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.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009


After a fine time at my brother's wedding in South Lake Tahoe and a short trip to Virginia City I had only one thought on my mind:  Bonneville.

We'd planned on the trip to Wendover taking  about three or four hours based solely on my vague recollection of travel times from past trips on 80.  Looking at the map enroute I realized that I had been woefully optimistic... the actual time from Virginia City to Wendover is closer to 6 hours.   And, I hadn't planned on the seemingly endless amounts of construction work currently being conducted, slowing us even more.  We spent many miles riding the shoulder... I can only imagine how stressful that route must have been for anyone hauling a trailer.  By 1AM we were pretty well cooked, so instead of plowing through to stateline we decided to catch some sleep in the parking lot of a truck stop in Wells, about 60 miles from Wendover.   So much for watching the sunrise on the salt.

The next morning we crossed the state line and headed down the road to Bonneville.  We were giddy with excitement but completely unsure what to expect.  Bonneville is the ultimate hotrod experience- nothing short of Mecca for straight line crowd.  They've been doing speed trials on the salt flats since 1914, and when the SCTA starting organizing trials there just after WWII Bonneville's status as the center of the hotrod universe was cemented.  From Ak Miller to Mickey Thompson, the biggest names in hotrodding have all made their mark in the salt.
After paying for our $15 day passes we followed a small line of cars down a route 'marked' with orange cones.  Hotrods buzzed around and we tried to figure out where to start our day.  We came up to a group of parked cars and decided that this would be as good place as any to start.

We parked the truck, slathered ourselves with spf50 (don't forget to apply under the chin!) and hit the salt on foot.  There were about 100 cars parked haphazardly around and some people had set up small sun shades.  We could hear announcements being made over a loudspeaker. At first I thought we might be at the pits, but quickly realized that there were no car haulers and no work being done.  We soon encountered the SCTA timing tower and the line of cars ready to get to work; we were at the starting line!  
There were three tracks set up this year, Long (5 miles), Short (3 miles) and 'Special'.  No one seemed to know why the Special track was so called except that it was special to even have a third track- usually there are only the two.  In any case, it was also a short (3 mile) track, and was set off quite a ways from the other two tracks.  We never actually saw any of the Special track runs since we kept pretty busy with the other two.
I'm not sure how I expected the trials to be run, but I was pleasantly surprised at the lack of BS.  Cars lined up behind the starting points, waiting their turn on the track.  The lines went pretty quickly.  A car/cycle would come up to the starter who would check that the driver was buckled in and confirm the info for the run.  production class vehicles had to start under their own power, while the altered classes generally had a push car to get them going.  Once they took off the starter would watch to make sure they hadn't had a problem and start getting the next car or bike ready to go.  Once the track was clear, the next trial was given the go.  The SCTA grandstand would announce the speed at various marker points and if a record had been set.
Spectators were free to go anywhere they wanted, and there were hundreds of people milling around.  Some were set up to watch every single takeoff, others were clearly rooting for certain people, and lots were just wandering around, taking it all in and snapping pictures.  The teams seemed very relaxed and chatted with the bystanders.  SCTA officials rolled around on tiny bikes, each and every one sporting the classic white on white drag strip look.
I ran into a guy from Sac who recognized me as one of Johnny Crasharama's pals.  He pointed out two Sacto cars parked right behind me-- incredibly patina'd hotrods that were brought out by members of the Retarded Sparks, a Sacto car club.  I asked if Johnny had showed up yet, but it turned out he'd skipped the trip since the flathead powered belly tanker he was going to crew for hadn't been finished in time to make the trip.
The speeds varied widely, with some small bore stuff turning in speeds well below the century mark, and some land speed streamliners running up around 400mph.  The faster stuff ran on the Long course, with older and smaller stuff sticking to the Short and Special tracks.   I think the fastest runs we actually saw were in the 250+ range.  We saw a couple of high speed runs that ended in spins at well over 200 mph, but all was good- the wheels never left the salt and the drivers were fine- we saw one back on line for another run only a couple of hours after the spin.  A driver had died the day before when his front end dug into the salt and his roadster started flipping end over end at about 250 mph.I'd expected that we'd run into the Crosley guys I knew who were racing there, but after we'd poked around for a while we realized that Bonneville is BIG.  The whole event stretches out for well over 5 miles, and with three tracks going it covers a whole lot of territory.  We headed back to the car and hoped that team Crosley had a phone with them...

More to come....

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

On the Road!

Liv and I are getting ready to take off on our first real vacation in a year and a half.  

When I realized that the date of my brother's wedding in Tahoe neatly coincided with the start of Speed Week at Bonneville it was a no-brainer to plan a longer trip.  We plan to spend a day at the Salt Flats checking out the speed trials-  I've never been and have long wanted to go.  Liv spent some of her childhood in Utah and grew up steeped in the mystique of Bonneville.
Bonus is that I'll actually know a few folks out there.  Gerald "Crosley of Kentucky" Davenport will be running his Super Sport, and the Liebherr clan are debuting their sedan at the salt this year.  I'll also get to meet John McKnight face-to-face for the first time.  We've been trading emails about Crosleys since he outbid me on a Crosley wagon ten years ago and I offered to buy the guts in case he was going to hotrod it.  He kept the parts, and we've kept in touch ever since.  There are a few locals going too.  My pal Johnny CrashaRama will be there this year, and I suspect I may run into the legendary Dick Bertolucci who has been going since about 1950.
After Bonneville we're heading out to explore the high desert and then off to a date in Newport, Washington...