After four years of birthday parties, Halloween events and random photo ops, the Mystery Machine will no longer attract the attention of Scooby Doo fans on the streets of Abilene.
Nathan Reynolds, the vehicle’s owner, will graduate in May and plans to move to New Braunfels. Fans of the Mystery Machine may have noticed its absence in recent weeks, as the vehicle’s engine doesn’t start anymore. He said other than his ’97 GMC Safari, he knows of no other exact replica of the vehicle from the cartoon mystery series. After getting it painted at his high school’s body shop, he drove it to Abilene to start four years of adventures and 270,000 miles in the old van.
“I’ve waited in line to get in my car before,” said Reynolds, a senior management major from Kingwood. “I’ve had someone chase me down to get wedding photos with it. People showed up at my door for kids’ birthday parties.”
Reynolds said he would find notes on the car asking if he was hunting monsters, or Scooby Doo dolls left on the hood. A stranger once ran up to his car and asked for a ride to the Campus Center just so he could get a ride in the Mystery Machine.
“It’s 21 years old, it needs a new everything,” Reynolds said. “I could repair it, and take it down with me. Or I could grow up. So now I drive a Cadillac.”
He said he hasn’t decided if he will fix it and drive it back to his parents’ house, or sell it before he leaves town.
Although he doesn’t hunt for monsters, Reynolds hunts for treasures as an antique dealer for Fabulous Finds, an Abilene antique store. The Mystery Machine caught the attention of the owner of Fabulous Finds, Terry Stubbs, whom Reynolds met at several estate sales.
“He kind of stood out cause he drives that funny Scooby Doo van,” Stubbs said. “And I’m drawn to weirdos, so it was just natural that we became friends.”
Although Stubbs’ house is full of old items dating back to the 18th century, Reynolds gave Stubbs a Christmas present older than anything else in his house. It was a 100,000-year-old mammoth rib.
“In this business, you have to have an eye for the unusual or high quality, and Nathan has that,” Stubbs said.
When he first came to college, Reynolds wanted to become a doctor. He studied biology for a year but changed his major to business because he said he wanted to invent things and become an entrepreneur. He won the 2015 Springboard Elevator Pitch contest for his backpack cover idea called “The Burro.”
“I have the first prototype,” Reynolds said. “I bought a tablecloth at an estate sale, and I stapled it together to make a pack cover. And then I made another prototype, and then I made a nicer prototype.”
He also tried to win startup money from the Springboard competition that spring, but he didn’t win the contest. He realized he needed to start making money to patent the backpack cover, and he discovered he could turn a profit buying and selling antique cameras. He began building his own collection of antiques and artifacts, and now has a museum in his house. His items range from antique pocket watches, to fur stoles, to furniture and even two woolly mammoth femurs.
“They’re all museum-quality,” Reynolds said. “I don’t waste my time on things anyone can get their hands on cause that’s just no fun.”
He used the Netflix show Four Rooms to create his own negotiating style. The show involves four antique dealers negotiating to get the best deal on the same item. Reynolds said he combined a few of the styles to form his own style, and he almost always gets items for cheaper prices. He got a settee set from the 1800s for $200 that was originally priced at $750.
(Play clip to hear Reynolds discuss why most people don’t see the value in old objects.)
Reynolds can be seen around campus with a handlebar mustache, a vintage pocket watch and brightly-colored pants. Reynolds said he wears only vintage men’s shoes, like a pair of purple alligator shoes currently being re-soled by cobbler. Unlike most college students, Reynolds prefers to get items that are old and made to last.
“People like changing things, they want the newest style,” Reynolds said. “We wait for things to tear up and go away, so we can justify getting something new. Whereas for me, I’d much rather have quality. If I want it, I’ll keep it forever. And if I get bored of it, I’ll sell it and buy something else.”
Through his job at Fabulous Finds, Reynolds made connections with antique dealers all over the state. He even met Derill Osborn, the head of men’s fashion at Neiman Marcus, and a fellow lover of antiques. Reynolds said Osborn inspired him to continue wearing “crazy” and colorful clothes while staying professional.
“He saw my outfit, and he was like, ‘My, I bet Abilene’s never seen anything like you before,'” Reynolds said.
So while its driver won’t be in Abilene after graduating in May, the future of the Mystery Machine remains a mystery.