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'Hollywood' Bob McRae gets his classic cars on the Big Screen

The retired automobile dealer owns a fleet of 45 old vehicles, which he rents to studios for about $300 per scene. You've probably seen them – in 'The Aviator,' 'Pearl Harbor,' and 'Seabiscuit.'

Bob McRae owns a fleet of 45 classic cars, including a 1951 Packard and 1946 Dodge, which he rents out for as much as $300 a scene. His vehicles have appeared in such movies as ‘Pearl Harbor,’ ‘The Aviator,’ and ‘Seabiscuit.’

evan pondel

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On most days, Bob McRae's home is flanked by seven cars wearing muted gray sheets. But on this particular morning, the covers are off and Mr. McRae is giving his cars a patent-leather shine, his buff cloth licking the dust from an egg-shell blue convertible Rambler.

McRae, a sturdy man with a whisk-broom mustache, has married two of his passions – cars and movies – to create a second career late in life: renting classic automobiles to film production studios throughout Los Angeles.

He has developed a reputation as a go-to man for old motion-picture cars, making him as well-known among some crews on Hollywood back lots as Tom Cruise or Kate Hudson. Indeed, his vintage vehicles, which include a bejeweled 1951 Packard, 1963 Lincoln Continental, and 1932 Dodge, have appeared in such movies as "Walk the Line," "The Aviator," "Seabiscuit," and "Pearl Harbor."

When studios rent a car from "Hollywood Bob," as he's appropriately called, they know they will be getting a meticulously maintained vehicle, one that is likely to slow down when an actor (or frequently McRae himself) pumps the brakes, something that can be a concern with old vehicles on set.

"Hollywood Bob is great because he knows his cars, and he's able to stop on a dime," says Antoinette Meier, chief executive officer and casting director of Aba Antique Autos in Beverly Hills, who has worked with McRae on numerous movies.

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