Monday, December 14, 2009

SCAM ALERT! Crosley Midget Race Car on Ebay

Didn't think much about it at first when I saw this Crosley Midget Racer on Ebay... I was curious to see what it would go for since I knew my pal John was selling a similar car, minus engine, for about $1000. Of course, provenance is a huge deal with vintage race cars, and the seller gives an interesting history:

"Vintage 1950s Crosley TQ midget.... Has a original crosley racing engine that had been rebuilt some time ago,crosley rearend and transmission,Hand brake on the left side,Original steering wheel and guages ,Fuel tank,belts, Aluminum frame,wheels,tie rods,and all linkage,every piece of original body pieces including front grill,radiator... This car was built in North Carolina and race all over the country,Georgia,indoors in Oklahoma and Los Angeles,ascot ,south gate,El toro, corona,and Balboa park in San Diego"

John's Midget Crosley Race Car
A closer look revealed that the car looks a lot like John's... and the seller is right down the road from him to boot. The more I looked at it, it looked exactly like John's car with a new rattle can paint job. Touching base with John confirmed that he had in fact sold the car to the guy. Last week. Curious, I emailed the seller to find out a little more:

Great car- amazing! Do you have any documents relating to the race or other history of the car? How long have you had it?

A: Hello,Yes I have a racing history that is written down by the 85 yr, old gentleman I got the car from.I have had the car for some time and thought I would sell to a collector rather than it just sit and take up shop space.

OK, technically I guess one week does qualify as 'some time.' I sure hate it when my projects fill up my shop space for a whole week!

John emailed me after he saw the Q&A on Ebay, saying, "I'm not 85 and never signed any info letter." (And 'not 85' is quite an understatement, considering that he's not even old enough for Social Security.) John had owned the car for years and had never established any history other than it was 'supposed to have been raced in North Carolina'. I started to smell a rat.
Midget's 'race' motor
John also pointed out the 'race' engine. John sold the car with an old tin block mocked up in position- not bolted up, just sitting in the frame. When the current Ebay seller picked it from him he mentioned that he'd recently bought a Crosley engine off Ebay to go with it.

this stock motor was on Ebay last month. note oil filler
A little sleuthing turned up this auction for a used Crosley motor from last month. It's clearly the same 'race' motor in the Midget Ebay listing- you can see the custom 'stacked' oil filler tube on the driver's side with the same rag wadded in it.
Midget motor, passenger side
And it still has the same piece of tape over the fuel pump slot on the other side.

And, just in case there was any question, the guy who sold the engine last month specifically says, "This motor was not raced EVER. It is a stock crosley engine" right in the listing. Nice.
ebay motor from last month. same piece of tape
Hard to believe what some people will say or do to make a little money. Not sure what can be done other than warn people away from this loser. Pretty lame, folks, pretty lame.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Not Dead Yet!

Hey, guess what? I'm not dead! I know, I know, it's been nearly two months since my last post, but there's been a lot going on. I'll save all that for another post.
Above is what inspired this post. This incredibly clean 1959 Crofton Bug is on Ebay right now!

I'm not sure exactly how many Croftons were made, but it was well under 500... I've heard estimates as low as 200. The seller suggests that 81 are known to exist, which seems high to me. I'm in California (home base of Crofton) and I've seen very few. I've only ever seen a couple for sale- and none as nice as this. That undercarriage is about as clean as you'll ever see on a Crosley product.
The seller states that the car has a Fageol motor which seems odd if the car is stock, but not impossible. The engine is a reverse block (meaning that it is a mirror casting of a regular Crosley engine) so that the intake and exhaust are on the driver's side. This was a Crofton hallmark, and I'm not aware of reverse block Fageols, but that doesn't mean that they weren't made.

As I write this the bidding is at $4150. I'm very curious to see where this car ends up. Aside from the lame Tweetie theme (whoever buys this car needs to stuff those floor mats and tire cover into a woodchipper ASAP) this car seems like an outstanding example of the Crofton marque.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

1952 Crosley Wagon $2500 or offer - Midwest

Once again, another deal too far away from me.

