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Wild wheels

Five-figure golf cars can send you down the fairway or the street in style.

By Eric TracyPublished: November, 2012

“Why walk when you can ride?  Why ride when you can ride in style?”

That was Paul Ruddy’s rationale when he bought his $11,000 Hummer replica from American Custom Golf Cars (ACG) a few years ago.

However with soaring gas prices the Palm Springs resident now sees his street legal and licensed electric head-turner as not only fun to drive but also cheap-to-operate-transportation. Insurance for Ruddy’s LSV (low speed vehicle) is less than $200 per year.

Ruddy’s not alone in using his golf car as alternative transportation. 

“We’re seeing more and more young families, couples in their 20s and 30s, buying golf cars for area shopping, neighborhood visits and even carpooling the kids,” says JR Thomas, President of Electric Car Distributors (ECD) in Rancho Mirage. 

Is it golf cars or golf carts?

“A car is something you drive that has its own power, a cart is something you pull or tow,” explained Thomas, whose father Bob was among the first to sell “electric caddies” as they were called when ECD opened for business more than 50 years ago.  Since then they have sold golf cars to a spectrum of customers from former Presidents Dwight Eisenhower and Gerald Ford to Bob Hope and tennis legend Pete Sampras.

Not all the golf cars on the street in the desert communities are street legal but “the area police departments are pretty lax when it comes to ticketing folks as long as they are within a mile or two of a golf course,” Thomas explained. Looking at these vehicles as a way to cut down on foreign oil “communities like Palm Desert are issue permits for golf car usage on their streets for a nominal $20 for a 2-year permit,” Thomas said.

Most of the cars Ray Hoogenraad manufactures at ACG in Chino are not only street legal but they are the ultimate in golf car chic.

In the last 10 years ACG has sold more than 8,000 replica cars. The ACG fleet includes a ‘34 Roadster ($10,000), the Hummer ($11,600), a Cadillac Escalades ($12,800) and the newest off his drawing board, the 1939 Ford Coupe ($11,900)

When it comes to golf cars the two biggest manufacturers are EZ-Go and Club Car. New golf cars start around $6,500 but the sky’s the limit.

 “Seventy-five percent of our customers change the look of their golf car adding one of our façade front ends,” Thomas said. That means when an E-Z Go or Club Car leaves ECD and is heading down the fairway or is parked at the supermarket, the front end might look similar to a BMW, Jaguar or whatever European car you fancy.

ACG’s Hoogenraad, who emigrated from Holland as a young man has had a “passion for cars since I was a little boy.” He started out making kit cars and was quite successful with a do-it-yourself kit for auto enthusiasts. With the kit backyard mechanics could transform a Pontiac Fiero into a Ferrari.

With that success Hoogenraad turned his attention to golf. But he wanted to do more than slip a fancy fiberglass body on a one-dimensional EZ-Go. He set out to change golf cars from the ground up.

In 2002 the first ACG car was called the California Roadster. It had innovations that were radical at the time for a golf car; all aluminum chassis, front hydraulic disk brakes, working headlights, brake lights, running lights and turn signal lights. With each new addition to his fleet more innovations were added.

Today ACG cars feature computer technology that allows for remote Internet diagnostics. The sophisticated system reads out much of the data needed to monitor performance and performance history right on the car’s LCD screen. In this way ACG personal or any golf car mechanic can analyze, program and make changes to the car to achieve maximum performance.

Do you remember the commercial slogan “this is not your father’s Oldsmobile”? Whether you want to be the envy of your weekly foursome or you’re looking for inexpensive short-run transportation, consider an LSV golf car, what’s out there is not your father’s golf car.


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