Jellybeans Skate Car (Cary, NC)

When we were in middle school, most kids hung out at the local rollerskating rink on the weekends. If our rollerskating rink had a skate c...



When we were in middle school, most kids hung out at the local rollerskating rink on the weekends. If our rollerskating rink had a skate car like Cary's Jellybeans, we might still be there. We had to know more about the skate car, so we spoke with Jellybeans owner Bill Farley.

Did you build it yourself?
Let me roll back the clock here many many years to the late 1970s. The skate car was built by a gentleman in Florida. His name was Larry Strickland. He has since passed. But Larry was actually a friend of ours and he owned a rollerskating rink and a bowling alley and a daycare center. His father owned a fiberglass company. The two of them together had this brilliant idea back in the mid to late '70s to start developing skate cars. They produced sixteen of them. Back in the '80s, we had a small chain of rollerskating rinks here in the state called Sportsworld. When we had Sportsworld, we had one of the skate cars. It was #7. When the Sportsworld skating rinks were converted to ice and sold off and other folks bought the property, we sold the skate car. That skate car is now in Atlanta, Georgia at the Sparkles skating rink.

We've been here for twenty years. We opened in December of '96. About two years before we opened, I started searching for another skate car. I called up Larry and asked him if he had any. He gave me a couple leads to go on that didn't materialize. My last phone call to him he said, "Bill, I got one car left. I really didn't want to see it. it's in my mother's garage." He said, "If you want to buy it, here's the number. Come pick it up." It was the first one he ever built, the prototype one. I said, "I gotta have it." I drove down to Ormond Beach, Florida and bought it. It was not running at the time. We had to bring it back on a car trailer and in the bed of a pickup truck. It was in pieces. We brought it back here, put it together, redid the motor, electrical, paint, everything. It now has twenty years of wear and tear on it. That skate car was the first skate car built, one of the sixteen skate cars that are out there. Nobody can really account for all sixteen skate cars. I was told one of them is still tied up in Customs somewhere going to Ireland.

But that's kind of the history of the skate car. Had I not bought it twenty-two years ago, it was going to be turned into bowling pin. We saved it.



Does it still run?
Oh yeah! Ours still runs. We drive it every couple months. We'll charge the battery up and take it out to parades or take it around town to events. We used to take it to kids' schools before their School Spirit Skates. We don't drive it as much now as we used to. It's more of a showpiece now. Everybody loves having their picture taken in front of it.

What kind of engine is in it?
It has a Volkswagen engine. The car is predominantly Volkswagen running gear, Volkswagen controls, and Volkswagen driveline. It's a Volkswagen 1600 cc You can put those motors in just about anything and the reason you can is they're all air-cooled. They don't take a radiator and coolant, so they're very simple to work on. The front suspension is Volkswagen as well. Rear suspension is Volkswagen. There's a uniframe that's custom built to tie it all together that the chassis of the skate boot sits on to simulate the roller skate wheels and the big toe stop in the front. Most people ask, "when you hit the brakes, does it leans forward on the toe stop?"

How many people can you fit inside it?
I did a parade back in the early 2000s. I did the Cary Christmas parade. I was at the end of the parade route with the skate car and I had to get it back to the start of the parade route where I had unloaded and everybody had met me. I was at the parade thinking, "I've got to put everybody in this car." We had eleven people. It's got two seats and that's it. One or two people can sit on the floor in the back. We rammed eleven people in that thing and I got pulled over by the Cary police. They opened the back door and everybody started filing out. The Cary cop was standing there and he said, "Are you the driver?" The kid would say, "No." The next person, the cop would say, "Are you the driver?" "No." After the tenth person came out, I actually went out over the roof and down the front and I was standing behind the cop with my arms crossed and said, "Man, I don't know who's driving that thing!"



But it'll seat two comfortably?
Yes, it'll seat two comfortably, that's exactly right. If you're lucky on a good day, you'll get 50 MPH out of it. We used to take it out on I-40 between 4:00 and 6:00 PM and drive through RTP where you'd get stuck in traffic. Free advertising.

How long does it take to get up to 50 MPH?
You know, if you have a calendar with you, if you start on Tuesday, by Thursday you'll be there. It's not that bad. The car has what is called an autostick transmission. It's Volkswagen's version of a manual transmission without a clutch pedal. Looking at the car, you'd think it was an automatic because they're just a brake and the accelerator. It has a Hurst Indy shifter. It has a button on the shifter that is typically used for nitrous. Anytime you hit that button, it depresses the clutch. There's a hydraulic cylinder that releases the clutch so you can change gears. It's a nitrous button, but we use it as the clutch button.

Anything else we should know about the skate car?
I think we've had to put three laces in it since we've bought it. And it's due for another one.


What To Know Before You Go

GPS Coordinates: (35.768983, -78.742256)
Location: 1120 Buck Jones Road, Cary, NC

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