Here's what appears to be a pretty clean last-year wagon from the Indianapolis Craigslist.  
"1952 Crosley Wagon, new gas tank, rebuilt carb. and fuel pump, good tires. Fun to drive and gets lots of attention.! Low compression 1 cylinder, drive as is or great restoration project! Asking $2500."

This has been for sale for a little while- the price has been dropping from a start at $4250.   Probably a good deal for someone with a spare motor sitting around.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

"So Ed Gein and Frank Lloyd Wright drive to a bar..."

Given my noted fondness for all things Crosley, I'm not surprised when friends send me Crosley-related stuff. 


This, however, wrinkled my brow:

I'm fairly certain that infamous serial killer Ed Gein and legendary architect Frank Lloyd Wright never met, the photo above notwithstanding.  So, when my pal Davide, an Italian architect, sent a confused query about the above pic it definitely caught me by surprise.

A little google sleuthing turned up the answer- the image is from Wisconsinology, a blog devoted to all things from the Badger State.  I quickly found the same image without Gein-   showing Wright and his second wife Olgivanna in one of Wright's fleet of HotShots- someone simply  photoshopped Gein into  Olgivanna's place.  There is no explanation with the altered image, but it does link two of Wisconsin's best-known citizens.  
Though it is extremely unlikely that Wright ever encountered the reclusive Gein, he was all too close to another notorious mass murderer.

In 1914 Frank Lloyd Wright was one of the most famous architects in America.  His Prairie Houses had set a standard for modern home design, and public buildings such as the Unity Temple and the Larkin Building were some of the most advanced of their time.  Much to the chagrin of the neighbors, he lived openly with his mistress Mamah Cheney at Taliessin, his Wisconsin estate.

On August 15, 1914, while Wright was away at work, a disgruntled employee named Julian Carleton locked up the house as Cheney, her children and several guests had lunch.  Carleton poured kerosene on the grounds and set fire to the house with nine people inside.  When Cheney and the others managed to break out of the burning house, Carleton attacked them with an axe.  Of the nine people in the house that day, seven were killed, including Mamah Cheney and her two children.  No one has ever discovered why Carleton committed the crime.  He drank acid before he was captured and died in jail soon afterward.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

West Coast Crosley Club 2009 Meet in Buellton

This past weekend was the 25th Anniversary meet for the West Coast Crosley Club.  The location for the meet usually moves around, but this year we were back in the same location as last year, Buellton, California.
The turnout was good- we had 20 cars this year, and lots of people.  Though we've had a few more cars at one or two of the past meets, this was by far the highest quality turnout I've ever seen- all cars were in very good shape, and all but one ran... and that one just had a dead battery I think.
There was a very wide variety of cars too.  Dave Potts brought a nice prewar  from Arizona, there were two Farm-o-Roads, two Croftons, two Hotshots (one of which changed hands at the meet), a bunch of sedans, convertibles and wagons and of course our small but devoted Hmod contingent, this year consisting of Kip Fjeld and his Miller Crosley and Lee Osborn and his Shannon Special.   I opted not to bring my mystery Hmod this year- I haven't made much progress since last year, and besides, there was no room on the trailer.
No, I didn't buy another car.  

When Frank Bell passed away earlier this year I was very sad for his family- and I was very sad for the club. Frank and Shirley have been two of the most devoted members since the very first meet- the only one they've missed was in 2001 when they couldn't get back from Europe after 9/11.  I called Shirley a few weeks ago to see if she was going to be at the meet and she said that she and their daughter Donna would be there.  She also mentioned that Frank had planned on bringing the '50 wagon this year- he'd been bringing his Crofton Bug for years- but that she didn't feel comfortable hauling it to Buellton.  
Frank and Shirley had driven that wagon to the very first meet I ever attended, coincidentally also in Buellton, in 1997.  It is one of my favorite cars on the West coast, perfectly straight and serviceable, but road-rashed enough to drive without worry.  Wheels turned in my head as I talked to Shirley and I offered to find out if someone could trailer it over to the meet if she'd like to have it there.  She was happy at the idea, and I worked on finding the wagon a ride... in the end I realized that I could do it- my Crosleys have been to plenty of meets and Frank's wagon is WAY nicer than any car I would bring.  I called Shirley and arranged to pick up the wagon in LA on Friday.  
It took a bit longer to load the car and get from LA to Buellton than I'd expected, so I got in after 8 on Friday night. That meant that I missed one of my favorite parts of the meet- the Friday night get together.  I love having the chance to connect with old friends, many of whom I see only once a year.  Friday night also gives me an extra chance to remember the names of the new folks I meet- I'm terrible with names, so every little bit helps.
The meet started at 9AM, and though I was too busy getting the Bell's wagon off the trailer to be first in line at the swap meet I still got some good stuff including a steel crank, strapped main crankcase and a Special Interest Autos mag with a long feature on Ardell Johnson's '52 Crosley wagon.   I've known Ardell a long time but I never knew that he'd been in a magazine!  
The Funkana was great this year- with so many well-prepared cars it was downright dramatic!  Here's a look at David Dinsmore's Hotshot doing the speed trial/brake test:

