Who doesn’t remember actor Frank Faylen as Bedford Falls’ own Ernie the taxi driver in the 1946 motion picture It’s a Wonderful Life? The movie is played at least a dozen times every holiday season and we’re sure everyone has seen the movie at least once.
After filming, the iconic taxi was purchased and stored away, the owner planning on a restoration to its former condition that never happened. As the years went by, several buyers showed up at his door wanting to do right by the old car, but he refused to sell it, noting that he would one day get around to restoring it properly. Over 60 years later, the 82-year-old owner finally realized he was no longer able to do the restoration himself and he finally sold the car to the NB Center for American Automotive Heritage collection in 2008.
The NB Center decided to preserve the exterior and passenger compartment as they were, so as not to completely ruin the movie car’s patina, and only restore the mechanical bits necessary to get the car running again. The restoration was performed at the NB Center’s facility in Allentown, Pennsylvania, home to more than 150 of their own vehicles and the national laboratory for the Historic Vehicle Association. The facility houses restoration shops, a test track, and a restored drive-in movie theater screen, where films are presented in fair weather.
With that mechanical restoration work now completed, the HVA is presenting Ernie’s GMC Taxi for public view, on loan to the AACA Museum in Hershey, Pennsylvania, from December 14 until the end of February 2019. It is presented as part of the HVA’s ongoing exhibit that features significant vintage vehicles throughout the year, displaying several different vehicles for a few months before updating the display to feature other cars or trucks of historical significance.
The AACA Museum is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. throughout the year except on Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas, and New Year’s Day. Admission to the museum is $12.50 for adults, $9.50 for children under 12 and $11.50 for seniors over 61. Be sure to visit AACAMuseum.org to see some of the other seasonal displays and activities the AACA Museum is offering this holiday season and on into next spring. Other current displays include Land Yachts, celebrating the fullsize American convertible; a Dodge Brothers display; running model trains through a scale landscape; and Sammy, the 29-foot snow plow. More information on the NB Center for American Automotive Heritage is available on their Facebook page and more about the Historic Vehicle Association is offered at HistoricVehicle.org.