Thursday, June 11, 2009

Frank Bell

I just sent the new issue of the Tin Block Times (the West Coast Crosley Club newsletter) off to the printer this week.  It's our silver anniversary issue with coverage going all the way back to 1985 when the regional group was started by David Brodsky, Paul Cowden, Tom DeJohn, Mike Bainter and Frank Scanlan.

The first meet was held in September 1985, and there have been a scant handful of people that have made almost every meet since.  Frank Bell made 23 of the 24 so far.  He missed one, in 2001 when he couldn't get a flight back from Europe after 9/11.

Frank died last week.

Frank Bell grades a path, Monterey meet, 1986
I met Frank in 1997, at the very first West Coast Crosley meet I ever attended.  I'm not sure how I knew that he and his '50 Crosley wagon had been featured in a Road Test segment of an early seventies Road & Track*, but I did.   R&T compared Frank's wagon to a then-new Pinto wagon in an old-vs-new look at compacts.  The Crosley got a mixed review, but in a loving way, and the line that still stands out in my memory was that it was like 'driving an upright piano.'  

It came as no surprise, then, when Frank turned out to be one of only two people that had actually driven his Crosley to the meet (Bob Carson being the other, natch).  Frank's very original white CD is straight and clean, but just road-rashed enough to show that it is no trailer queen.  In other words, my favorite kind of car.  When I got home from the meet I realized that I'd taken more pics of his car than any other (all on slide film, which I still need to get scanned some day).
Frank and Shirley always scored high 
in the funkana- even in a borrowed car!
In 2000 I finally had my Crosley in reliable enough shape to attempt the 350 mile drive from Sacto to the meet in Morro Bay.  Sure, the brakes barely worked when I left, but I was planning on moving a lot more than I planned on stopping!  When I pulled up to the meet two days later, grimy, stinky and sunburned, a very enthusiastic Frank Bell was the first person to shake my hand.  

I always looked forward to seeing Frank and his wife Shirley at the meets- and they were always there, with one of several Crosleys they own.   They might arrive with the wagon, a homemade Crosley tractor, a tidy Crofton Bug, or a project Super Sport that Frank brought for sale last year.
When I started working on the Tin Block Times I instituted exactly one rule: try to use a picture of one of Frank's cars in every issue.  I guess I did this because Frank functioned as a sort of touchstone for me as editor- as I put each issue together I always imagined Frank reading the finished product.  No issue was finished until I thought it was good enough for Frank Bell- and then I knew it was good enough for anyone.

*now reprinted in the Crosley and Crosley Specials book.

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