After the meet wound down we met up for the club dinner at a local pub- the sunset and archetypal California backdrop made for great photos of the cars that drove over from the hotel.  
After the dinner I had to hightail it for LA.  I'd promised to be back in Sacto in time for Liv's birthday dinner with her family Sunday night.  As luck would have it, the meet fell on the same weekend as an annual art event that Liv helps organize, AND her birthday, meaning that there was no way for her to make the meet this year.  I got into LA around 1AM and got six hours of sleep before I started the process of getting the Crosley off the trailer.  It took a while to get the wagon on the ground and tucked back into the Bell's garage, but I was on the road to home by 9:30.  I was so glad to have been able to bring the car to the meet, and I think it would have made Frank happy too.
With the lower speed limit for cars with trailers, the drive from LA to Sac takes about eight hours with no traffic.  That was a lot of time to reflect on the weekend and plan the impending redesign of my garage.  In the middle of my daydreaming I spotted an unmistakable shape in the distance- Ardell Johnson's magazine-star '52 wagon on its way back to Oregon.  I zipped past, honking and waving, and made it home just in time for a shower before dinner.

Thursday, September 3, 2009


Monterey 1986
One week to go until the 25th annual West Coast Crosley Club Meet in Buellton, California!

This year marks the 25th anniversary of the West Coast Regional Group.  The first meet was held in Sept 1985 in Monterey, California.  The locations have varied since then, ranging from Southern California to Nevada to the Bay Area.  Buellton was the site of the first meet I ever attended- back in 1997.  I didn't have a Crosley yet and I went with cash in hand, hoping to come back with a car.  No dice.
Visalia 2003(?)
I did come back with more information about Crosleys than I'd been able to compile on my own in six months.  The folks I met were the best car people I've ever run into and I started friendships that continue today.  I'd never belonged to a car club before, but I am a card-carrying member of the Crosley Club and dang proud of it.
Minden, Nevada, 2007
The Meet kicks off friday afternoon with an informal meet and greet at the official hotel- at the Pea Soup Anderson in Buellton.  Things get going Saturday morning about 9am over at the Buellton City Park.  There's a small swap meet, Crosley car show and then a 'funkana' test of your Crosley driving skills.  Club members attend a dinner Sat night and then there is a brunch Sunday morning.  Then you go home and wait for next year.

Monday, August 31, 2009

The Good Ones

Why are all the good ones always at least two mountain ranges away?  

Here's a great looking '49 wagon, running and driving, with cool white stripe tires for only $3500 in Long Island.  If the floors are there and the interior is as good as described that seems like a pretty good price.
Ok, I probably don't need another Crosley (I can hear my wife now: "You have six cars and a garage the size of a picnic blanket- why would you need another one?") but if this wasn't a continent away I'd probably at least need to look.   

I know, it's a sickness.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

1948 Crosley Wagon Body For Sale in Arizona

Saw this ad on the HAMB and thought someone might want to pick this up on their way to the West Coast Crosley Meet...

