28 October 2014

Baron of the Jerkmobile: Two Sides of a Serious Collector

Standing in the middle of the chocolate field at the AACA’s Hershey Fall National Meet, Jules Baron is wearing mismatched automotive print pajamas, and a Goofy hat and ears topped with a propeller beanie. But it doesn’t stop there, he’s pushing his heavily accessorized “Jerkmobile,” replete with lights, flags, stuffed animals and all kinds of land-bound flotsam and jetsam, automotive and otherwise.

The jury-rigged parts conveyance has made the New Jersey man something of a legend at Hershey. But don’t let looks and the outward silliness fool you; this man is a serious collector, with six cars, 18 motorcycles, 20 gas pumps and at least 2,000 pieces of automobilia. What’s more, unlike 99 percent of the collecting population, he can fabricate, machine, weld and paint. The only thing he doesn’t do himself is upholstery, and that’s where wife Terry enters the picture.

The Jerkmobile and Baron’s informal comedy act began about 1982 as he began restoring his 1926 Jordan. Well trained by his tool and die maker father and his body man uncle, there’s little that Baron can’t make himself, but there were some original parts that he really needed. Preparing to attend the Hershey Fall Meet, Baron needed a way to carry his purchases. The foundation was a “baby buggy I found in the trash.” He took the body off the carriage and, with the help of a cousin, replaced it with a wooden box. Then to display the original headlight he needed to match, he mounted it to the front of his wheeled contraption.

At Hershey, intrigued by the interesting buggy, as Baron recalls, “One vendor said: ‘you have a headlight, you must need a taillight.’ Then he gave me a taillight. “ But that was just the beginning, he says: “When people gave us more stuff we ran out of room and had to add a shelving unit.” Now the buggy sports license plates, signs, all kinds of car parts, and although it is lacking a kitchen sink, it does have a toilet seat and faucets.

When asked about the origin of the name of his parts carrier, Baron said that he and his cousin “Decided to name the wagon the jerkmobile, because we’re two jerks.” However, that doesn’t explain the pajamas and the outlandish headwear. To Baron, though, it’s very simple: “I’m out there to have a good time with it. If I can make one person smile out of everyone there, I’ve made my day.” And gauging his success by the number of people stopping to greet him or take his picture, he is spreading a lot of sunshine. He did, however, apologize for the mismatched pajamas he wore. In his haste to get onto the fields he donned the wrong top.

As is the case for so many people, Hershey isn’t all about searching for parts. “We have a great time every year. If I find things I’m looking for, great,” says Baron. “At this point it’s more of an entertainment thing. Year after year people look for us to see what’s new on the cart. We’ve even been written up in a few publications.” He explains that the wagon is a great tool because “it helps us to meet people from all over the world. It’s really about enjoyment.”

Years ago, after he finished restoring the Jordan, Baron discovered that he didn’t like showing his cars, finding it too stressful, despite securing a First Junior, followed by a First Senior in just one season. Now, he’s content to turn out beautiful cars and enjoy his 1917 Buick, 1918 American La France Fire Truck, 1929 Hupmobile, 1953 and 1966 Studebakers, a 1949 Ford Ambulance and a 1978 Cadillac that started as a daily driver. And that doesn’t even take into account his fleet of 18 motorcycles.

Although Baron works on his cars whenever he can and looks forward to his annual junket to Hershey with his cousins and friends, his day job is managing multi-million dollar construction projects. When asked if his employees had ever seen him dressed in pajamas and a Goofy hat, he was quick to say “no, and I hope they never do.”

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