a model car club and learned about model car and vintage toy shows in the New England area,” Mark told us recently. “I went to a couple shows and was totally blown away. After that, I realized that if I was going to be able to do what I really wanted—which was to build a big model kit collection—I was going to have to become a dealer. Even in the ’80s, some of these model kits were like $100 apiece or more. I realized that in order to get my pocketbook big enough to be part of it, I had to start going to shows and buying a selling. Now I have a vendor space at the Detroit Autorama and permanent indoor spaces for the spring and fall shows in Carlisle, Pennsylvania.”
Chuck Vranas was covering the 2020 Detroit Autorama for Street Rodder magazine where he photographed the model cars and many other collectible automotive items in Mark Lewis’ expansive vendor booth. This is the third and final installment of our coverage of this Massachusetts model cars man.
Annuals (models of new cars introduced at the same time as their full-sized counterparts) first appeared around 1958. This display includes models from that era right up through the ’80s and includes factory cars, dragsters, classic trucks, and early 3-in-1 kits (which can be built three different ways).
In the early ’60s, the Pactra model paint company sponsored model building contests. Model builders could send their finished models to Pactra to be judged and, hopefully, earn a trophy. Or they could wait 60 years and buy a trophy, like the metal and wood specimen on the left, still with the original tag from 1963.
Some collectors focus on oil cans, and smaller cans called “oilers” are sought after by many. The cans with metal tops, aka lead tops, are especially desirable. These examples are from the ’30s, ’40s, and ’50s. There are guys who just collect those. Sunoco and Esso brands are very collectible, according to Mark.
There is some rare treasure in this display of vintage oil cans. Of particular interest is the pair of Gulf oil containers front and center. These brown glass bottles with paper labels replaced metal cans during the war. The price label reads $70; these are desirable.
This skull shifter knob is reminiscent of the one originally created by Norm Grabowski for his famous Kookie Car Ford T-bucket in the ’50s. This one came from the L.A. Roadsters Show swap meet and was created by a guy in his 90s. It’s made from resin and painted with glow-in-the-dark paint.
These Tiger-Ey Reflecks Signals reflector turn signals from the Do-Ray Lamp Company have never been used.
Mark identified this radiator cap ornament with blue glass in the center as a one-year option available for 1935 Fords. We’ve seen them with red glass, as well.
This aftermarket turn signal light dates from the ’30s. The switch mounts on the steering column, and the light mounts on the deck or roll pan.
With the resurgent popularity of traditional rods in the last 20 years, club plaques from the ’50s and ’60s have seen a rise in popularity. To the right is an original Moon gauge panel, which has since gone to Japan.
It’s not a parade without a classic car adorned with parade flags on the front bumper, splayed like a fan. These kits come with the holder and five 48-star flags.
Vintage plates enjoy similar popularity to plaques. The McGuire Pontiac plate represents a historic Motor City dealership. The Felix plate is from the ’70s, but the Felix Chevrolet dealership in central Los Angeles started in 1921 and is something of a landmark. Mark said that Felix items are popular with West Coast collectors.
Here are collectible Cal Custom shifter knobs, dating back to the late ’60s or early ’70s.
Here are some Sun tachs and a Sun tach transmitter, still in the box with the factory manual. Below the transmitter is a plastic and metal Rosco motorcycle light with reflectors. Made by the A.W. Rosen Company, this one dates from the 1920s. Mark told us that riders would mount these on the fenders so drivers could see them, or on the handlebars so they could see their speedometer.
Glass and plastic reflectors have become popular with hot rodders as well as with motorcyclist enthusiasts who add them to their license plates frames.
An assortment of spark plugs in the boxes, as well as a vintage Eveready voltmeter (from the American Ever Ready Works of National Carbon Company) dating from the ’20s or ’30s.
Two of the eye-catching items from this case are the trading cards and the vintage wooden printer’s blocks. Topps and Fleer were the primary trading card companies. The cards at the top date from 1965. The stack of drag race cards below is from the early ’70s.
The cloth Harley-Davidson cap with a white celluloid visor is from the ’50s. Below it is a box of never-used 1949 Buick vent ports.
Collectible stop lights are displayed here along with a trio of custom racing helmets. The his-and-hers pair features graphics inspired by Robert Crumb’s iconic Mr. Natural character from underground comics in the ’60s.
On the left is a Cal Custom air cleaner scoop from the ’60s. To the right, an assortment of lighters, mostly from the ’50s and ’60s. Lighters were a component in virtually every car from that era but frequently disappear from cars, so replacements are popular with restorers. Several of these feature Bakelite knobs.
The 1968 Yenko Corvair patches and the Ed Roth business card, displayed among these track passes, timing slips, and business card, got our attention.
These National Hot Rod Association drag racing rule books from the early ’60s are in great condition. They offer a history book of what NHRA drag racing was like in its early years.