1948 Crosley Wagon Body - $600

i have a nice 1948 Crosley wagon body for sale. i was going to turn her into a drag car but i havent been able to get around to it. the front clip has been removed and media blasted since this photo. the floor rust/rot has been cut out. i bought this body from a fellow hamb member and it's in very nice shape. will make an awesome altered drag car. i paid 700 for the body and 150 for the blasting so im taking a loss. it just needs to go to a good home. i can email pictures and will ship. Aerik 623.695.4891

Sunday, August 23, 2009

1200 Miles to Home

Though it doesn't make for much drama in the narrative, the simple truth is that the car ran great.  We covered 1200 miles in three and a half days, much of it through the mountains.  The worst thing that happened was that the heater stuck on when I was fussing with the controls. I'll keep this short and let the pictures do most of the talking.
Here's the hotel we found in The Dalles.  Clean, great rates, and the 1950's bathroom was absolutely unchanged from the day the place opened, right down to the clear fiberglass toilet set with embedded flowers!
Multnomah Falls outside of Portland.
The park ranger at Big Trees was sour when we asked where the Tour Thru Tree was- turns out it's on private property.  As we walked away the people behind us asked him the same question.
Strangely, no mention of the Georgia Bigfoot in the freezer.
We stopped at the Olive Pit in Corning a couple of hours from home.   I pulled around the back to find some shade and encountered Mike Harrell and his KV1 microcar, fresh from his 'Worst of Show' win at the inaugural Concours D'LeMons in Monterey!  Ironically enough, he beat a Crosley Hotshot for the honors.
The KV1 was a French microcar belt-driven by a 125 cc 2 stroke moped motor - and that's the normal part.  The abnormal part was that the drive was transmitted to the wheels via friction drive- a grinding stone that turned each wheel!  I'm not sure I'd have believed this if I hadn't seen it... especially when i learned that this car was built in 1980!  They were built to target a very specific market- a loophole allowed them to be driven without a license!  2000 were built over 12 years or so.  Harrell has two.
Almost as impressive as the KV1 was the fact that he'd towed it down from Washington behind his 1974 1/2 MGB!  He had a long way to go, and had to be back within 24 hours to teach his class at the University of Washington.  We wished him luck and headed on home to Sacramento...

Thursday, August 20, 2009

The New Addition

After spending a day at the Salt Flats we headed east to Salt Lake City.  Liv spent a big chunk of her childhood there and hadn't been back since she was 11, so we checked out her old neighborhood and saw the sights.  Remembering the uptight SLC of 20 years ago she was happily surprised to be able to order a beer in a restaurant, and was even more surprised to see a SLC gay newspaper.  Change DOES happen!  From there we headed north.  Way north.  Almost-to-Canada north.

I've been looking for a daily driver to replace the much-beloved '62 Valiant wagon I sold over a year ago after it was hit for the fifth time.  I obsessively surfed Craigslist and last month I found a clean, two-owner, low mile 1962 Plymouth Savoy for sale in Newport, Washington, about an hour north of Spokane.  I wasn't really looking for a full size four door, but the condition, slant six motor and three-on-the-tree were very intriguing.  So was the owner- Mike, a Mopar nut who was selling off the last of a large car collection that had included a 413 max wedge car, a '62 Fury wagon (that was sold to Disney) and a Ferrari Dino.  When I asked what the Savoy would need to make it to Sacramento he said, 'Nothing.  I'd drive this across country right now.'  That's what I wanted to hear.  

I hemmed and hawed for a week, but when I finally showed pictures of the car to Liv it was a done deal. She loved it, so that made the decision for me.  I sent a check, Mike sent the title and we arranged to pick it up in Newport after the trip to Bonneville.

The car was pretty much as described, although I think it has 161,000 miles (rather than the 61,000 Mike thought) based on pedal wear.  Still, it's a clean (almost too clean for me to be comfortable) car with lots of life left.  He'd had the head rebuilt to run unleaded gas a few years back, the brakes and tires had about 1000 miles on them, as did the clutch, radiator and all the hoses.  The keys fit in the door locks, but the works are all gummed up- he'd never locked it.

