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Ernie Adams’ Dwarf Car Museum is Well Worth the Drive into the Arizona Desert

Dwarf 1940 Mercury 2 door sedan replica at the Dwarf Car Museum in Maricopa, Arizona

Ernie Adams with his wonderful dwarf 1940 Mercury 2 door sedan replica

The year was 1965 when a young Ernie Adams used the steel from old refrigerators to create his first Dwarf custom car. In the decades since, Adams has created some of the most stunning miniaturized replica cars one can imagine.

K&N visited Adams’ Dwarf Car Museum in Maricopa, Arizona, and we can say with no small measure of certainty that there is nothing like it anywhere in the world. It is hard to imagine the hours of work and the limitless talent that have gone into the glimmering and sometimes whimsical creations that grace the Adams’ compound in the Arizona desert.

The cars are replicas of iconic American models built in smaller scale. When asked about the specific scale that he uses, Adams says that each car is based on 12-inch wheels (which are most often custom made) and the rest of the car is built to suit that rim size. In most cases, the scale becomes somewhere around 5/8 of full size.

Home-built whitewall machine at the Dwarf Car Museum in Maricopa, Arizona

Adams daughter-in-law shows how the home-built whitewall machine works

When talking about the time that goes into the collected creations, Adams speaks in years, not months. Most of the cars have a time investment of two to four years. One car took seven years to finish, but that project was slowed by some medical complications along the way.

Building these dwarf customs means that Adams has had to be creative with his tools and techniques. Many of the metal bending tools, frame jigs, and various other custom pieces of equipment were designed and built by Adams.

Conventional metalworking equipment just didn’t work for Adams’ specialized builds. Adams’ daughter-in-law showed us a special jig that he designed to cut and paint whitewalls on tires that can’t be found in the vintage motif.

A car at  the Dwarf Car Museum in Maricopa, Arizona

Adams also creates dwarf customs that reflect his sense of humor like his 'Hillbilly' Model A

While some of the cars use motorcycle and other small engines, Adams says that many of the dwarf cars use old Toyota Corolla motors and drivetrains. Of course, heavy modifications are needed to fit the mechanical componentry into the carefully authentic but downsized scale of the builds. Adams said that fitting the exhaust systems under the ultra-low chassis is often a particular challenge.

Once completed, you might think that the cars become pampered showpieces. However, while his creations frequently win top prizes at leading car shows, Adams drives all of his cars. In fact, several of the street-legal dwarf cars have been driven cross-country to distant shows in places like Chicago, Illinois, and other states across the East and Midwest.

Front end details on a car at the Dwarf Car Museum in Maricopa, Arizona

Creative badging and intricate trim finish Adams' amazing builds

Adams’ dwarf car creations have gained worldwide fame. The magnetic attraction of the museum is reminiscent of the iconic line from the movie Field of Dreams, “If you build it, they will come.” Adams told us that the day after our visit, a busload of Swedish car enthusiasts would be rolling into the museum.

Ernie's son Kevin has written a book on his father's life, cars, and the museum. 'Break Time at Ernie's' is filled with photos and great memories, and will soon be available to the public.

Ernie Adams and the rest of the family are welcoming, gregarious, and great fun to talk to. You will not regret a visit to the Dwarf Car Museum. As you peruse the photos, remember that each car is roughly the size of the one by which Adams is standing for scale.

1949 Mercury at the Dwarf Car Museum in Maricopa, Arizona

The dwarf 1949 Mercury is one of Ernie's favorites. James Dean would be impressed

1934 Ford Sedan at the Dwarf Car Museum in Maricopa, Arizona

How cool is the 1934 Ford sedan with dwarf suicide doors?

1954 Chevy Bel Air at the Dwarf Car Museum in Maricopa, Arizona

Check out the detail on the back of Adams' dwarf 1954 Chevy Bel Air

Car show trophies at the Dwarf Car Museum in Maricopa, Arizona

Clearly, Adams' dwarf car creations are favorites at car shows

Dwarf hot rod and matching tiny speedboat at the Dwarf Car Museum in Maricopa, Arizona

This dwarf hot rod and matching tiny speedboat are museum favorites

Cars at the Dwarf Car Museum in Maricopa, Arizona

The cars look like full-size models without a person in the photo for scale


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