WARWICK, RI — Sean McCarthy was 12, a regular BMX rider when he first spotted the splash of color atop the DPW building he learned were the cars from Rocky Point’s House of Horrors.
“They were on the roof, and disintegrating,” McCarthy said.
Wednesday morning, he unveiled the latest example of his painstaking restoration project for the two-person cars — the red and yellow Frankenstein car — on display at Warwick City Hall.
McCarthy started his renovation project in June, he said, with the permission of Mayor Joseph J. Solomon. Altogether, the project took 80 hours of work over the course of six months, he said.
There was some literal pain involved in the painstaking part of the work, he said. Paint chips got stuck in his eyes a few times. Sanding disks shattered sometimes. There was also some welding involved.
“It’s not as easy as people think. It’s a lot of work,” McCarthy said.
He learned a lot of how to work with fiberglass, sanding and painting while watching his dad, Dave, an auto body mechanic.
“He taught me everything I know about sanding and painting,” McCarthy said.
He said some people have questioned whether the art on the car is the original, and he assures them it is. He sealed it with a gel coat that will protect the art from fading and cracking, but that’s all that’s been done to the image of the Wolfman.
“The artwork is 100 percent from 1985,” McCarthy said.
The restoration wasn’t his first attempt. When he asked Solomon to take on the project, he already had a restoration of one of the cars under his belt. He had worked on one of the yellow and orange colored cars, this one featuring The Creature from the Black Lagoon. He’d bought it from a collector for $1,400, taken out of his savings. It was in better condition than his latest project, but his work impressed Solomon enough to land him the job.
“I was very intrigued, excited, when young Sean came into my office,” Solomon said. He said Sean’s work on the car speaks for itself, and the city will be commissioning him to work on the other cars.
“Sean, as you can see, did a wonderful job with this car,” Solomon said.
There were eight cars that ran through the House of Horrors, McCarthy said, two orange and blue cars with The Wolfman on the front, two blue and red, with Planet of the Apes and Star Wars/Darth Vader, two red and yellow with frankenstein’s monster and The Mummy, and two yellow/orange cars with The Creature from the Black Lagoon and The Reptile Woman on them.
Now, there are only six left, McCarthy said. Solomon said the next cars to be restored may be put on display at sites around the city, such as the Warwick Public Library, so that people can enjoy and relive the park’s history.
But the restoration work isn’t paid. Not in the normal currency, but in the enjoyment and excitement he sees in people who remember riding the cars in the House of Horrors in Warwick’s famed Rocky Point Park.
“That’s my payback,” McCarthy said.