 Mike gave us a quick tour of the car’s quirks and I hopped in.  It fired right up and we headed south.  Only 1200 miles to home…

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The Liebherr Crosley at Bonneville

I emailed Dale Liebherr a couple of weeks ago to let him know that I'd see him at the Salt Flats; five minutes later my phone rang.  "How'd you know we were going?" he wanted to know.  Dale and brother Rob were talking about the idea of building a Bonneville Crosley at the 2007 Minden meet.  Within a year they'd built most of a car, and thanks to the sharp eye (and camera phone) of John McKnight I knew they'd completed it and taken the car to El Mirage this spring- they failed tech inspection, (no tranny blanket) so the car didn't run there.   
I'd wondered why Dale and Rob had kept such a low profile with their car building.  Dale posts on the Crosley Yahoo group and is involved in club stuff, but hadn't mentioned anything about the car.  Turns out that they wanted to avoid letting the Evil Tweety team know that they'd have extra competition this year.   
Evil Tweety is the current J Production class record holder.  The 1971 Honda Z600 has been battling it out with Gerald Davenport's Crosley for salt supremacy for a decade now.  Boasting a very warmed-up motor, a computer-aided induction/timing system and a much 'cleaner' underside than a Crosley, Evil Tweety took the record back, and then broke the century mark a couple of years ago.  The current record is just over 103 MPH.  Team Liebherr didn't want Tweety to know that it was in their sights.
We called Dale from the salt and arranged to meet them at their pit.  Pits were arranged parallel to the Long Track starting at about the two mile mark and going to just about the four mile mark.  The Liebherrs had scored prime real estate at the three mile mark... just about optimum for watching the races.
The car is an almost stock-appearing 1947 sedan.  Dale bought the car from Bob Carson twenty years ago and it sat in the desert until after the 2007 meet.   Then they got to work.  Rob handled the bodywork and paint (and drives the car).   Production class rules do not allow modification of the body, and one of Dale and Rob's personal rules was that the car could not be modified in a way that could not be easily converted back to a correct restoration.  I'm fairly sure they are the only team on the salt with that thought in mind.  Even the stock wheelwells are intact- though sporting handmade 15 inch rims and racing rubber.   
Dale handled the engine work, with assistance from knowledgeable sources like Don Baldocchi.  Again, class rules prohibit a larger displacement, but the engine sports all sorts of mods including Hilborn mechanical injection and a crank trigger ignition.  There is plenty more going on inside, but Dale is cagey on most of the details.  The mill connects to a Datsun 4 speed then back to a stock Crosley rear.  The office is clean, and with the addition of a substantial roll cage, even more compact than a regular Crosley.
Bonneville is about a mile above sea level- enough to give any car fits- but the constant atmospheric changes of the site are especially tough on cars that are built to run at utmost efficiency within very specific tolerances.  Temperature and humidity changes wreak havoc on carefully tuned systems, with conditions sometimes changing dramatically in the space of a few minutes.  These conditions are measured in 'actual' altitude... which ranged from about 5000-7000 feet just in the time we were there.  Early morning turned out to be the best time to run, with a recorded altitude of about 5000 feet.   In the end it turned out that Evil Tweety didn't need to be worried- the sedan's best runs were in the mid 80s.  Still, not bad for first-timers to the salt, and they're already looking forward to next year.
The Liebherrs were kind enough to let Liv and I join the crew for the day and we spent about six hours with them, riding in the catch car as Rob made runs, and hanging out in the pits while they debated timing changes, injection adjustments and speculated about the 'actual' altitude.  At the end of they day they even fed us delicious sausages and beer.
We had an amazing day, and Liv and I both can't wait to come back.  My big regret was that we never saw Gerald Davenport at all- it turned out that he had a sort of mobile pit trailer and was working over by the Special Track.. I assumed we'd run into him but it just never happened.  I also assumed we'd bump into John McKnight- the Liebherrs said he'd been by their pit several times, but he was scarce the day we were there.   Once the salt closed up for the night I found his number and gave him a call.  It turned out that he'd finally gotten a hotel room in Wendover after three days of sleeping in his car at the bend.  We went by his hotel and I finally got to meet John in person after 10+ years of email correspondence.   He was a great guy (and a wealth of Crosley engine info)... we visited for an hour or so and then Liv and I headed off to camp.   
All in all, this was one of the best days I've had in years.  Liv and I talked about what makes Bonneville so special... and decided that it's because everyone there is so committed.  No one accidentally ends up at Bonneville.  It's too far from anywhere else and too harsh an environment for the casual observer.  If you're at Bonneville, you're there for Bonneville.  It's a beautiful thing.